Saturday, November 1, 2008
Welcome Home, Mattole Salmon
A progressive cycle of drying typically unfolds across our northern California locale, whereby the spigot turns off somewhere in May or June, and remains off until sometime in October or November. As the dry season wears on, a sense of waiting permeates the land. I don't know how else to describe it, but I can almost feel the river yearning for rain, the earth begging for sweet, wet relief, the birds and amphibians, mammals and fish alike, waiting, waiting, waiting. Things become very quiet, dusty, crispy. When at last the sky opens up, and the rain begins to fall, it is as though manna is pouring down from heaven: the air becomes sweet and freshly green, new seeds germinate in a matter of days to hold the soil together, and the creeks and the river sing once again. Oh my, it is a lovely change, which is important to remember come March, when I wish I would never see another day of rain as long as I live.
So beginning Friday afternoon was the second significant storm of the season, though it's already much larger than the first, and there will be more rain before the next sun arrives. As of about 6:00 PM this evening, we have received 4 inches of precious precipitation on this driest year ever on record. Not only are the frogs and toads happy, as I see them leaping across wet pavement on the way to my evening social events, but tonight on my walk to the neighbor's for dinner, Ella and I saw a rough-skinned newt, (Taricha granulosa). These cuties begin showing up as they conduct their plodding, land-based search for a mate.
But the most exciting of the news in the animal kingdom is that the river mouth opened again today, which means that there are now adult Chinook salmon(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) (and maybe other species, though I understand the Chinook are the early run) returning to spawn in the river. Though the mouth opened with our first storm, it only remained open for a short time, and only a few salmon made it in to try their luck in the early season, low water flows. The rain of the last few days is going to allow the salmon to strive for the spawning gravels in the headwaters of their natal streams, so long as flows sustain. And with the dark moon right now, it is ideal traveling conditions. So welcome home, Mattole salmon, may you prosper and sustain our animals, plants, and people, as you have done for generations....and may it be so, for generations to come.