Poet Mary Oliver wrote that what we must do with the only wild precious life we have is simple: pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it. I am, by temperament and experience, prepared to be inspired by the simple gifts of this particular mid-February morning in my favorite place — the beach out my back door where the Chilkat River meets the sea. It is a lot better than watching over my shoulder for a truck that may hit me.
Once, on a later spring morning than this one, I saw a man run down this beach in cycling shorts and rubber boots. He splashed through the icy channels and grabbed a big king salmon marooned on the low-tide flats. He got to it as the eagles were circling in. A woman with a wheelbarrow chased after him. With hands bloodied by reaching into the fish’s mouth and grabbing the jaw to lift it, he said, “I forgot fish had teeth” and dropped the thirty-pounder into the wheelbarrow. The two of them pushed it down the beach after he made me promise not to tell anyone, since he wasn’t sure if his sportfishing license applied to a salmon caught without a hook. The man reasoned that he hadn’t caught the salmon at all. He had found it. Later he paid me off with a delicious chunk for my dinner.