I was born in Seattle, on the edge of the Salish Sea, growing up in what was then the small town called Edmonds. My family lived at the end of a long drive, first asphalt, then gravel, with our backyard blending into a forest. Nurtured there, I still feel most at home at the edge of the forest, and beside large bodies of water, both fresh and salt—or, at the edge of the Wild. Sparked by my parent’s same near-the-Wild comfort zone, our family began camping when my sisters and I were toddlers.
I am salmon.
Our next-door neighbors were nicknamed “Uncle” Herb and “Aunt” Gertrude. Herb ran a salmon cannery in Southeast Alaska, and at every season’s end would return with boxes of canned salmon that he generously shared. If we are truly what we eat, then I am salmon, many times over. And this influenced my life trajectory, including my some twenty years as a commercial fisherman, focused on wild salmon.
Early on, in this period of commercial fishing, I realized I had a deficit on my Buddha points–a somewhat light-hearted attempt to convey a deep truth–that countless wild salmon had given their lives to me. Many times I had felt the shudder of life leave their bodies and had to make sense of this, to feel right about causing death. I turned to indigenous cultures and poets to help me.
From Salmon Cultures, I learned of gift economies. These tend to be a characteristic among those who rely upon the Wild for their sustenance, from hunting, fishing, foraging and gathering. Inherent to gift economies is the recognition that wild foods are not made by humans, but received, received as gifts. And as with all gifting traditions, when one receives a gift, one is then prompted, in turn, to reciprocate with a gift. Forever Wild Fund is being established as a way to reciprocate, to enable those of us who rely upon and receive from the Wild to give back.