The Return of the Salmon

Last week when I wrote about transformation, I think I forgot to point out that Salmon themselves are great Transformers. As their life circles around, they start as eggs which become freshwater fish in rivers, then transform themselves into travelers journeying downriver to the vast ocean, and next into adult saltwater fish. These are not trivial changes. And when the time comes, they change again as they journey back upriver to the place of their birth, where they breed and lay their eggs. There they die and begin their transformation in many different forms — human, bear, eagle, young plants, the Forest that protects their river. In their journeying, salmon carry bountiful gifts in their bodies. They bring themselves as food for the ocean’s web of life and then, in their return, food for life on land. And to the land it is not only the obvious gift of their own flesh that they bring, but also the ocean’s gifts of missing salts and minerals needed to sustain the living forest community. The salmon’s many changes are special glistening threads woven in & out through the warp of Earth’s community, helping connect and thus create the boundless tapestry of life.

No wonder Salmon are celebrated in myth & story wherever they are found — beloved & admired not only for their beauty, their strength & their generosity, but for so much more. The ancient Celts, for example, told of the salmon who dwelt in the Well of Wisdom and acquired all knowledge of the worlds when he ate nine hazelnuts that fell from the surrounding hazel trees. Whoever should eat the first taste of the Salmon of Knowledge would receive that knowledge and wisdom……..which, of course, led on to more wonderful, expansive myths and tales of adventure and change.

I was so happy, this week, to come across a salmon tale still being formed in our present time, written down by Marc Dadigan .

The first paragraph begins “Thousands of relatives of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe arrived at the McCloud River floating inside a little orange cooler earlier this week.” And those relatives were the “20,000 fertilized endangered winter-run Chinook salmon eggs which were about to return to an old home on the McCloud River, the Tribe’s ancestral watershed.” The preceding chapter of this story, leading up to the salmon’s return, includes both years & years of difficult negotiations and the steadfast spirit of the Winnemem Wintu people. “According to the Tribe’s genesis story, salmon gave its voice so human could speak and in return Winnemem Wintu people promised to always speak for them.” As the Tribe’s song captain Helene Sisk, “We’re always going to stand up for salmon, because they stood up for us.”

Salmon lives, unable to find appropriate breeding grounds below the dam that cut short their journey 80 years ago are returning to the upper river that had been barren and lonely for too long. The salmon were greeted & celebrated by strong ceremony, just as it should be. “We’re praying,” the people said, “that they remember these waters.”

The people native to this place refused to let the building of the dam be the end of the salmon’s story. The event described in the article is just the beginning of a new story with much more to unfold as the Winnenmem Wintu people continue to speak out for their relatives, the salmon.

So, on-going change & transformation……. Please read the article which includes much rich detail & photos.


I’ve been spending time — full of learning & not without frustration — trying to discern a context for The Keeper of Rivers. Just in the contemplation of colors & forms, I have deepened my empathy for rivers and for the many ways of their being & the many different spirits they gather.

Thinking of rivers reminded me of the message that came from the Hopi people after 9/11/2001. It uses the River as it speaks about the flow of changes we are all experiencing:

  “You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.
And there are things to be considered...
Where are you living? What are you doing? 
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? 
Where is your water? Know your garden.
It is time for you to speak your Truth. 
Create your community.
Be good to each other.”

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, 
“This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. 
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, 
push off into the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate!
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. 
Least of all ourselves. 
For the moment that we do,
our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done 
in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!’”

I finally felted this this piece yesterday & found (as I always do) that the wools & silks have been transformed by the process. A few surprises….

This still doesn’t feel finished, so I haven’t sewn on the mask yet. There may — or may not — still be some flowing and changing needed. I’ll pause and listen to the rivers’ songs.


P.S. Since I was late posting this blog — running slowly & wobbly this past week — I shared this beautiful & wise poem at the regular 5 a.m. time for any first-day readers. I include it here so you all can enjoy it.

The Way It Is  by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

"Over and over we break
 open, we break and
 we break and we open.
 For a while, we try to fix
 the vessel--as if
 to be broken is bad.
 As if with glue and tape
 and a steady hand we
 might bring things to perfect
 again. As if they were ever
 perfect. As if to be broken is not
 also perfect. As if to be open 
 is not the path toward joy.

 The vase that's been shattered 
 and cracked will never
 hold water. Eventually
 it will leak. And at some
 point, perhaps, we decide
 that we're done with picking
 our flowers anyway, and no
 longer need a place to contain them.
 We watch them grow just
 as wildflowers do--unfenced,
 unmanaged, blossoming only
 when they're ready-- and mygod,
 how beautiful they are amidst
 the mounting pile of shards."

Sending you all love as we float or swim in the rivers of change —-

12 thoughts on “The Return of the Salmon

  1. My 75th is in September: WE are wise, wild, wicked, winsome and simply, wonderful. I’m throwing up confetti created from a few thyme sprigs, , a few Thai basil leaves and their little purple blossoms, a few apple tree leaves and a few red geranium petals, all in the joy of wishing you a very happy 79th dear Margery.


    • “wise, wild, wicked, winsome & wonderful” — Yes! All of those!
      Definitely a season of life in which to throw the glorious confetti of growth, nurturing, and creativity– sharing the abundance! Thank you!


  2. The Hopi message after 9/11:.”Are you in right relation>” “Where is your water?” This brought me back to something I learned of when I Lived in Maui, the belief in Ho’oponopono:- to make right again. “Ancient Polynesian beliefs were adapted in recent times by Hawaiian healers to solve current day societal ills. The phrase Ho’oponopono means to ‘set right’; in this case setting things right by acknowledging one’s responsibility for having caused wrong, seeking forgiveness and love, finally expressing gratitude.”

    I think of this in relation to what I read today in our local paper. How the people who live in Las Vegas, New Mexico, so close to the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires, rely on the Gallinas River as their main source of water for the town. But now, it is not drinkable due to huge amounts of ash and debris that cannot go through the filtration system. They arr relying on water from reservoir storage but there is only enough water for 50 days…I wonder what will the Forest Service do to make this right since unfortunately, their prescribed burn caused these fires, the largest ever in the history of New Mexico…

    Re: The Keeper of the River flows with power perhaps due to the shades of blue…seems to be able to stand as is…if it feels incomplete to you, perhaps, a salmon could be depicted to show the life held within the river?


    • I’m glad you brought the rivers polluted by wildfire to our attention. I’ve heard much about the great rivers drying & dying (Colorado, Rio Grande) but hadn’t thought carefully about all the rivers being polluted by wildfires & subjected to later erosion and landslides. Only 50 days of water for 13,000 people…. My heart is crying….
      Thank you so much for giving us the beautiful Hawaiian meaning of Ho’oponopono — that one word says it all.


  3. Your posts are always truly teaching moments along with the comments that follow. What Marti wrote about the fires and it’s effects on our water supplies … I had no idea. There is no more denying that we are in very serious trouble.


    • Yes. We have passed the so-called “tipping point” and are in the midst of it all, the all kinds of feedback loops that keep speeding things up more than expected. That’s what I like about the Hopi message — it points to ways to proceed. As Ben Rawlence has written an extraordinary & very readable new book — lots of information & also his adventures as the circles the globe visiting boreal forests and visiting with people who are inhabiting this extra-rapid change in the Arctic: “The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth.” At the end he says that we have much to fear in what we know AND much to hope in what we do not know.He concludes his epilogue by saying: “We must prepare our cildren for uncertainty but not as victims. …. This is hard. But accepting that the status quo is irretrievable is also the door to action. …. A hopeful future…is not a prayer for stability or stasis, but an invitation to participate: to explore, to experience, to get lost or find your way. ….The earth is alive and enchanted, and to act with it is to enchant by living — to see, hear, feel dance — to create the future with every step in full recognition of the fact that every move you make make, however large or small, matters.”


  4. Margery thank you , and all the others who respont , your words are support me aswell
    my 76 th is in october , the light shine on you even thru the cracks on the start of your 80th year to life , may wisdom be as a crown on your head , big hug to you


  5. i come to look at River again and see salmon eggs clinging to the chin
    Thank you…for all this….for FEEDing the courage to Stand and Go….forward
    Love to you


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