Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Smelt Run

Today I walk among gulls;
Hundreds speckle the beach.
I have never seen so many
Nor felt so ignored.
Feel their frenzy as they
Pace, run, take to the wing
As each wave crashes;
Land in a wing beat or two behind it.
Silver flashes as they nip
- quick flip -
Swallow whole, head first.
Ritual repeated again and again.

Little bickering,
Scant chasing or squawking.
Today they have
a tolerance
For each other.

But not for the ravens,
Who try to
bully and bluff;
Who watch,
quickly snatch leftovers,
Fly off to trees
on the high bank.

There they eat in solitude,
Mock with loud,
rattling cry.

They live on the fringe,
Grab what they can.   
For the first time
I watch waders dip their nets,
Carry them brimful and wriggling,
To drop high on the shore.
As the waders turn their backs,
The gulls eat their fill
Until, exhausted by gluttony,
They rest on sand and preen.
Just beyond the surf bobbing dark,
Round shapes glide slowly back and forth,
Disappear, resurface some distance away.
Seals do not need the gulls’ permission.
"This evening we were visited by Comowool the Clatsop Chief and 12 men women and children of his nation... The Chief and his party had brought for sail a Sea Otter skin, some hats, stergeon and a species of small fish which now begin to run, and are taken in great quantities in the Columbia R. about 40 miles above us by means of skimming or scooping nets... I find them best when cooked in Indian stile, which is by roasting a number of them together on a wooden spit without any previous preparation whatever. They are so fat they require no additional sauce, and I think them superior to any fish I ever taste, even more delicate and luscious than the white fish of the lakes which hae heretofore formed my standaart of excellence among the fishes."
From the Journals of
Captain Meriwether Lewis & William Clark
February 25, 1806

Smelt drawing from the Journals of
Captain Meriwether Lewis & William Clark

Sepia Photo
The Smelt Fisher, Trinidad Yurok
1923 Edward Curtis

1 comment:

  1. An interesting mix of media... and of past and present. Also a neat look into the Pacific life-style (or stile, as per the journal quote).