Life is Eutrophic: Learning from Fish
Would you like to live a life just to find yourself die at the end?
During Ramadan, I regularly accompany my mom to visit my grandma’s grave. We sweep the foliage, pray, and put some flowers at the top of the grave. This morning I went alone, I just sat there and I — who is rather not religious — decided to talk instead of pray, about how stressful my job was lately, about how much I miss her, and asked her whether my mom would approve if I am seeing a person with tattoos on his body.
I grew up with her, and she was my main company during my childhood since both of my parents were working. I know she’s no longer there, but the memories and ideas of how if, if she watches me grow, experienced many things, made me realized how much impact someone could give on our lives. There’s jasmine that grows at the top of her grave. I know it grows from her. She loved jasmine, and when I was a child, I found jasmine was too ritual-ish and creepy, remind me of an actress, specializes in horror who ate jasmine daily. But this morning, I took some jasmine home.
Recently I’ve been discussing with my friend about interesting nature’s events. We’re both huge fan of David Attenborough and we sometimes watch his documentaries together. One day, he mentioned about Salmon Run.
The life cycle of Salmon is quite interesting. Despite being well-known as one of the most expensive seafood, they actually live in both freshwater and sea water. In one year, there is a big event — which is the Salmon Run — that they have to go through, namely they have to swim against the current of the river to migrate to the sea while they are trying to spawn. On their way, they need to face lurking predators, strong current, and pollutants. Only a few of them made it to the sea, leaving the babies behind. Once the salmon have spawned, most of them deteriorate rapidly and die. Deteriorating salmon are alive, but they have begun the process of rotting to death.
Deteriorating salmon are sometimes called zombie fish.
Most zombie fish die within days of spawning, but some can last up to a couple of weeks. Once they die in the river, they are eaten by animals, or they decompose and add nutrients to the river. These nutrients are useful for their babies, the insects, river birds, and even the terrestrial trees near the river. It releases the collected nutrients from the ocean to the freshwater ecosystem. Scientists name this as ‘Great Nutrient Cycle’.
I remember Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote that a pond or a lake is eutrophic*. Eutrophic means a pond/lake is getting richer with nutrients and minerals because of the decomposition process. The process cause gradual increase in the concentration of phosphorus, nitrogen, and other plant nutrients in an aging aquatic ecosystem such as a lake. The productivity or fertility of such an ecosystem naturally increases as the amount of organic material that can be broken down into nutrients. It is good for ecosystem around it.
Eutrophication is a slow, natural process. For Kimmerer, a more eutrophic process happens as the pond grows older. Then she wrote: life adds up. It’s eutrophic. When something’s dying, it’s a sign of life itself.
Instead of worrying about death and aging, she suggested borrowing the ecological idea of aging as progressive enrichment rather than a progressive loss.
Her words give me a sense of calm, that my brief existence is short-lived, yet we can experience so much with our consciousness, and I should never take it for granted.
I feel that our existence is never, ever, a wasted events. Our love and kindness are remembered for those who are alive. Even after deceased, our particles continue to live there, around your grave, contributing to every dirt around it, absorbed by the trees, and worms.
Somehow, somewhat, my grandma contributed her being to another being. She contributed to my growth, she is contributing to the jasmine’s growth. We live just to die, but I think that’s rather remarkable.
You are not the center of the universe, yet, you’ve never been. We always organic and add to life to those surround you. From the dust of its stars, the Universe fashions gifts to us, so precious that we may only enjoy them for a short time before we must return them.