By Janelle Eklund
Autumn had descended upon the land. We wandered out of the Copper Basin to experience the joys of this season on the Kenai Peninsula at Cooper Landing. Our friends and their cozy new cabin at the base of a tall mountainous hill welcomed us. A walk in the brisk air along the Russian River piqued the senses. In the summer this river is teeming with salmon on their journey to reach their birth place. And the banks of the river are teeming shoulder to shoulder with fisherman doing their best to catch their limit of salmon.
On this day the fisherman were gone and hundreds of dead salmon lay on their death beds along the shore where fisherman once stood. These salmon reached their goal and completed their task of laying and fertilizing eggs for the next generation. They dodged around commercial fishing nets as they made their journey from ocean waters; they missed entrapments of those subsistence fishing; they snuck past the gauntlet of sport fisherman along the river; they alluded hungry bears, eagles and other wildlife. I applaud their stamina and determination.
The stench of their decomposing bodies wafted through the crisp autumn air. Eagles sat in trees still ready to feast on left-overs. Salmon are very interesting creatures. Even in death they continue to contribute to the cycle of life. Not only do they feed wildlife and humans in life, but in death their decaying bodies feed plants through their nourishment of the soil. Maggots and other insects join in the feast of the year.
Brown and gold leaves mimicked the salmon in their death beds, as they lay together to finish the job of making new enriched soil.
The open graves that lay at our feet blended into the entire scene of a river winding gracefully through a golden and green forest, back dropped by sun washed snow peaked mountains.
Splashes of red rose leaves against dark grey boulders. A pile of rich red high bush cranberries that went clean through a bears system. Turquoise water flowing below canyon walls.
Ponds wearing a golden necklace of leaves. Plump white swans with elegant long necks disappearing under pond water - tail feathered butts rising toward the sky. Necks emerge -intertwine in love shapes.
Large wet snow flakes resting on brilliant colors, melting into giant water drops. A game of catching them on the tongue ensued. A chill in the air announced the inevitable entrance of winter. Swans lift for take-off - giant white wings flap up and down trailing water, necks in line - destination - south.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.