SALMON RETURN


Shadow, ripple, glint of sun-splashed scale

grace, perpetuation.

I imagine the return of salmon to this stream

          which only half-remembers itself without them.

 

My fingers trace arabesque patterns on the surface of this still eddy

          drawing runes as if through some ancient conjuring

          I could bring coho or sockeye to this place.

Willow breaks and rip-rap, log weirs and re-vegetation

slope stabilization, habitat enhancement – no talisman or prayer alone

          can restore this watershed to its memory.

Could it be, without salmon here, that I have lost

some vital memory of myself as well?

 

In the shade of red cedar, amid the bending of vine maple

and the incessant whine of mosquitoes, at the curve of this stream

          this confluence of earth, body and water,

I wonder what it means to restore a full run

of salmon to one another’s souls.

Restoration of any kind is never so straightforward as we would wish.

This stream, pained by its longing, is comforted by its forgetfulness –

now used to the silt sheathing its gravel beds, adjusted to the uncluttered,

straight-line channels free of log snags and boulders,

                   currents which no longer invite salmon to their dance,

          grown fond even of the introduced moments

of brook trout and catfish.

To remember salmon is to welcome a certain pain.

It is not easy knowing that, in the endless cycle of riparian time,

          in order for something to live and spawn

something of you must die.

That is the way of salmon.

That is the way of souls.

I can not divert your heart from this.

 

It is not easy to know the law of salmon rivers – heron and eagle,

otter and bear will come to pluck the richness from you.

The river does not allow its abundance

to flow unshared (while desire chafes at such limits...)

Nor is it easy to recognize that in order for balance and integrity

          to return to the course of a river or a life

everything must continually restore itself each moment of its existence.

But still I want these things for you, for me,

          because there is no other way to know ecstasy and wisdom

          but through the movement of salmon

                   in these places which have long forgotten them.

 

R.S. Russell

Salmon Woman ~ NuPastel & Charcoal, R.S. Russell