Winter’s blanket tucks itself all the way to the sea’s edge. While the salmon are now far from their birth rivers, navigating the furthest reaches of the North Pacific, herring are drawn homewards into the Salish Sea from summer feeding grounds. Threading the channels shaping this snow-capped archipelago, they pulse south to their spring spawning grounds.

Image: Tavish Campbell



These whales eat seals. Seals eat salmon. Salmon eat herring. It’s all connected. But to even imagine we can define these creatures in isolation from their communities, from each other, is to make way for their exploitation and demise, and ultimately, our own.

Image: Tavish Campbell



The return of spring is marked by the annual spawn of Pacific Herring. The whole coast used to turn white with their milt. But these days, only fragmented pockets of shoreline are fortunate enough to know the wealth of millions of tiny eggs clinging to the shallows. Wolves are sure to be waiting at sea level to enjoy the spring feast at low tide.

Image: Tavish Campbell



The coast is awakened after a long winter. Electric energy pulses up the Pacific with the flick of the fins of millions of small silver fish. Herring weather stokes the atmosphere with gales, hail, bursts of sun, squalls, and rainbows contrasted against an indigo sky. Sometimes all in one afternoon. How do we celebrate such a humble creature who keeps this coast humming, year after year?

Image: Tavish Campbell



The bears emerge from the cover of the rainforest where they stowed themselves away through the winter. They begin to rebuild their sea-legs, navigating steep shores after swimming from island to island. With bellies full of herring eggs, I’m sure they hope for a bumper crop of berries before introducing their new cubs to the bounty of salmon season come fall.

Image: April Bencze



There’s no question this is her territory. The way she moves through the thick understory without a sound, how her paws grip the barnacled shore, the sound of her long howls filling the landscape like a rising tide. I felt this wolf’s eyes on me even when she was nowhere in sight, and I am humbled by her gracious acceptance of my stumbling through her salal-woven world.

Image: April Bencze



At the end of an inlet that reaches into the heart of a valley; the estuary begins. The river greets the ocean like an old friend, and fish fin from salt into freshwater, spawn, die and feed a hungry forest. A hive of activity splashes and caws, howls, prowls, slumbers, and feasts. The salmon river; where the griz gather to celebrate the return of the fish that feed the coast.

Image: April Bencze



Here, where the fish gather and hold in the thousands despite everything. Still here, despite cement poured high upon the riverbank, every year a little more, casting shadows of an industrial cancer taking wilderness hostage in broad daylight. Between the cracks in the concrete the fish return for now, like dandelions striking yellow between the slabs of a sidewalk. Here, the fish show me what resiliency looks like.

Image: April Bencze



The first heavy rains of September are welcomed by thirsty communities and scorched landscapes. The forests drink their fill. The rivers swell and begin to breathe. The waiting chinook hear the call of the rain, finning up rivers, rapids, and waterfalls. As the raindrops beat against our rooftops and upon the ocean’s surface, we are set into motion to begin our fall rituals.

Image: Tavish Campbell



Laying flat on the river bottom, I know if I stay still long enough the school will eventually accept me. But I’m visiting on a single breath. The fish begin passing overhead like birds blacking out the sky; a great migration of the finned. Whether feathers or scales, this abundance of movement driven by such purpose, I will never grow tired of witnessing. I only wish I had gills.

Image: Tavish Campbell



And how to follow those who leave no footprints? Those born with fins rather than feet. Those whose lives are spent moving through bodies of water and through bodies of all kinds. A salmon’s trail can be tracked up the towering trunks of the tallest trees lining the river. If you look closely, you will find the mark of salmon everywhere.

Image: April Bencze



It is winter once again on the Coast Mountain ridges and do we ever feel insignificant in a significant way, taking in a perspective on the coast that puts it all in perspective. The forests that fill your lungs are the same ones that take your breath away. Looking out over the inlet and islands, the dance between the sea and the land is what shapes both this place we call home and our lives.

Image: April Bencze

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Month pages of Coast Calendar, sample of December 2019.

Graphic design by Robyn Budd Design



A 13th month to bring a more honest big picture of what’s unfolding on our coast. Balancing the beauty with the reality is often neglected, which fuels the neglect all too present in our relationship to the land and sea, and all who live there.

Images by Tavish Campbell and April Bencze


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