In the morning’s strengthening sunshine this string of mountain meadows lies like flabby farmers on a beach, satisfied to merely feel the warm sun banish memories of a heavy snow winter. Aki and I have left it late, having missed the first daylight so my camera can’t capture the beauty I see on the still brown ground.
Aki finds remnant strips of snow for rolling. Walking behind I find her little paw print joining one left by a passing deer. It’s the only drama on offer today so my mind wanders to king salmon and turtles and Edward Hoagland’s essay, “The Courage of Turtles,” where he writes with incredible restraint about a public works project wiping out turtle habitat near his home. In a short time a place much loved on each visit is gone, leaving ducks to wander about a drying landscape for food and turtles to die encased in hardening mud. He allows the facts to convince.
Will I be as able to hide the pain if the king salmon disappear our native waters? Great muscled fish, kings spend up to six years in open ocean growing to spawning size. Then, they return to us, those that avoid voracious sea lions and the organized hunts of killer whales, refuse the commercial trollers hooks, and swim under mile long drift nets set by pirates in international waters.
The government created a king salmon run in the very creek draining this relaxing meadow. I think about what will fall away if the kings never return: no more rich tasting red meat for me and mine, loss of their powerful presence on the spawning grounds, possible famine for eagle and bear. Even the trees will miss the enrichment of king carcasses turning to soil.