Friday, April 22, 2011
Cycle of Life
Blueback herring are holed up in pools of the Principio falls, spawning, oblivious to me, the intruder. Masses of metallic blue and silver shoot past upstream and swirl back downstream in pulsating eddies of fish. This is one of the incredible rites of spring, and I am grateful to be here with my head underwater to witness the drama.
A dead half-eaten herring lies on the bottom, on a bed of eggs. Eggs cover part of the carcass. The entire bottom is covered in eggs, and they occasionally swirl up past my face mask when an eddy whirls them back into the water column. Nothing goes to waste, and I’m sure the rest of this herring will be eaten by someone in the next few hours, giving sustenance to a heron, or otter, crayfish or catfish. Just as I’m sure most of these millions of eggs will become someone else’s dinner rather than become new bluebacked herring. It’s hard to tell whose eggs are whose and who fertilized which ones. It’s just one procreative soup, and each fish contributes with the hope and expectation that their young will make it. An assumption that they achieved a form of immortality by passing their genetic information to the next generation. The remains of the dead herring are a reminder that I will be there too someday, and the eggs are a reminder that my kids will be here to carry on. This amazing annual feat of migration, life and death models the shortness of our journeys and the spiraling cycle of life.