Monday, September 25, 2006

After the Long Journey

I dedicate this post to my mother on her 81st birthday. She is a committed reader of this blog, and is always excited to see what we've been up to. My mom and dad taught us kids to be tough and honest, to fight the good fight, even if it meant taking to the streets to stop a war. They taught their daughters to be fierce and forthright and their sons to be fair and kind. That is to say, they were radical, and we were very lucky. Thanks, Mom and Happy birthday!

There's something about watching salmon swim upstream that at once breaks your heart and opens your eyes to the unbelievable power and stamina of nature, the mesmerizing pull of genes, the intimate struggle to reproduce at the cost of one's own life. We've all seen video documentaries. We know what those wild salmon look like as they arc and leap to move faster than the current. But when you come upon them in the quiet woods and hear only the sound of water broken by the occasional splash of a tail or fin as it hits the surface, it's a different thing entirely.
Our friends told us the salmon were running. The story of how the salmon were reintroduced to this creek in 1991 is quite a testimony to ability of both creek and fish to recover from pollution and abuse. Since 1999 the salmon have come back, and they make this journey every year at the end of summer. These chum salmon are born in the Chimacum Creek, spend a short time in these fresh waters before they head out to sea. They spend several years maturing in the ocean, and if they are not caught by fishermen and baked, broiled or barbecued for your dining pleasure, they make their final journey back to this little creek to deposit their eggs in the gravel beds, and then die.
It's a short walk out our front door to the Chimacum Creek. We found the trail to a new part of the creek, a place we were told the salmon might be found. It's a quiet old forest back there, feeling more wild than many of the other places we walk. It took us a while before we could hear the water. Roger listened very intently. He said, "I can hear the salmon." It seemed crazy, but it was true. Before we saw the creek quite a way down below us, we heard the water and the splash of salmon.
Here's where they're headed, pulled upstream by something we still can't quite explain.

I shot a little video in an attempt to capture the sound and the moment:

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