Teal waters and golden leaves are dropping away. The sky hangs heavy and gray, threatening an unthreatening light rain, or patchy blue, who knows? In the water below me, hundreds, if not thousands, of pink salmon are porpoising.
Some rise and fall slowly like submarines, others leap
skyward, and a few jet sideways across the current. A dozen or so of their dead
brethren line the exposed gravel shore.
Along with them lies what might have been a 60 pound king
salmon that found its final resting place nearby. Well, it was final, until the
other night, when a bear dragged it from the submerged depths to eat the parts
it wanted, leaving the rest as a lawn ornament.
In a large willow nearby, I find a mostly untouched 20-pound
hen shoved into the branches. There’s no way she passed away there; I suspect
the bear stashed her for dinner tonight.
Along with these pinks and the two kings, I’ve found at
least one spawned out sockeye on the bank and seen one spawned out silver
floating back down stream.
Alas, I have yet to see a single live silver roll, let alone
take a lure, and my arms are tired as it is from a morning of hard work.
I hang it up and take a seat.
The river is quiet today. One man, alone in his boat, has made
a few passes on the other side of the river for trout, and comes by maybe two
or three times in the space of an hour, but that’s it.
It’s strange, everything seems assured right now. Fate will
play out for the salmon, the slowly subsiding river, and the leaves and vegetation
along the shoreline.
The blanket of clouds might keep it a little warmer today,
but the deep cold will arrive, and with it darkness and snow.
It’s not how it feels in my mind though.
It wasn’t too many Septembers ago that I realized I was
going to ride out a winter in the north on the shore of this river.
I watched all these changes, knowing only of green, summer,
and life, and wondered with much anxiety at what lay ahead.
The delayed start to mornings, air wet with fall rains and
scents of decay, reminds me of those days.
My nearest relatives were some 5,000 miles away then, and I
knew only three or four people in the entire state.
I was scared. The sun climbed a little less every day, there
was snow that fall by the first week of October, and bears roamed outside my
window in the early dark hours of the morning.
It was all just an experiment. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t
have a plan.
I had no idea a second run of burley silvers were inbound up
the river; miles of mountain biking were still to be ridden; the best
backcountry snowboarding of my life awaited in the mountains beyond.
My whole life was there, but what was in store for the next
day was a mystery.
I spent that September applying for jobs, fishing the river,
riding when the skies cleared, not sure where I would go next.
Every day felt like a new adventure though, and day by day,
I fell more in love.
Sitting here today, I feel well-endowed comparatively, but I
also know what tomorrow holds, and the excitement and mystery has slipped away.
I don’t live on these shores anymore, but they are as much a
home to me as the place I was actually born.
We all come from somewhere, but ultimately, we must grow up,
and that’s not always in the same place.
I was lucky that place was here, but in these days, when all
feels so certain, I sometimes wish I could go back to that September, and not
know, once more.