Everyone has their favorite season and month. For me, it’s autumn and October.
It may have started while I was growing up where autumn, and particularly October, was the break between two unpleasant seasons. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, summers were what were “90 and 90” – 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 percent relative humidity. Winters were cold with the periodic St. Louis specialty of ice storms. Autumn was a time for transition from one extreme to the other.
October, in particular, was a month of warm days and cool nights. It was a season of many things: jackets for early mornings and late afternoons and evenings; a time for football; a time for family drives out into the country to see the baled hay and harvested fields; and a time for the cool nights that lead to the leaves changing from a palette of greens to brilliant reds and yellows.
But there is more to October than Halloween and the promise of Thanksgiving within a month.
October and autumn are a time for adults. After the long days of summer, hours of daylight begin to dramatically reduce. Patterns of sunlight and shadow appear that at first are unfamiliar after the long bright days of summer, but then there is the comfortable recollection of having seen them before. Many breezes may still be warm, but then there are the days that bring the chilling whisper that alerts our senses that winter will soon arrive.
October as the month of harvest also marks for those of us on the Northwest coast the transition in the salmon runs. The Lake Washington sockeye salmon run is long past The Chinook salmon and pink salmon (the latter in odd numbered years) runs have come and gone. The Coho salmon (silver salmon) have begun to wind down – at least the non-resident salmon.
The chum salmon have begun to arrive and the start of the winter steelhead run is now measured in weeks. But in the main, the life history of this generation of salmon is about to come to an end as they complete their life mission and plant the seeds of a future generation.
Fishing in Puget Sound to me is more than about recreation. It is to share the waters of a life cycle that goes back thousands of years. It is to be able to wade in the tidal waters that bring the salmon to their natal rivers; to observe the other species (seals and eagles) that feed on the salmon for their own food; and to reflect on the native people who lived here and based their lives on the salmon.
Early morning wading in Puget Sound in October is also a time of transition in clothing. The summer wading attire of ball caps, light pants and shirt sleeves gives way to warm hats, a Nano Puff jacket, insulated pants, and often gloves. It is yet another reminder that winter is coming.
And the coming of winter, along with the end of the salmon runs, is a reminder that another cycle of our lives is coming to an end. It is the time to take stock and measure what we have we have done with the last year – our own harvest – how have we lived and how we have affected those in our lives. And it’s a reminder, however unpleasant, that each autumn brings each of us closer to our own final migration. It is a time to take pleasure in the season and a time to remember what is, and what should be, important.