Local poets, fishermen and musicians gathered to share stories and songs about the importance of salmon in their lives.
During the second part of the Kenai Watershed Forum and KPC Showcase speaker series, guests were invited to eat salmon and listen to locals talk about individual experiences in the larger context of salmon in Alaska.
At times the stories and poems contained an element of sorrow, such as Brent Johnson’s “An Introduction to Death.”
Johnson, a local setnetter, told the story of a 19-year-old friend who died after his skiff overturned as he set out to run his nets in 1973.
“The motor normally started on the first pull, had it done so that day, history would be way different,” Johnson said. “Keeping the bow into the waves when the surf is up is difficult for an experienced rower. Jeff wasn’t an experienced rower and while Steve was still yo-yoing the rip cord, the skiff turned sideways to the surf. At that angle boats are tippy, a point proved by the fact that this boat was soon upside down.”
Johnson said he had been dating Steve’s younger sister Judy at the time of his death.
“Under normal circumstances, our relationship had slim chances of survival. But Steve’s death may have sent roots deeper for us. Fate is strange,” Johnson said. “Judy and I got married in 1975 and formed a partnership ... Judy and I still own the site where Steve died. He was 19. Forever 19.”
Other people, like Steve Schnoonmaker and Meezie Hermansen recited poetry.
Both have participated in Fisher Poets events in the past and both had the audience laughing, sometimes nodding along with the rhythm of their words.
Hermansen’s piece “Stormy Seas” drew chuckles as she recounted the day she tried to re-assemble a life vest.
“There was only one way for the bladder to lay with the hose pointing out the left pocket. This science ain’t rocket,” she said.
But, Hermansen found the job much harder than she’d imagined.
“I fought half the day to get the dang thing to lay, close enough, I insist,” she said. Next year I think, when it’s done with the drink, I’ll add a new one to the list.”
Schnoonmaker spoke about the inter-connectedness between humans and salmon in his piece “Illusions of Seperateness.”
After the evening’s presentations, Schnoonmaker said he hoped to educate people about the worth of salmon in their lives, beyond obvious economic benefits.
“If I didn’t feel like it was not being noticed enough or cared about enough ... I’d probably have poems about other stuff,” he said. “There’s a seperateness. I’m trying to reach people ... I don’t want to sound like a preacher, but I think oftentimes people see down a horizontal, they don’t see on a peripheral. They’re not conscious. It’s not necessarily their fault. They haven’t been brought to awareness.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org