Tides & salmon and what they can teach us

It was low tide on Poverty Bay (south of Seattle) at 9:15 this morning.  When my Jack Russell and I bounded off the bottom of the steps we almost ran into a giant bald eagle chomping on a sea gull.  It looked like there had been a pillow fight on the silty brown beach (the gull lost).  The eagle was not happy that we interrupted his brunch and thought about having my dog for lunch.  His departure set off a nearby heron who went squawking off.  The NPR economist on my headphones suddenly seemed less interesting.
The beach is a different place every day–a function of wind, waves, and the tide which often changes by more than 10 feet twice daily.  Today giant icicles covered the cliff along the beach and fell with a crash as they warmed in the morning sun.  The cycles of life are physically evident every day…and that reminded me of a journal entry from a kayak a few years ago.

November 2001

By Thanksgiving, it’s over.

The salmon are all dead,

except for one

that refuses to die:

floating, occasionally struggling

against the tide,

then sinking, hideously bruised

and ugly in age, to the bottom.

The breeze stopped,

the eagle looked away,

then, slowly, she surfaced

belly up, jaw gapping in

a silent scream of death.

I’ve never watched death

(always out of sight or out of town)

but here I am,

sole witness

to the last testament

of the last salmon.

Less than gallant,

but horribly compelling,

life simply slipped away

and she returned to the

creek that gave her life.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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