Watercolor by Sherman F. Denton, 1904

Right now, Shad are starting to appear in rivers. A sure sign spring has sprung!

The Shad is a remarkable fish with a rich history (as told by John McPhee in The Founding Fish) and impressive ecological link. Like the Salmon, it is anadromous and migrates from its salt water ocean home to fresh river waters to spawn. The Shad’s oscillating presence in the rivers reflects the health of the water. No Shad? That’s Bad. It means our (drinking!) water is polluted and the Shad took a pass. Fortunately, citizen science and other efforts are underway to keep rivers clean.

I can’t explain it but I feel connected to the Shad. Sport fishers love the challenge of hooking one, culinary enthusiasts whip up shad roe delights, environmentalists measure their own efforts by the Shad’s changing presence and Shad Fest revelers…well, they just like a good party.

Perhaps I’m just envious of the shad’s focus and resolution.

While I was watching Desperate Housewives, getting pedicures and sipping lattes, the Shad was fighting for its life during a hundred-mile or so migration from the ocean to the river. It lost about 30% of its body weight in the process. (Sounds like it was worth the trip.) It laid its eggs, spawning a new generation of Shad, turned around and headed home. Done.

I will not let the shad out-do me again. I am determined to finish Chapter 12 of my Integrated Chinese workbook before that same over-achieving Shad returns next April. I will keep you posted, xie xie, ni.

In the interim, here’s a short, shad_radio_piece featured on DiscoverMagazine.com that tells the unique story of the Shad. I’m narrating this piece and wrote the script. Christoph Gelfand of Poultry Productions, Stefan Frank and Corey Powell produced it.

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