Sunday, July 12, 2015

The King and I

This blog could have been about my nascent love affair with King Salmon.  About how I set out with safety and good sense in mind - "Lex you can go up to your neck, as long as you can cast, because I trust you, Jake, you can go up to your ankles.  Wait, the fish are coming in, dear god are we sure these are salmon, not sharks, they're huge!  Okay, everybody drown, it doesn't matter, just catch a fish!!!"  Or something like that. 
But this post is about something bigger, and something I feel honored to be part of.  It's about who rules us, who truly is king.  And the Chinook is just a courtier amongst royalty.
For the past few days you can feel the tension building.  Actually tension is not the word, but I'm not sure what the right one is, probably something fabulous in a foreign language - but a feeling similar to waiting for a thunderstorm to break or for the snowstorm to hit or even for a spring seed to break the soil.  And it's been building up to the chum salmon run. The biggest and most significant run in the area. I've only been here four weeks and already I feel it; I'm listening to the seasoned staff, to the fishermen, watching the weather and the water, reading about other salmon runs, waiting with butterflies in my stomach.  Trying to work out when they will arrive.  I'm willing them to arrive. I have an irrational fear that this is the year they won't.  And this is something to bear in mind, are we changing things so much that someday there won't be salmon runs?  At all?  Because so many depend on it.
The chum are what bring the bears to the beach.  Already, out of nowhere, there are bears around everyday.  They just know what's about to arrive and how it will prepare them for the winter.  Although I'm used to bears, what I'm used to is seeing them run from me on the trail, or break into my garbage (pepper spray story), but this is different, the bears are just here, existing alongside us as they wait for this fish run to arrive.  They act as if they own the place.  And they too have the feeling and it's awe-inspiring to see them have fisti-cuffs as they start to mark out their space in anticipation for what is about to happen.  It's also an exercise in bravery in when you see a bear walking along the beach, you know you are going to meet it at the road and you take a deep breath and keep on walking - because that's what you have to do, because that is life here.  And you meet, and it's okay.
The eagles feel it too, and I'm sure a multitude of other creatures which aren't so visible, but are part of the giant picture.
And that's the gist of it.  There is a giant picture and we are only one small part. 
The hatchery here is set up to augment the salmon runs so there is fish to fish in the waters around here.  It is a valuable asset to fisheries in Southeast Alaska and I'm proud that we are part of it.  The salmon, if you look at it, provide so much at the end of their life-cycle to helping others carrying on.  It's symbiosis defined, it helps you realize just how everything works to keep things moving here on our little blue planet.  Death sustains life, life gives way to death and then carries on as a result - in my mind it's the beautiful game defined. 
It's so beautiful.
And knowing, that when the hatchery releases the millions of fry out to the ocean, we, the fisheries and the environment are reliant on these salmon going out to sea and making it back to spawn is bigger than there are words for.  How many businesses can you think of that rely on a fish to make it work?  For a fish to make it's way back from the deep ocean, to the stream it was spawned, to give up so much to provide for so many. 
That's royalty.  There's the king.

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