"All Fish Died" - artist calls for reflection

Dear TRENDS Diary -

The scene was almost too big to describe. It was just … Biblical.

As soon as I made the turn off Apple Valley Road into my drive, I knew something was terribly wrong. I could smell the gasoline. I could see frantic activity all around. It was my husband, our nephew and his friend trying to save hundreds of dying brown and rainbow trout.

A semi-tanker had overturned, and it was now leaching 1,600 gallons of gas into the St. Vrain River. Fish were leaping into the air toward land to get away from the poisoned water. My husband, John, was trying to revive one fish with our garden hose, while Finn was collecting others in trash cans filled with fresh water. I carried fish in 5-gallon jugs and put them in a nearby pond. All to no avail.

Every fish died. They just couldn’t breathe.

Our home sits just 20 feet from the river, which is our sanctuary. I am 71 years old and an artist. And as I took in the scene that day, I felt the need to respond as an artist. I also wanted to make as many people aware of what had happened as possible so that we could acknowledge the loss in a meaningful way as a community of interconnected human beings. When something bad happens, I believe it is important to welcome it in, rather than push away from it. So I found an old piece of plywood and painted a sign that says “All Fish Died,” and I placed it on the road where it happened.

My call to action is to be kind to others and to the environment. My teaching is to be touched. To have a moment's pause. To feel the pulse in your own heart as fish – not separate – if only for a moment, with reverence and respect.

- Sally White King, as told to John Moore