One of the most spectacular shows of nature I ever witnessed was hundreds of salmon transversing a large stream’s thrashing rapids.
I was young, and on an adventurous nature trip to Vancouver Island. I hadn’t planned to be there for spawning season. Nonetheless, there I stood near the mouth of a small river, in a granite gash whose rocky walls seemed higher than any skyscraper mortal man could ever build.
Centered above this canyon, sat the sun. It shone brilliantly and sparkled relentlessly on the water that descended in frothing steps to the ocean. The gleam was a prism that broke into opals, diamonds and pearls. The gems of light frolicked in sheer air as the metallic pink salmon leapt midst and through.
The exodus-in was pressing-on valiantly against the outgoing surge, the need to procreate stronger than any salmon’s will to live. The higher they leapt, the more distance they claimed.
As I observed in awe, one salmon jumped higher and further than any other. I couldn’t take my eyes off of this spectacular creature. I later named her Sammy.
I followed Sammy up and down, up and down. On the ups, I would squint against the sun. and a dark dot would appear. Every time my eyes went skyward with Sammy, the dot grew larger.
Neither Sammy, nor I paid much attention. Then, as my gaze flew skyward with my precious friend, the dot was suddenly an eagle. It’s talons hooked into my flashing Sammy. The eagle ascended in circles, and tears fled down my cheeks, as I watched them disappear into the sun.
Then there was something falling, wafting down from where the eagle and Sammy had gone. It was one of the eagle’s tail feathers. It landed at my feet.
I picked up the feather and tied it into my long hair. I somehow felt proud, as though I had earned this special prize, this reward.
The next day I returned to the mainland, and went to a friend’s for dinner. The main course was smoked salmon. I was sickened. There was no way I was going to eat one of Sammy’s relatives, so I didn’t.
I had already stopped eating cows, pigs, chickens and all meats. Fish were now also eliminated from my diet, and added to my friendships.
I wore that feather in my hair for a very, very long time. When I finally removed it, it was just a spine. Yet, it was my spine, and it was stronger than ever.
Tale written by Resa McConaghy – 2016
Photos taken by Resa McConagy – 2014 – 2016