The storm was so bad they closed the falls park. I saw it. The gate was closed. Brown water ran like an avalanche over the falls, roaring like the belly of the storm. I remember. That morning I awoke to thunder. It shook the house.
There is a hidden pool in the falls park. I call it “The Black Pool” (Dubh lin, in Gaelic). When the storm was through, the pool was filled with trapped salmon who had swum up into it, thinking it a part of the river. Now, they are trapped.
It was the seagulls who led me to the stranded salmon. I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. Usually, the gulls keep to the saltwater of the Sound. Many salmon had tried to swim back down the dry stream bed, back to the river. And they had died, gasping, in the air.
I tried catching a few of the live ones with my hands, as I hunkered over the water perched on a wet, mossy rock. But salmon are a lot stronger than they look. As soon as I slipped my hand around them, they became a living muscle and thrashed out of my hands, darting off.
I returned a few days later to find many white, decaying fish in the pool. Precious few were left to drink of the oxygen rich trickle of water that ran down the rock wall sides. The fish were dying. Few were left alive.
I needed a net.
The pool was rank with dead, decaying fish. Dead eyes (the ones the gulls hadn’t got to yet). Flesh hanging, flayed, off of them. So many lying, in too shallow of a bit of water to breathe in, all because they’d tried to get back to the river.
A half hour later I returned, toting a net down the forested pathways, feeling more than a bit foolish (and hoping I wasn’t breaking some stupid law. Because our city is dumb that way).
No fish deserved to die in that poisoned pool. So, I netted one after the other, balancing atop a water-slick log, and hoping I didn’t fall in. The salmon were big, and thrashed, almost toppling my balance more than a few times. I felt bad for them. The net was rough, and they were already so beat up.
Once, I was hurrying so fast to get them to the river, I slipped and fell sideways, getting several bruises and feeling chagrined for not being more careful of my footing.
I returned the salmon. I returned their battered bodies to the river. Many lay in the shallows, half dead, and I wondered if I’d just made it worse for them. They lay on their sides, gasping. I spoke to them. I know it’s silly, but I just love animals. And fish are animals too. I removed the netting from them and picked up their slippery bodies with my hands. Then, I freed them, sometimes giving them a nudge in the right direction to help get the oxygen flowing through their gills.
And you know what? Every single one of those fish came alive. They will die. What creature in this fallen world doesn’t? But when they go, they will not be in a poisoned pool. They will be in the river.
Maybe tomorrow I will return. The net is still in the back of my truck. And there are still more fish to free.