Women of Salmon
Happy International Women’s Day! Though I didn’t even realize this was a thing until I was treated to flowers, chocolate, and champagne when teaching English in a foreign country in 2002, I have since grown to appreciate the idea behind this celebration. To my mind, it’s about the women who, every day, inspire. I’ve been so lucky to have lived my whole life around women leading rich lives with joy and gusto, grace and strength, from the original women of salmon in my life – my mom and twin sister – to the unique, tight-knit community of fishers around us. I love the last photo of the slideshow, from 1989 or 1990 I think, of a group of Uganik salmon fishing women gathered in a Weatherport tent for a ladies’ party during a closure from fishing. My sister and I are the pre-teens in lavender, mom is next to me in pink. From my family, from these and other neighbors and friends, and from my many and amazing female crew members over the years, I am always learning about the power of women and what we can do. We run our own fishing sites, getting just as slimy as anyone else, figuring out logistics and mechanical issues, physically embracing the whole-body demand of harvesting our salmon in rough cold waters, reveling in being salty and windblown, while also attending to the beauty of life – wildflowers on the table, a skirt on hot summer day (well, hot for Alaska), a delicious salmon meal cooked with love, the exultant sparkle of bright salmon scales on a magical fish. I look forward to being one of those who similarly supports a new generation, including my three shining, spirited nieces, in whatever they choose to pursue. I would be most honored if they chose to fish with me, and they are already showing a keen love of visiting “Auntie” at the family fish site every summer. The oldest would already have her hands on every single fish we catch if she could and does when she visits. Here’s to all the wild women of wild salmon out there – those who catch it, those who eat it, those who love it! May you be like the wild beautiful salmon we all share.