by Timothy Colman
We are in the sea breezy
shower season that converges with the earth's turn away from summer
for good. The autumnal romance with 75 degree days is
behind us now.
We live in the gray
trough of light and sprinkles that grows big trees, salmon, and
orcas. My daughter and I are going with her class field trip today
to visit a park across town that has a salmon run moving through
Big bright red fish
are running upstream now through the first week of November. Their
passage marks this time of year as surely as pumpkins, witches
The salmon come back
each year ( the runs that are left, anyway) and we witness the
sublime mystery of life, death and renewal. This year is a bigger
run than many have seen in a while.
Why do we connect with
the salmon so?
Perhaps it is a talisman
for us, emblematic of our own eventual return. (And because when
they return, we like to eat them. ;)
Maybe it is recognition
of our own fragile path in the world.
Perhaps we long to
run like the salmon -- and their anadramous return from the sea
to the river that spawned them. Maybe it is witnessing the pounding
and flesh ripping effort up rapids, rocks and culverted creeks
just to get home.
Maybe it is because
we don't know how they swim their thick, battered bodies to the
same cedar-shrouded gravel stream bed their ancestors have been
swimming back to for the past 10,000 years.
I like to submerge
into this fall spectacle. I say submerge because for a few moments
I am not "watching" the salmon run. I am salmon running.
I smell cedar sap, red alder, and yellow birch in fast waters.
I see the bed I was
born in and run hard -- up against time and my own mortality.
I spawn, and as I die,
my eyes glazing, body spent; floating sideways down stream...I
try to imagine the "nothing" that appears to be death...and
As I emerge from my
salmonic convergence, I drink branch water a friend makes soaking
fresh, sappy red cedar branches in cold Cedar River water, and
laugh about it.
It is a long way, after
all, from home -- to where we are today.
We have the chronological
story to anchor us -- (born in Philly, raised in Detroit, fledged
to Denver, gave birth to family in Seattle...) but there is a
deeper contrapuntal song heard,too, if we listen.
Autumn's darkness pulls
us inward, quieting us, as the gray and damp quiets the leaf covered
I take comfort in,
and are humbled by this season. In the face of so much turmoil,
chaos, and change around us, I am thankful for the salmon running
I take it as an article
of my faith that we will not decode the mystery of the salmon
running home in our lifetimes, and I am grateful for this enduring
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