By Lawrence D. Weiss
For Senior Voice 

Spawned out salmon: A personal reflection


August 1, 2022 | View PDF

It gives me a good feeling to spend my final days surrounded by family, friends and lovers. We are a great generation. We all were out at sea for our five year migration and life cycle. Most of us didn’t make it back. But look around... We are the lucky ones. We made it back.

And not only that, we successfully spawned. Now here we are in our last days, swimming to stay in one place, to stay with our community. We are elderly now. We’ve stopped eating but we have grown larger teeth. Ironic, isn’t it? In our final days we have large hooked noses, and we’ve turned olive green, and some of us have funguses on the skin, making it scaly and multi-colored. Our skin is starting to disintegrate and fall off.

Growing old is fearsome and ugly, but we know it’s part of life. We can share growing old with each other here as we swim just fast enough to match the current and stay in one place so we can remember together and say our goodbyes together.

Look around. You can see that I have hundreds of companions. See over there? That’s Frank. He’s getting weak. I don’t think he’s going to last out the day. And then the life-giving stream becomes for him — and eventually for all of us — the river Styx. He will be carried away downstream where he will land in shallow water. And there, gulls and eagles will find him and dismantle him and he will be gone forever. But this is okay because this is how we end our life.

But now, sir, I feel lucky to be surrounded by friends and family in my last days. We are all growing old together. And that helps because we know we’re not alone. And we know that these terrible things that are happening to our bodies are just the other side of life – all those exciting years in the Pacific dodging predators and gorging ourselves on algae and tender little fish. And we have great memories. Yes, wonderful memories.

For the first time in my life and the only time in my life I spawned with a very desirable, I would say erotic, female. Yes, that was incredibly exciting. And I wish we could have danced more than once. But that is our fate as humble chum salmon. Swimming next to each other, and the tempo raced forward, finally bumping and bumping into each other – a furious nuzzling in the water. Then she dropped her eggs in our redd, our love nest and the home of our children to be, and I sprayed my milt to fertilize the eggs.

Yes, if I had one regret it was that I could only spawn once, because twice... twice might have made me feel at peace with everything happening to me in the river Styx.

Author Bio

Lawrence D. Weiss is a UAA Professor of Public Health, Emeritus, creator of the UAA Master of Public Health program, and author of several books and numerous articles.


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