Salmon are pretty incredible creatures. I stopped by Spalding Park near Lapwai, Idaho (officially known as Nez Perce National Historic Park and containing an excellent museum of Nez Perce art and historical pieces reclaimed with the help of Walt Disney's wife, a native of Spalding, ID) to see the spawning Coho salmon this past week. I've never seen salmon spawning so it was an exciting moment. Watching them makes you realize that life is circular. Ashes to ashes and all that, but not in a depressing way at all.

The picture above is a spawned out female that I found while peering off the bank at a female preparing her redd. She had already begun the next cycle, the nutrients she carried from the ocean helping to keep her spawning stream healthy and productive for the next generation.

Salmon prepare a redd, or nest, in the gravel of the stream bed into which they lay their eggs which are subsequently fertilized by the male and covered. Each species does it differently. Coho are adapted to more silty areas and their redd making entails sweeping away the silt with their tails, while other species may mound the gravel more or less and choose particular sized gravel and silt levels to suit their evolutionary taste. The picture to the right show a female coho preparing her redd by laying on her side and flapping her tail to clear the silt from the gravel. The next picture shows what the redd looks like from above. The oblong patch of lighter colored gravel on the right side of the picture next to the bank is her redd. Bonus points if you can find the salmon in the picture. She saw me on the bridge and moved off her redd into the darker and more camouflaging area of the stream.

Coho were declared extinct in the Snake River and only recently have been reintroduced by the Nez Perce tribe. Lapwai creek runs into the Clearwater river at the park which is located on the Nez Perce reservation. The Park is named after Henry Spalding, a missionary from the 1800's who's grave marker is shown to the right.The park encompasses the mission site as well as the historic cemetery.

While I was there I had a bit of an epiphany about life and death. I'm not sure if the salmon were the spur to my thinking or
A member of one of my classes, which centers around cross disciplinary issues of salmon recovery on Lapwai creek, is a Nez Perce Tribal member. While visiting the park earlier he mentioned that a close friend had died and that he would be buried in Spalding cemetery. I watched the grave being dug and saw it again when I returned to see the salmon.

I noticed that rather than dig the grave with a backhoe friends and family came out, peeled back the sod, and dug the grave by hand.
Regardless of your personal convictions I think most people are horrified when they learn how we bury our dead. I can say that when I die I hope I am not filled with immutable fluids and placed in an impermeable casket within a concrete box (to keep the grave from sinking as I decompose), and placed in a hole dug by some anonymous and surly city employee who will likely throw his cigarette butt in the hole when he's done.

I can only hope that I surround myself with friends and family that would see the social value in coming together to dig my grave the way it aught to be dug, by hand. I can only dream that I would be laid down in a simple pine box or shroud so that, like the salmon, I can go back from whence I came.