The Great Return
People far more eloquent than I am have already put words to the beauty, the energy, the magic of the return of the salmon to their native streams this time of year. While the timing of their life cycles differ by type, salmon share this epic end to their life’s journey: a return (most often) to the waters in which they were born and a decay of their own bodies as they push upstream to lay their own eggs. It’s an incredible sight to see even without that context, but, to someone who’s pondering a return to her own homeland, this year’s salmon run was especially captivating. Neil and I spent a few hours on Sunday watching the Chum make their return, Neil churning out fascinating salmon facts all the while [he works for a non-profit that focuses on restoring salmon habitat and improving water ecology – Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group (SFEG)].
As I watched the salmon, I did my best to see them just as they were in that moment in Padden Creek, doing my best to ignore the thousands of ways salmon have been woven into the fabric of human culture. They have been – and are – both exploited and revered. Economic commodities, an icon of the environmental movement in our area, an indigenous staple, and a candidate for genetic engineering: an ambiguous collection of values salmon have been chosen to represent. For my part, I feel so blessed to live in an area where I can visit these incredible animals and observe their story firsthand. The story itself seems to me to be of a great value; before we reduce salmon to filets, price points, science experiments or even extinction, I hope we can reverse our current trend of exploitation in time to keep it alive. For now, I’m looking forward to more Fall afternoons with the fish.
:: I’m having some trouble loading a video I took on Sunday that shows actual living fish making their way upstream – I’ll keep trying; it’s a pretty neat video! ::
** Credit goes to Neil for the photos, including this one: