Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Battle Cries and Verbs of Spawners

I witnessed a phenomenon today. A miracle I have somehow missed for the past 30-odd years: Salmon swimming up stream to spawn. A Salmon Run.

Spawn is a fish-verb for pro-create. It is an event so contrary to anything else I've witnessed in nature, I am nonplussed.

We basically took the children to watch Fish Porn.

A perfectly crisp fall day.

We hiked to a stream and immediately saw large objects in vicious struggle. The closer we got, the more of these 15 - 30 pound creatures we spotted. Fins sticking out like Jaws. Angling for position. Rushing and splashing in panic. Then frozen. Hidden.

After we became accustomed, we realized these salmon were often in a resting position: facing upstream and letting their noses cut the water so that it smoothed by their doomed faces and filled up their lungs as they calmly waited. Gearing up for the next leg of their journey, I assume. 

It was as if I could hear their battle cries: C'mon, you can do it! We have to do it! We have no choice! Everything in us has prepared us for this! S-A-L ... M-O-N, no one can do it, like we cen! The future of our species depends entirely on our success! If we do not do this, humans will not be able to eat our meat for dinner--neither BBQ, teriyaki, or even with a sprig of lemon rind. With rice. Or potatoes!

Do we humans have an internal drive for something, anything, that we will kill ourselves to accomplish? 

All I can come up with is addiction.

As if these fish are completely addicted to the sex they will have at the top of the river they climb, literally, this river they were born in. Their natal river. This one they have somehow found after years spent in the ocean. Clearly, they are opposite humans: They become their horniest when they go back to their home. Most humans I know refrain from carnal pleasures while visiting the 'rents. 

That must be some orgasm.

Indeed a crux: When something is so vital, you are willing to kill yourself to accomplish it. In fact, you must. You. Your vessel is no longer your own. You are not the boss. Out of control. Everything is at the mercy of the one who created you. Your maker. As if you've completely submitted to the Lord of your Life. 

These muscled and viscous and desperate fish are without any bullshit to stop them from surrendering to their purpose; they are all on board to do exactly what they were created to do.

This is the opposite of selfishness. 

We started cheering them on. Yelling on the banks of this river. Jumping up and down while watching a precious few of them make it up a particularly challenging path. We watched them struggle, forcing their tales to bend back and forth on top of the water; motoring like a speed-boat for about 20 feet. How did they know when their struggle would end? Did one of their fellows tell them: This run ahead is about 20 feet. If you gear up at 4 feet, then draw back, then gear up to 5th for the last few feet, you'll make it?

But. Then we started to notice the Carnage. Huge, limp fish on the banks. Stuck on rocks.  Floating. Some underwater. Some being pecked at by wild geese. The more we looked, the more dead ones we saw, many looking like they incorrectly gambled on the wrong path up stream. Hundreds. More dead than alive. Especially at the top of "Alley of Death" as we named it.

Their particular efforts were in vain. Their purpose was denied. Unless it was to become food for others, nutrients for the earth they obey.

We discovered a beauty in their efforts. We congratulated them as we tried to offer some dignity to their decaying life-forms. We almost cried. Maybe a few of us did.

I'll leave the rest of the metaphors to you...

(Though, I have recently returned to the place of my birth, my natal river, the place I was created and delivered to this earth: Ontario, Canada ... hmmmmm... However, I am no longer "pro-creating" at this age, more like, re-enacting.)

1 comment:

  1. Fish porn. Metaphor of the day! :)