Monday, 15 September 2014

Bearing Witness

At the confluence of the Chilco and Dasiqox Rivers, where teal blue meets milky white, I can see two separate flows now coming together, becoming more than either of them are on their own. 

Looking down from above, sockeye salmon are swimming up–their ruby red and emerald forms pushing up stream to their liquid homelands. Some have chunks taken out of them–gouges from several weeks of hard upstream travel, constantly pushing on through rapids, rocks, and perhaps even toxic effluent–letting nothing short of death hold them back. 
At the confluence, some will take the left fork, into the Dasiqox watershed and its distinct tributary veins; others will head right, up into Chilco Lake’s great blue depths. Ravens, crows, herons, and bald eagles are here to greet them. They call from branches or cliff top perches, announcing the arrival of the swimmers returning to the places of their birth–the places where they will offer themselves to perpetuate successive waves of new life. My partner, Stephanie Kellet, and I are here with them.

Our camp is set above the salmon’s bifurcation point on a golden, sun bleached, grassy bench. Pacific salinity gives a wet kiss to air brushed with the scent of sage, and in this forest of big Douglas fir, juniper, and aspen the presence of something so wild and primal is as tangible as the froth of the two rivers colliding. 

The bears contribute greatly to this feeling. 

Here at the confluence, we are entering the last strong hold of the dryland grizzlyThese are bears that once ranged from BC, all the way down to the border of Oregon and California, but on the dry east side of the Coast and Cascade mountains. Now, the only viable population of dryland grizzlies left is here, in British Columbia’s Chilcotin Range.

Over the next month, many of them will gather at sites throughout the Chilco and Dasiqox watersheds for their annual ritual of feeding as they have done since time immemorial. 

We have come to bear witness.