Appreciating What We Have
by Erica Terence
Confession: I do not love to catch fish (though I wish I did). It seems a shame to live in a place like the Klamath without fishing. As a youngster 13 years my brother’s junior, I preferred the grasshopper-swatting live bait lead-up to the fishing itself – I liked to imagine myself a grasshopper making a springy getaway through our meadow. My big brother’s legs were a lot longer, and his patience a lot more developed than mine. And when I would sit down, shivering, in the creek and refuse to go further, he’d roll his eyes and go on around the bend without me. To his credit, he always came back to make sure I was still wriggling and lure me home.
But when I would settle in the creek bed in protest, I began a lifelong appreciation for the bugs, moss and debris in the creek, for the peace of mind and cool, fresh breath of air that creeks provide us. Most importantly, I learned a deep appreciation for my brother. An early watershed education program that started up at the rural elementary school I attended up the California Salmon River refined my interest in how natural systems around us work. From that program emerged my formative understanding of how important salmon are in the scheme of the Klamath’s natural cycles.
All that watershed education led me to a career in natural resource conservation – a trajectory that I am continually thankful for. Recently, on an unprecedented trip to San Francisco and then Chicago to reach more and different people about the work of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), I was studying a map of tangled, unintuitive city streets. I was delighted to find that my work at MKWC has made me a better map reader, whether deciphering ridgelines and ravines or navigating traffic lights, bike/bus lanes, and one-ways.
My Wednesday/Friday job all this past summer offered the chance to document wood in Middle Klamath tributaries and decide which streams would benefit from more large logs to help salmon grow, eat, hide and leave robust offspring behind. Often I relied on a map to know which unmarked road to turn up to access a creek, and which section of the creek to survey. I spread the map out, relieved to have a navigation tool in my hands I could trust, and tried to imagine what this topography looked like before it was paved.
Quitting fishing so early in life remains one of my biggest regrets. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you don’t have to slay fish, or even live in the Klamath to love what the people and salmon who live here represent. I love to see the shadowy shapes of wild salmon spiraling around in a deep hole in the river. I love to know that they’re there. I love that they spend their whole lives trying to get home, much as the rest of us seem to do. I love the cultures that have evolved around salmon in this place. Mostly, I love that catching them is the best therapy for my brother. And maybe someday his kids will have the patience to teach me to fish and I will feel brave enough to try again.
For now, I count myself lucky to have a job that pays me to be in creeks improving salmon habitat near the town where I was born and raised, and to report back to people like you about it. Check out what we’re up to on our website at www.mkwc.org, or read the diversity of blogs our employees are writing about this place: www.mkwc.org/blog
Can you help us sustain this work to ensure that we maintain strong, healthy ties to the natural world we all depend on? Can you make a tax-deductible contribution to MKWC today?
We are so thankful for all that you already do, and honored to have you as partners in this effort to restore one of America’s great river systems.
Erica Terence is MKWC's Outreach and Development Director. Born and raised on the Salmon River, one of the Klamath's major fish-bearing tributaries, Erica is devoted to engaging communities near and far in restoring this place she calls home.