In a circle that reached to all four corners of the community hall in Cannon Beach we stood, holding hands.
Roberta Basch, a Clatsop-Nehalem tribal member, prayed to the salmon, thanking it for providing us nourishment and, therefore, life.
Through silent meditation or through a soft “amen,” we acknowledged our gratitude and welcomed the salmon home.
Organized by the Ecola Creek Watershed Council, the “Welcome Home” ceremony involves Jerome Arnold catching a salmon or two and Sandi Lundy preparing it to perfection. Everyone attending contributes a hot dish, salad or dessert.
The gathering of old friends and new acquaintances is mellow. We are in the mood of gratitude, for our community, for the watershed that flows around us, for the nature that nourishes us.
As the fall leaves drop and we prepare for winter solitude, we are reminded of the cycle of life this evening. Sometimes it seems we, too, are swimming upstream, seeking a pathway to that big ocean of life, only to yearn for home again, perhaps a little battered and bruised as we return in mind or body to familiar surroundings.
Following a meal of fellowship and warm conversation, the program began. It was hosted by Watt Childress, owner of Jupiter’s Rare & Used Books and editor of the Upper Left Edge, a local literary Internet — and sometimes print — journal that collects the thoughts and feelings from those who care to share.
Watt emotionally expressed his appreciation for the gathering and for our attention. He then presented Dick Basch, the vice chairman of the Clatsop-Nehalem Tribal Council, with a $1,000 check to be used for signage at NeCus’ Park on the north side of the former Cannon Beach Elementary School.
NeCus’ is the site of the former village where the Clatsop and Nehalem people once lived. After decades of occupation by elementary students who played there, the site, now owned by the city, which has formed a partnership with the Clatsop-Nehalem tribe, has returned to its original state.
There were more presentations. Jerome told the history of how the “Welcome Home” ceremony started about eight years ago, with Katie Voelke, now the executive director of the North Coast Land Conservancy, who arrived in the area as a young biologist, eager to learn and persistent with questions.
Katie found her niche, guiding the conservancy as it explores territories along the coast where habitat could and should be preserved for the generations that will follow us.
Jerome’s speech wandered a bit, as even he admits his speeches do, but it soon found its mark, and he thanked Katie with a photograph by nature photographer — and the North Coast Land Conservancy’s founder — Neal Maine. The photo was of a salmon swimming upstream in a local creek.
For me, these were all reminders of the personal journeys we each take to find our “home,” but the reading of a poem probably said it best.
Written by Vinny Ferrau, of Cannon Beach, the poem, which can be read in its entirety on the Upper Left Edge website http://bit.ly/1rTGAOP, starts out:
It’s a lot of work
at some fateful moment
to the byways of our
The place we begat
learned the faintest
of our Song
Sung or buried
celebrated or misunderstood
Something drives us
larger than our dread
propelled down narrow
flopping through tributaries
finite and tired
by current and claw
But what of the Spirit
intangible and unquiet
the frailty of mortal coil …
The poem continues:
The Cycle of Life
That No One NO ONE
Alone . …
The evening finally came to an end. Some of the group took an evening walk in the dark, exploring the new portion of the inner-city path that follows the edge of NeCus’ Park.
With a few turns and bumps along the way, the path eventually leads to the ocean.
Nancy McCarthy is the South County reporter for The Daily Astorian and editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette. Her column appears every other week.