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Nimbus Fish Hatchery – Fair Oaks, California

The trails I walk

along the American River Parkway

adjacent to the peaceful riparian zone of the Nimbus Hatchery

where young Chinook salmon swim upstream

between myself and the wild chocolate white capped current.

I commune with elephant-gray hanging trees

Their roots exposed by decades of flooding along the banks,

and metallic striped garter snakes

which swim along the water’s edge,

snakes who hunt frogs or newly deposited salmon eyed eggs in river gravel redd.

– what canyon colored with the paintbrush of the ancients,

what grove of latticed vine,

what strange orchid or splendid crimson carnivorous pitcher plant,

could ever awaken such profound and delicate integrities within my soul as this homecoming stroll?

My heart is again filled with golden poppies,

chartreuse common yarrow,

and brilliant fuchsias;

forgotten memories return

as I catch bird song of the tangerine and raven Orioles

calling from hanging nests atop the tall Fremont cottonwood.

Neglected memories flood my senses.

I take in a large breath

once again taste the airy cotton candy-cloud against endless summer sky.

I smell damp earth

shaded by alders’ canopy;

canopy endlessly guarding thick willow shrub and wild Blue Elderberry bush.

These in turn protecting toyon, forbs, and cattails that follow.

Each sensation sorts temperament and disposition

akin to the erratic sorting between verges

separating aquatic from drier upland –

Such ambles as these are the demon slayers of misremembered and cruel imagination,

Quieter’s of chaotic noise, heavy with abhorrent and deafening raveled struggles,

Reminders of friendships from quickly passing minutes of childhood left behind.

All this flooding back as enchantment in the travel and return of the adult salmon,

Salmon who were so quick to leave,

Who jumped fearlessly along the gravity defying fish ladders

stationed along the highest barriers of the riverbank.

desperate to escape.

It all might be no more than a moment to stretch my legs,

if it were not for the spawning fiery glow along bellies ripe with roe

reminding of the fulfillment and joy that await returning to where I once began.

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