The season has definitely shifted. Last week the first frost and this week, well, rain. On my way out to the car the other day, I was looking down and nearly stepped on this northwestern salamander in the grass by our little pool.
I picked it up and moved it to a mossy area at the bottom of a stump. Its front feet on my wrist reminded me of how, in summer, I thought I was feeling my grandson Eddy’s soft palm against my calf under the outside table—he was crawling on the deck while the rest of us finished dinner—and looked down to see a tree frog clinging there instead. We do see salamanders and rough-skinned newts in the summer too but somehow this is their season. Bringing logs inside, we often uncover one sheltering in the woodshed. They hold their postures in the cool air, unable to move, and so we’re careful to place them back within the logs. Once, after a deep snowfall, we were walking along the lower part of our driveway, used by neighbours to access their properties on Sakinaw Lake. Someone had driven in earlier and so there were tire tracks in the snow. And there, in the packed snow of a track, was a tree frog, completely still. How did it get there? Had it fallen from one of the big firs overhead? I picked it up and took it back with us, tucked into my mitten, and put it in a big pot of moss and ferns by our front door. Is it the one of the frogs I hear chirping in the bare rose canes at night, is it the one who paused on my leg and who gave such delight to my grandchildren, is the one who clings to the cool tap on the deck beside the bench where the pot of moss and ferns provided shelter for it that cold winter day?
Yesterday, after our swim, we drove over to Anderson Creek to see if the chum salmon have begun to spawn. We parked and walked to the creek. No eagles in the tall trees and no smell of carcasses dragged to the woods by bears. Not yet. The creek was lovely, its tea-coloured water pushing towards Oyster Bay. The riffles made their small music in the rain.
We watched for a bit and didn’t see fish. But then as we turned to leave, I heard a splash and looked again. A single pair of chum hovering against the far bank, under a hollowed out portion of cedar root, their bodies undulating. So it’s beginning and we’ll go back in a few days and watch what we’ve watched for our 38 autumns on this coast. When I see the run at its peak, hundreds of fish swimming and darting and choosing mates, I feel that I’m in the right place in creation’s wheel.
So yesterday I was at Anderson Creek and this morning I’m remembering the Cheremosh River and the Rybnytsya River as I work on yet another draft of an essay about Ukraine. I’m listening to the Rybnytsya tumble through the valylo at the blanket weaver’s studio, feeling its chill from where I stand, watching her pull blankets from the water with a forked stick, telling me that the water is life. How different our lives and yet water is our source, our solace.