On Tuesday, I watched the salmon spawn.
I almost walked past it, driven to see if there was something better upstream. This can happen, the urge to keep going and see “What else?” is so strong. But I am reading a novel about a gifted tracker, a man who feels the wild inside him and some sense of his understanding, or my own, penetrated me. I stopped in the center of the bridge, which is shaped like a salmon rib cage, then turned back and ducked under the mossy branches. I crouched low so they wouldn’t see my shadow. Maybe I needn’t have worried. Maybe they were in the same trance that I saw when, night after night, I watched sea turtles lay hundreds of eggs on the coast of Mexico. Maybe those salmon were in that marvelous, impenetrable focus, but just in case, I moved slowly. I found a spot on a slope deep with golden brown leaves, next to a very mossy Big Leaf Maple (not Acer, but His peer in age if not in trunks) and I watched the salmon dance long and slow.
They were hovering in what I would call a punch-bowl sized pool, if you were making punch for like 300 people and all of them intended to get lit. Their cup of gravel was almost three feet across. She had made it with her tail, which was not as raw as others I have seen. They faced upstream, side-by-side. All around the leaves were falling and the brown and silver water flowed over stones and under branches.
He was red, she was steely. They faced upstream with their giant white jaws open wide. She was still. He traversed over her, his body lifting out of the water as he slid over her. They hovered. He slid over her again, and again, and then suddenly she was restless, threw her body out of the bowl. The lip of it was so shallow that she left the water to exit, a wild struggle, and then she turned and reentered again.
This is like some relationships I've had.
One in particular, actually, so suffused with chemistry and magnetism that I kept going back to it. Deep place, primal refuge, struggle. Return, over and over. Including two weeks ago.
He left the pool. He darted upstream several yards, around boulders… Did he look for something else? Simply need to move? He returned to hover by her side again. Their bodies were so close that they touched constantly, comforting each other with their slime. They both left the pool. Every time, it was noisy, disruptive. Every time they returned it it was like being captured by time, working to stay still in the current.
It changed. She left and came back, left and came back...This was the place she made for herself. If she stayed she would die. If she left, she would die anyway.
There was hail that morning. But at that moment, the fall sun was slashing, slanting through the trees, giving its gold to the leaves. It smelled wonderful. Damp earth, dry leaves newly wet. I rose and walked upstream. Why? Was it better to see another male struggle to leap up the waterfall than to stay and watch this not-so-still-life?
As I walked, I felt those questions turning over inside me. It seems like they are coming up a lot now: when to stay, when to go, when to return.. Do I give up on this friend who has hurt me? Do I move on from this man? Do I return when old places call?
No. Yes. I’m sorry.
And, most recently: I’m back.
Because, here’s the thing: I am a better person when I am having sex. It’s true. I know that I am not a salmon, but a mother, and so this is perhaps not seemly, but it cannot be denied. I am more patient, creative, a better worker and a better mom. I am pretty sure I am funnier and damn sure I am better-looking (which, talk about a virtuous cycle…)
All of this I realized when I was down in the redwoods for Samhain. There is something about dancing around bonfires and sleeping outside alone and facing really scary dark things that I could actually hear, burrowing underneath me in the redwood tree trunk that I was sleeping in so that every muscle in my body went rigid while I made a list of animals that might be about to appear under my pillow:, “A mouse…I can deal with a mouse. Okay. What about a snake? Yes. I can deal with a snake… but what if it’s a coral snake? What if it bites me and no one will find me until morning and by then my body will be cold and…”
Like that. Until the noise stopped. And didn’t come back. And I realized that it was just the redwood duff settling underneath me.
Anyway. There’s something about a couple nights of all of that – not to mention the days working ancient myths about facing fears and transgressing – to make this witch feel alive and sap-rising enough to say to my friends Christy and Gwion on the last day of camp. “Okay. Enough. I need to be having sex again. I just need to take care of this when I get home.”
And so I did. I got back home and got (ahem) in touch with my lovely ex. The one that I have sometimes not been able to stay away from. The one where I hurled myself away, gasping, then fell back, watched him leave and return…
When I got home, I texted him and he texted back and we made a date and… well.
It was marvelous. And yes, I was immediately better-looking.
I didn’t write about it though. Too slutty! I don’t know what I am doing! Plus, job searching!
But the other night, after watching the salmon spawn, I went to Karaoke and was received into the sacred communion of song… I swear, it is a sacrament to me now. Kimberly and Monty and Mulligan (“Sing, Motherfuckers!”) and McCauley and (now to prove you don’t have to have a name that starts with an M) Russell and Linda and Bennie and Sammie and, finally back from her own journey, Nash. They have become more than just comrades in song. Every time I go there, I get so filled with love and joy, all of us dancing and belting out songs and laughing and drinking and smoking and telling secrets and flirting and comforting each other and listening and interrupting each other and dancing again.
This is always true.
But this time, my old friend Sara was there, with her new beau, of whom I highly approve because it is perfectly clear that he likes her for exactly her awesome self.
And she sat next to me, as we watched Kimberly totally nail “Creep” by Radiohead. And Sara said “You are a woman and a professional and you talk about sex. It’s so important! It’s so important to talk about it.” And something about the way she said it just filled me up with courage.
Plus Kimberly was swaying in this uniquely gorgeous way she has, while wailing “I’m a creee-ee-eeepp.... I’m a weeiiirrddo….”
Which also helped.
So I decided to go ahead write about spawning.
Because I do believe it’s important to talk about sex, even when that song is playing in my head. Because I don’t know about you but, in addition to being better-looking when I am having sex, I am also more loving, more willing to be fierce in my convictions and passionate in my efforts and also more willing to say “fuck it” and let the little shit go. Because if I am not the only woman for whom this is true, it seems worth talking about at this time when we could all use a little more of all of that.
So I'm saying so, and also saying that I am caring for myself with this old flame, who is back in my bed. I don’t think it will end in the same strange cycle as last time, but of course, I can’t know. I can only focus on coming together, right now. Which I mention because after that saucy little conversation with Sara, I did not murder “Margaritaville” with a slow and painful death, as I have before. I fucking rocked my song. I sang for me, only me, and for the first time singing in front of other people, my voice was the only thing that mattered. I could hear myself from the inside, my chest as big as a cathedral and the roomful of faces, loving and hooting though they were, receded into a soft focus before the volcano of my heart as I poured it out. I’ve had moments of that before in public speaking, some in writing. Never before in singing.
I owned that song. Which was, of course, “Come Together.”
You know how it goes, right?
Picture those salmon, him traversing her body, the ancient primal pleasure and necessity that drives them both and all that will come of it and, if you will, reach into your own volcano and whatever makes it hot and say it out loud it with me:
“Come together. Right now. Over me.”