"Turgid," Judy says, watching from our bridge as the silty water swirls underneath us. "Your stream is definitely turgid."
Turgid means swollen. Judy has a way with words. I would have called it muddy or floody or both, but Judy sums it up with that one word.
The stream wasn't turgid a few days ago. The autumn leaves covered a barely seeping stream. The dogs splashed in it, and we could see clear to the bottom. The sun was warm and the air crisp, and I crunched through my routine on a path lined with maple leaves.
But fall – which can run into November, because here on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, winter doesn't come until December – brings rain. Lots and lots of rain.
Last night the pelting droplets tap danced on our metal roof, giving a new meaning to quiet country living. By the afternoon the rain had changed to a steady drizzle, and I went down to meet Judy on our bridge.
The dogs are puzzled and not eager to run into the water, which is probably for the best. Dragging an 80-pound German shepherd and her larger Heinz 57 comrade in from swirling cold water is not the way I want to spend my afternoon.
I don't like the wet, and neither, it seems, do the dogs.
"We should go in," I mumble through wet lips. The dogs have already headed uphill.
We start off and then behind me, I hear a "splash." I turn back toward the road and count the dogs – one, two. I turn toward Judy, who is still there but not in the creek making noise.
Again a "splash, splash" comes from near the bridge. Down by a set of small rapids, a long silvery gray shadow is moving steadily up the stream. The tail raises and propels its body forward.
The shadow swims round and is soon joined by others – some up to 18 inches long, some closer to two feet. They move into what once was a quiet stream, searching out the shallows.
Judy and I spend the afternoon counting salmon and cheering them on. We phone the neighbors. "The chum are running!" is all we need to say.
Soon all the little bridges along the stream are crowded with onlookers. Decked out in rain gear, carrying umbrellas and wearing galoshes, friends drop by to see a bit of nature. It's like a salmon block party, and now I remember why I moved here and why fall is my favorite time of year.
Later on, my husband calls. He has wondered why I haven't e-mailed to complain about the rain. He is amazed I've been outside for three hours. "How does the stream look?" he asks.
I smile to myself as I hang my rubber jacket up to drip dry.
"Turgid," I reply. "But the chum and I are lovin' it."