March 05, 2010

Counting the Dead

Imagine walking down a street, and every few steps that you take, you come across a body.

A few more steps, a cluster of bodies. Every step, another body. Another group of bodies.

You approach an area where yesterday you saw small children playing - and you find small, inert bodies.

Small bodies, ranging from babies recently born, to midsize ones -- kids going to school. Further on, large ones, adults.

All with bulging eyes, gaping mouths.

Staring. At nothing. For they do not see any more. They do not breathe any more, for they died gasping for breath.

They choked to death.

That's what it was like today, carefully walking down Byrne Creek, counting the dead.

The dead that died when someone unthinkingly, uncaringly, or, despite decades of educational efforts, perhaps unknowingly, poured a chemical down a storm drain.

The bodies were fish. Just fish.

But we'll drink what went in that water someday, too. Or perhaps swim in it. Those toxins don't just disappear.

If we eat fish or other seafood, we will eat what went in that water someday, too.

All drains lead to fish habitat.

People habitat.

Every living thing's habitat.

I fear I'll dream tonight about counting the dead.

The bulging eyes, the gaping mouths.

The horrifying, constricting feeling of being unable to breathe.

We found fish today that in desperation had thrown themselves into the air, up onto the banks of the creek - to breathe, please let me breathe!

That would be like me throwing myself under water to escape foul, poisoned air - to breathe, please let me breathe!

Yes, I'm emotionally attached, because for days recently I eagerly patrolled Byrne Creek, looking for baby coho salmon, baby chum salmon, hoping against hope that the few salmon spawners that made it back last autumn succeeded in creating a new generation.

I saw baby fry, and I rejoiced. My heart soared. I took photos. I took videos.

I blogged, I Tweeted, I Facebooked. I did all that social media, cyberspace stuff.

But real life intervened

And now they are all dead.

And all that I can do is

Count the dead.

Posted by Paul at March 5, 2010 09:08 PM