Salmon Migration

Last week Zarli and I visited the Salmon Hatchery in Issaquah and were treated with seeing the first returns of this year’s Chinook Salmon run. In the video you can see them jumping, but less well visible are the dozens of fish just hanging out in the water below the falls gathering strength for their turn.

We were a little discouraged at the lack of progress for these particular salmon until we got to join a tour and learn about how the hatchery manages the runs in order to promote the best possible conditions for spawning. It’s better in the long haul for the salmon to remain in the well oxygenated creek jumping vainly than to go up the hatchery ladder too soon and hang out too long in the less oxygenated tank. It was very interesting and exciting to get splashed by strong salmon hopping up the ladder.

But being around creatures that struggle so hard to go upstream just to spawn and die makes one philosophical, if one is of a philosophical bent, and it made me think of a poem I wrote a few years ago.

Falling and golden, the leaves and the light
As streaming below, silver streaks, bright.
The flick of a fin on a red taillight
And we swerve to join the flow.
Upstream with the crowd up 405
We’re worn and weary but still alive
Called by instinct, driven by drive
To pass on what we know.
We swam in the deep, in the blue, crazy sea
Gorging ourselves on modernity
When somewhere inside us rang mystery
and we knew it was time to go.
We each find the road that smells of our birth
Of the very first time we swam on earth
Aching to know in the end it was worth
This arduous journey home.
At night in our houses, we lie in the sand
Dreaming of everything else we had planned
And dying beginning to understand
The delicate seeds we sow.

how ‘bout some Chickens?

Soon after we got our impulse bunnies, we invested in chickens. It was inevitable! Our garden shed here was already perfectly set up with a large fenced in chicken run, roost, laying boxes, feeding trough, and an adorable little chickeny door. Hey, presto, just add chickens! So we called the number in the ad in the paper that I’d been eyeing for months advertising “young laying hens.” It was a man at a chicken farm about 30 minutes away. (I should add that I had asked the Bunny Lady about hens because her ad had also mentioned them, but she was fresh out of young chickens that day, wouldn’t I like to come see a bunny instead?) So on a Tuesday afternoon when the kids didn’t have school, we went to the Chicken Man. I don’t know what I expected, but not quite what we found.  A large building with lots and lots of chickens, chicks on one floor, slightly older pullets in a pen behind, and upstairs on a big, stinky, floor what must have been hundreds and hundreds of chickens. Only we couldn’t see because they were in the dark. I’ve never quite understood why they are kept in the dark, to keep them calm or something? Anyway, we didn’t like it, and while the Chicken Farmer (who seemed nice, despite keeping his chickens in the dark) had his back turned, the kids and I were happy together that we could rescue a few hens out of the darkness and confusion. He had three colors: white, brown and black, (I don’t even know the breeds – isn’t that ridiculous?), so we asked for two of each, for prettys. So while we waited just outside, Mr. Chicken Man went into the big, dark, fluttery room with a flashlight to, as he put it, “fish you some chickens!” Then when he had three, his cell phone rang. Calm as anything, he answered with three hens dangling from his left hand. There they dangled upside down, looking quite perplexed with this turn of events while he chatted on and on with someone else who wanted to get some hens. Suddenly they mustered a great squawking and struggle and Mr. Chicken Man had to tell the person on the line, “Ouai, j’ai des poules dans la main.” Yeah, I’ve got some chickens in my hand. IMG_0416 (I surreptitiously took a photo.) We brought them home in Bella’s doggy crate and put them in their new home. Since there are six, we each got to christen one. (Mine is called Heidi since she is a Swiss hen.) They seemed rather stunned by the light and air for a bit and afraid to go outside. Soon enough however, their curiosity overcame their fear and they were exploring and pecking about the yard in a fine chickeny way. And to my delight, going in and out of their sweet little door. It’s all just so perfect. They have pretty much gone to chicken paradise. The whole thing made me feel philosophical. Out of all the hundreds that the Chicken Man had, why these six? Why did he fish out these particular six? While the rest of them would continue to live out their lives in dark smelly confusion or else become someone’s chicken dinner, these six were chosen to come live a life of rapturous natural chickeness: pecking in the morning, sun bath in the afternoon, more pecking, lay an egg, little more pecking and then roosting. I am willing to bet that they were no better or worse than the other chickens. There were plenty of other black, white and brown ones running around there. It seems to me that there is a deep metaphor there, but I am afraid that I might mess it up. The Chicken Man is not God and as far as I know, the chickens did not get themselves into the smelly room through their own sin, but in clumsy metaphor lies the truth that God does choose some people to draw to Himself, into His glorious light while others remain in darkness and confusion. I have no more intrinsic merit than one brown chicken had more than the next brown chicken.  Yet, here I am, given the gift of His grace and a beautiful new home in His love and care, pecking and sunbathing away while He watches over me and gives me everything I need. Why He does that I cannot say. He has His reasons, and I have to learn to trust Him and let my heart dwell on the gratitude I have to be here. Perhaps the Chicken Man had his reasons too, that I couldn’t see, why this hen and not that one. A mystery. In the meantime, I am very pleased to have hens about again. Something so domesticated about them. And we’re enjoying the fresh eggs! I dislike waste, and one reason I love chickens is that they are marvelous recyclers: they take our old bread and carrot peels and turn them into fresh eggs. Which reminds me that it’s time to take them this morning’s leftover oatmeal. IMG_1936  Discovering their new home. IMG_1925 Hermes with hens and little roosting spot inside the coop. IMG_1943 Trying out the new door and exploring the outside world for the first time. IMG_1963 What is that? I think I’ll eat it!IMG_2007  How I love the look of a chicken in the grass. IMG_2031  chicken heaven (with my $10 thrift store bench for chicken gazing) IMG_2027 please, oh please, just one little nibble?IMG_1932 chicken gazing, much better than television IMG_2129 I am a country girl at heart ~ this sight make me very happy. garden boxes, laundry drying on the line and chickens. sigh.

Comfort Me with Bunnies

It’s time to tell you that we are extending our Year of Living Swissly. There are various reasons involved, the primary one being that Zeus, who we fully expected to be milking cows all year to pay the rent, has got a job that is very interesting and resume-worthy and with which he has not yet finished. So we’ve officially decided to stay another year. There are lots of mixed feelings all around and lots of discussions on how to do schooling next year, but the most important thing to consider was this: If we’re gonna stay, it’s high time we got some LIVESTOCK! Because, really, when you are homesick and missing all your friends, nothing says "comfort" quite like a bunny. In fact, I am starting to think that all adolescent girls should routinely be issued one when they turn twelve. image When I called the number in the classified ad to ask about bunnies the lady told me that if my daughter was interested, she had better come along to make sure there was “good bunny vibe” (or something like that) because she had lots of colors and lengths of hair to choose from. There was a sweet gray one in the first hutch she opened and so she found a bucket for Athena to sit on and put the bunny in her lap. Little Gray Bunny sort of stood up and leaned on Athena’s chest and then just gazed at her for, no joke, about 15 minutes. When the farmer lady came back she asked, “Well, have you chosen?” “Um…I think the bunny has chosen us.” Even the farmer lady was amazed! She was very happy that her bunny was going home to live with a girl she adored so much. So that she would not be lonely, we got her sister too, who wears a little black jacket. black bunny Line ‘em up, folks, and give ‘em a bunny! bunnies! Little Bunnies are awaiting names. The kitchen whiteboard is full of ideas ranging from Jane Austen heroines to Darth Fluffy and Master Fuzzy, a la Star Wars. There’s a rumor that we’ve finally reached a settlement with Flopsy and Mopsy.  Meanwhile they’ve settled into their lovely ready-to-go hutch out in the garden shed. It is all set up here beautifully because …{shhh….cover those long bunny ears} around here, rabbits are often raised for their meat. A few people have already asked me if I was raising them for “elevage”? to eat?  “NO! For snuggles!” IMG_1929