Mullets, Jumping into the Stream of Life

The Gulf of Mexico lies 60 miles southwest of here. A joy to behold on a clear day, no matter what time of the year, the water there sparkles with the intensity of a stash of De Beers diamonds. And the wetlands that lacing its edges harbor a most fascinating array of life, gems, if you will – animal, plant, sea.

I sat in a lawn chair propped up near this marvelous natural wonder, trying hard not to grab my camera or cell phone, mindful of the need to stay still, quiet. Silvery mullets jumping out of the water almost at my feet inspired me to ponder their presence, which is wherever warmer seawater exists. These fish bolt into the air at random intervals, sending spray every which way. At first, I believed the splashing came from a pelican swooping down, kamikazing, scooping up fish with that narrow beak, flabby double chin tautening as the pouch filled with squirming prey.

But no. The closer I looked, the clearer things became.

As long as a seven-year-old’s arm, mullets vault from the water’s surface, rippling the slow-moving current of the channel emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, which lies half a mile away. There’d be one splash, then another, and yet another. Soon dozens of sleek torpedo-shaped bodies glimmered in the early winter sunshine, surrounded by prisms of water droplets, bursting into the air with the ferocity of popcorn in a popper.

No one really knows why mullets leap like this. Is it joy that drives them to leave their comfort zone, suspended in air, flying? Daring? Fear of underwater predators? A need for more oxygen? Or just because they can?


Lying in bed one morning, before sunlight peeked through the slats of the blinds, I imagined myself as a mullet, unencumbered, sculling along, tail flapping, flicking water everywhere.  And I realized that this quirky, fishy dancer teaches us something about human nature.

Life surges, and ebbs, coming in waves, high and low, carrying us to shore some days, dumping us on desert islands on others. Some lucky few of us soar over the water from time to time, like mullets, springing out of the current, headed in myriad directions. Others just swim below the surface, forever trying to break through to the light we see as we edge closer to the thin place between water and air. But never quite getting there, sinking instead into the depths, following along with the rest of the school, content to chew plankton and hide in the safety of numbers.

Maybe it’s time to jump a bit?

For more about mullets, see “Another Fish in the Sea: Mullet”

© 2017 C. Bertelsen

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