Salmon made my baby. I’ve eaten so much of it over the years that as my body pieced together hers, you can be sure there was the stuff of reds, silvers, pinks, and kings swimming in there. But I like to go back further, to think of what the salmon ate, because what the salmon ate made my baby, too. The capelin and caddisflies, the crab larvae and krill. To the sand lance and the shrimp. But then we’ll need to go back further, because the dinners of sand lance were in the salmon, and the meals of krill were in there, too. Herring eggs made my baby, and so did diatoms.
I imagine her growing in my salted waters, with copepods for fingernails and squid mantles for eyelids. Each curled ear beginning as a periwinkle larva floating far out at sea, each toe a wave-swept shrimp. I see shin bones accruing out of clam shells, but her eyes—those dark blue ponds that faded to the color of the sea on a partly cloudy day—all salmon belly meat, I am sure.
Those mountains out our living room windows that shrug off their skin in wind and rain, those mountains made my baby, too. The elements mill the slopes and scree into dust, which becomes chloroplasts and flagella, while the sun, our endless battery, ticks on.
So perhaps we need to go back further to the time before the salmon and before the salmon’s ocean home. Let’s go back to the darkness, when clouds of primordial gases spun like fronts coming in off the Gulf. I suppose we need to hold those first atoms in mind, the stuff that made the suns and their galaxies. Nine months isn’t even one thousandth of a tick on the geologic clock. But out of the darkness, my benthic baby swam into this bright world at the edge of the sea.
And she came out hungry. For months, my husband and I could barely keep up. Then she learned to feed herself, toddling over to a slab of raw salmon I’d brought to a friend’s house for dinner—homemade sashimi. She was only one and a half at the time, with bay blue eyes and a translucent whip of blond hair above her head like a wave that never broke.
As soon as she saw one of us pick up a piece of the limp red flesh and dip it in the saucer of soy sauce, she grabbed a slice and dragged it through the brown liquid and brought it to her mouth. Soy sauce streamed down her chin. She pushed the fish in with her hand. My daughter took another piece and then another. By the time she wandered off, the filet was nearly gone.
My girl is old enough now to cast a red and white bobber into a narrow creek alongside a trail. Pretty soon, she’ll be catching salmon herself, flinging her own hooks into this wide, watery world and reeling in ostrocods, squid, and the stuff of stars.