Editor’s note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.
I go to Bear Valley, in the Salmon River headwaters, because it feels like home in a way that Idaho Falls, New York City, Boise, and my houses in all of them never have.
I try to spend a few days each spring-coming down into meadows, s-curving with Bear Valley Creek, walking up Elk Creek into its meadows. Each spring I take off my shoes and walk wet meadows. It’s fun, a direct way to cross them, and after 27 years a ritual. Nettles are only occasional. Grasses and flowers never still, fire-checkered forests that lift to the ridges, daylight’s rise and long recline. Cranes, hawks, jays and sparrows, elk morning and evening, butterflies, dragonflies, sometimes a wolf heard but not seen. Little quarter-moon pebble-sand beaches on braiding creeks, fed by streamlets deeper than wide that you do not see in the grass ’til you’re on them.
Salmon are there in their incarnations: eggs and fry unseen in the creek beds; fry becoming smolt just away on their rush to the sea; the promise come summer of a few adults back from the sea, as big as the water is deep, their deaths delivering ocean to streams, grasses, animals; and, endangered by extinction as they are, the presence of their absence:
"…. a kind of ghost of what we see to which we offer up our days"
I recall these words each time, W.S. Merwin evoking salmon, and me, though he does not know it.
And in long meadows, under the skies, expanses that find some like expanse in me.
– Pat Ford