The Lingering Spirit
It wasn’t just the smell, which was very strong, nor the sight of the decaying carcasses and bleached skeletons. It wasn’t even the numbers involved, which was in the many hundreds, if not thousands. No, my sense that day, walking along the bank of the Goldstream River, was of the lifeforce of the Salmon. ‘Zanshin’ they would say in the Zen-related arts of Japan, the ‘lingering spirit’.
Salmon are a keystone species on Vancouver Island. Their carcasses feed the bears, eagles and gulls of the rainforest and salmon derived fertilizer feeds the soil, the vegetation and the trees along the river banks and into the forest.
As I walked through Goldstream Park that day in early December, the salmon spawn was pretty much complete. Only a very few chum salmon, singletons, wriggled their way upstream. Most were dead, rotting and stinking. But their presence! The lingering spirit of their life and death and of their deep, penetrating contribution to our Island ecosystem was very powerful.
More than just yesterday’s memory, I like to think that the salmon reward us with an appreciation for their lingering spirit. Perhaps, in a very small way, that’s what this book, my photographs and my essays, will do as well; provide a lingering sense of me, finding my way along the path of my artistic journey.