I ran off to Alaska at 23. Blinded by love I set roots in a small coastal fishing town on a slender strip of rainforest landlocked by mountains, glaciers and the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific coast of North America. I learned how to smoke salmon in the traditional ways, forage for wild berries, mushrooms, climb mountains, kayak open waters and hunt island deer. If you knew where I grew up you’d say I was pretty far from home… Except that home never leaves you. As they say, home is where the heart is.
I didn’t fall in love with another human if that’s what you were thinking… l fell in love with the Copper River, and the untamed spirit of its wilderness. I fell in love with the highly prized salmon way of life . I fell in love with slow living, with periodic endless rainy days and with breathtaking scenery that is so rugged it pierces the heart. Basically I moved to summer camp.
The Copper River and its tributaries make up an impressive watershed of wilderness. It supports more wild critters than can be counted. The Copper River is a highly productive ecosystem in a broken world. It is a reminder of the past, only it is intoxicatingly present and a prescient reminder of a future that heeds our attention. Wild salmon and the web of life they weave is delicate. We need only look along the Pacific coast to see the frail balance of salmon rivers and sad story of wild salmon’s survival in the face of unbridled development.
Alaskans are a salmon culture. Salmon feeds us in all sorts of ways. When the salmon go, our spirit goes with them.
I was raised with conviction – not necessarily religious or dogmatic, but ideological. I was raised to give voice to people and issues that didn’t have a voice. I was raised to have empathy and social responsibility. I was also repeatedly encouraged to follow my heart by my father who had an entrepreneurial spirit. At age 12, I was employing my sisters in a small jewelry making business.