Chum (dog) salmon converge at the entrance of their home creeks where they were born. They return to shallow waters after five or so years at sea to spawn. The female wiggles dimples into the gravel and sand among colored stones and lays thousands of eggs; the male fights off others, takes his place beside her and releases clouds of milt to fertilize. And then, these magnificent fish that swam and lifted from the waters in graceful arches and dives for thousands of miles ...die.
Some in simple pairs, others bunched by the hundreds, they are a rainbow of pinks and greens, rendered different colors as their protective sea water coat is worn away by fresh water; their internal organs are already disintegrating. I photograph the muscled struggle through tears of awe, witness to the most poignant display of biological imperative: to reproduce and continue the species. My mind takes a turn with the scene: it wasn't that long ago when women, too, died after their reproductive years. A woman's life expectancy in 1900 was age 50. Modern medicine and living now keep us vital beyond the biological imperative; alive to live out different purposes. Humanity is in new territory in the name of longevity.
I watch these salmon of power and beauty in their call to death. Nature in all her glory with her simple goal. Life, death, new life...from the falling floating neon yellow aspen leaf in autumn to an old beaver laying frozen near his den on a wintry day. I wonder what price humans will pay for finagling with death and earth's capacity to keep us alive.
We must keep the rituals intact that carry us to the end. Pull the rusty shopping carts from streams that the salmon may return. Give thanks to the eagles who line creek sides by the hundreds to catch the soon-dead bodies as they float downstream. Re-member that the primary responsibility of life is to live a good death.