I began to put this picture on our Christmas card, but realized some folks may not fully appreciate the Eagle’s Thanksgiving Plate. I cherish this picture because even though my children appear barbaric, it reminds me of one of my favorite days of the Holiday Season, a time where I say ‘no’ to a traditional role and visit the fish with my family…
Throughout the early winter season I haul my family to check on the spawning Kokanee on a regular basis. Besides admiring their heroic journey, this year I had something else on my mind: to fish or not to fish.
I contemplated for weeks the morality of allowing my kids to fish the dying Kokanee when it was time. On one hand, NO WAY would I want to disrespect a spawning Kokanee, but on the other hand, if they were dying and had already spawned, it could be an amazing fishing experience for my children, (and there are other fish that come in to feed on the eggs as well). I figured I had missed our window of opportunity because all of a sudden it was Thanksgiving and we were headed to the lake for our usual morning Thanksgiving hike. Still undecided, I threw my fly rods in the car on the way to the lake, just in case I heard my answer and the salmon were still swimming.
Can I just say, I think I’m noticing a strange pattern in myself- that I enjoy doing the opposite of what other people think I should be doing, (or what my culture expects), for example: we went to check on the Kokanee on Thanksgiving morning instead of doing our baking and prepping for the day. It felt almost like I was playing a big joke on the world as I stepped away from what was expected of me as a woman and instead helped my children gather dead salmon.
This year the kids were not as sorrowful about the dying fish, but decided they would do something kind for the eagles and make them a breakfast plate. I walked the shoreline with my husband, while listening to our children holler if they thought a salmon was still alive. They would rush to get my net to take the salmon in question to the water, then one would yell, “Nope, this one’s belly up. We’re too late”. I explained the salmon’s destiny again to them, but they were certain they rescued one of them from dying. This sounds morbid, when I’m writing it, but I assure you this was their idea of fun and as far as I can tell they did not receive any psychological scars from this experience…yet.
We saw thousands of fish washed up on the banks, but noticed some fish jumping just beyond the washed up salmon, beckoning me…. I looked over at my husband who seemed perplexed as to why I was not yet fishing. My kids were jogging around, merry and content with their project. The eagles were circling overhead and the wind changed which opened up a section of the lake so I could see the salmon still alive in the water; they were no longer grouped up, but seemed to just be swimming around, waiting to die. One rose to the surface- it’s tail was half eroded and part of it’s rib bones were sticking out of it’s side.
Then I heard THE voice, “Mom, aren’t you going to try to catch one of those for us?”
‘Ok, well, if it’s for the kids then I probably should. It is Thanksgiving after all and any Salmon we catch would be grateful to be one step closer towards expiration’, I told myself. I threw my rod together and the another one next, for anyone who wanted to join. After my second cast out with a wooly bugger, I got an unexpected hard hit, but then reeled it in *cough* fairly easy.
If they were willing to eat a bugger, I was ready to let my kids feed it to them.
This one’s tail was rotted off as well, but my son was so proud to reel this in on his own.
And my daughter is so focused when she is stripping in streamers or fly fishing; I adore watching her fly fish because I know it’s connecting her to a bigger resource, a place where she can feel good about herself while immersed in nature.
The mix-matched gloves and hats are an ideal example of how we roll. Thanksgiving morning, fishing dying Kokanee instead of baking pies…why not. Walking the beach for a few hours and not seeing another human…yes please. Watching my kids engage with the natural cycles of life, and finding moments to pause and reflect, was worth the moments of battling out my moral dilemma by far. [I no way encourage you to fish spawning salmonoids, but if it’s for the kids, I can say it’s worth it (check with your local fish resources first though and never tread on redds). Maybe that will make me feel better for my decision.]
The fishing did not last long as my children were consumed with properly burying the deceased, and I kept busy trying to keep my dogs from rolling in the decaying aftermath, but it was fun while it lasted.
I’m realizing I am a better human when I allow myself to just be my weird self… And the holidays can be so overwhelming, so taking time to get outdoors is essential, even if it makes me look like a freak show of a mom.
On a not-grossing-you-out note, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy your Holiday Season, do your strange Holiday customs, and take time for the ones you love! May 2017 be filled with crazy adventures and even better stories!
*Thanks to Sally Barnhart for actually feeding my family on Thanksgiving haha.:)
*Thanks to the lady who posted on Facebook Community Watch about “the alarming amount of dead fish on the shore” and suggesting we should “look into pollution as a cause of their death and never swim in that water again”. #optoutside 😉