State of Wonder – In a Time of Wondering

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This weekend over 100 of us gathered in our Timber Forest for the annual ritual of welcoming the Coho salmon home from their long and hard circuit of the Pacific and 1,000 foot, 100 mile climb up the Nehalem River.   It is uplifting to consider how those before us did the same thing on the banks of this river for thousands of years. In our over thirty years of watching and waiting, the salmon have always miraculously arrived.

Several days after the event, I reflect on those who joined us and particularly those sharp-eyed fish welcomers in their teens.  I consider what thoughts and feelings they might have had during the day.  Did they wonder why their parents roused them from deep, much needed sleep too early on a dark dreary morning to drive through pouring rain to stand in a chilly, muddy forest with a bunch of odd strangers?  Did they wonder whether there’d be spawning salmon – and a warm bowl of chili, by a crackling fire, in the good company of people they’d just met while standing side by side on the creek bank scanning the pools for fish?  I expect that they were unlikely to wonder since experience in past years had taught them that this was something that they could count on – something to look forward to – and worth getting out of bed for.

 Photo by Denise E. Silfee (

But this year there were no fish.  Did our young companions spend much time wondering why?  There is no doubt that they heard the adults around them move quickly from wondering to offering explanations.  While they heard one person explain the fishless creek with “there always have been and always will be dry Novembers and this low stream flow is just part of the natural cycle of things in this Coast Range…”, they also heard someone on the other side of the fire conclude “it is so sad to see yet another impact of the climate crisis and the unravelling of the ecosystems….”.   Regardless of how much we wonder, we can never know which commentator is closest to the truth.   I wonder about what our young folks made of these comments, and the elders quickness to make statements when wondering might be more appropriate.  As they pulled on the cross cut saw, while digesting their chili and cookies, do they, like me, wonder about what lies ahead – for the Coho, for themselves, for all of us, and the forest?  As they walk through the rain dripping forest and along the crystalline creek, do they join me in wondering how it all works and could ever be so beautiful and special?

I wonder, in this time of wondering.

Good News Update  – Dec. 12, 2019  – They’re Back

This morning we were thrilled to spot about 15 large, bright and peppy Coho charging upstream.

The less good news is that the low river flows caused by the dry November are causing salmon die offs in the Wilson and other N. Coast Rivers –