Save What You Love A Founder's Story ~ by Mark Titus

Golden Swallows

As a young man, I fell in love with wild salmon. I caught my first King Salmon when I was 2, with my Dad.

In 1991, Alaska’s wildness called me and I answered by going there and learning how to work. I was 18 then, spending the first of three college summers toiling in a salmon processing plant called Dragnet Fisheries - which was perched on the Wood River just outside the town of Dillingham, in Bristol Bay, southwest Alaska.

They called it the “slime line.” All manner of people from all over the world including a bunch of us young college guys were called out of the dim light of morning every day to line up and process fish for food. Heads whacked, guts removed, eggs separated and rolling them into a blast-freezer on nine-foot-high metal racks. This was some hard-ass labor. And for me it would transform my love for this wild creature I’d been obsessed with since catching them next to my Dad in early morning light.

At the time, standing on the slime line, holding fish after fish in my cold, aching hands, I had no idea then this love for salmon would be my life’s calling. Before the salmon arrived we processed herring – smaller forage-fish prized for their eggs in Japan. During that time we’d work 12-hour days, 7 days a week. Those hours would bump to 16, sometimes 19-a-day once the sockeye salmon showed up. After the herring petered out we had a lull, where the plant manager kept all us young guys busy: painting, sanding, grinding, digging – keeping us out of trouble and keeping the processing plant from returning to tundra.

Lakota Holy Man, Nicholas Black Elk

Two years before this moment I’d read the book, Black Elk Speaks. The experience awakened something in me. After this, I devoured everything I could get my hands on about Native American spirituality. This education made sense to me in a way I'd never experienced before. Reading these indigenous wisdom texts drawn from their oral history made me feel alive, a part of, present in the moment and drawn to the land of the Pacific Northwest I’d been in love with since I was a boy. I wanted more.

..."Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understand more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being." ~ Black Elk Speaks

During this liminal time at the processing plant, I’d met a man named Lenny, who was the skipper of a salmon-hauling boat called "The Dancer." One night after grinding the rust out of a giant freezer all day, my best friend from college, Terry and I sat with Lenny on the bow of The Dancer drinking beer and taking turns reading Walt Whitman while the tender swayed at anchor in the river current. Heady stuff for a couple dudes there to work the slime line. We came to call Lenny, Uncle Lenny, because he took us under his wing in what we perceived was the still rough-and-tumble world of wild, western Alaska. Uncle Lenny was a white man, but had been gifted stories and teachings from a spiritually-wise indigenous man and was deeply grateful for them.

As was I, for Lenny passing these ideas on to me. As we continued to talk, I felt more nourished with every conversation. That night, the land of the midnight sun lived up to its name as it dipped into the horizon, then peeked back up just a couple hours later. Beluga whales sighed, surfacing in the river as it shouldered past the boat. I was content in a way I’d never experienced before. Standing on the bow of The Dancer with the crepuscular scene playing out before my eyes, I told Lenny about the hunger I had in my heart to connect to the land, water and salmon I loved in a deeper, spiritual way.

“Uncle Len, I just want to do something. I want to be a part of all of this so badly.”

He looked down, smiled at me, watched a Beluga exhale and said:

“Little Brother, you already are.”

Then, he let go of the rail and opened his hands to me.

“All you have to do is say thank you.”

"Trees and mountains are holy. Rain and rivers are holy. Salmon are holy. For this reason I will fight with all my might to keep them alive." ~ David James Duncan, 'My Story as told by Water'

...Swallows have always been my favorite bird because they dance so gracefully through life. They make their work an act of joy. An act of love.

Two nights later, Terry and I were perched on ladders painting the outside of Dragnet’s giant freezer. The sun was warm and I had my shirt off. It was past ten PM, the light was still butter-gold and the air was full of swallows with electric-blue wings. I stopped what I was doing and placed the brush back in the bucket. The swallows cheeped and swooshed through the air all around me - illuminated tatters of azure against the green-gold tundra. I remember inhaling deeply and smiling with my whole body and exhaling: “Thank you.”

At that precise moment a swallow clipped my ear with her wing. And right then, a spring broke through the surface of the clay inside me.

All I could do was stand there in wonder as that water inside me found its way out through my eyes.

The Otter on the Dock

Years later, in 1998, I came to realize I was home in the middle of my 26th winter. There was a hiss from the crack in the old cast-iron wood stove, the hot fire inside sucking oxygen. Snow-covered Sitka Spruce trees stood utterly still outside the cabin window. These trees, all connected, made up Lingit Aanii, the Tlingit People’s territory - or the Tongass National Forest as its now commonly known. I lived about 80 miles northwest of Ketchikan, Southeast Alaska – in the world’s largest, intact temperate rainforest.

Lingit Aanii

Crunching out through the snow on the porch I could feel the breath of those trees in my lungs. The cold stillness came in through my nostrils in waves.

I had no idea what time it was. I was 3 months into my service as winter caretaker for Yes Bay Lodge, a wilderness fishing operation in Southeast Alaska, where I was head-guide at that time. My handle on the radio was “Otter.” I’d grown up fascinated and entranced by wild salmon and now was paid to connect with them every day of the summer and dream about them all winter. I felt like I had the proverbial otter by the tail.

And that’s when the second spring burst forth inside me.

It was all at once, in that silence, standing on the cabin porch, the quiet broken only by Casiar, the old recalcitrant lodge malamute who lay snoring on the moldering boards of the porch under the eaves.

The main lodge was 200 yards below our cabin, and another 500 yards below that was the dock, extending out into the saltwater of Yes Bay. On my third or fourth exhale, I heard him, down on the dock. 700 yards away. My namesake. An otter slip-sliding his belly up into the snow on the dock. I could hear his wet, slippery catapult followed by his body crunching into the snow. And then his playful, defiant, unmistakable otter-snorts.

Something inside me said “oh.”

There was nothing remarkable about him doing this. Otters otter-about all the time on the dock. What snapped in me was that I noticed it. I could hear it all. From clear down on the dock I could hear every move this fellow made.

And then all the synapses in my mind seemed to fire at once.

I came to realize that since I’d been living in the rainforest, my hearing had actually improved. I no longer wore a wristwatch. The busy-ness that drove my every waking moment in the lower 48 had melted away. My understanding of time out here in the wild now centered around the natural cycle of things: the return of the mallard ducks to the back of the bay; the last Coho Salmon up above me in Wolverine Creek, signaling the end of autumn and beginning of winter.

Even though I’d grown up in the Pacific Northwest I had always felt a dis-ease, a restlessness I couldn’t put my finger on. Here, in the lushness of this rainforest in Southeast Alaska, in the gently falling snow among the swaying moss and stolid spruce trees, in this moment I knew I was connected to everything in this place, this place defined and fed by the wild salmon I was madly in love with – this place without constructed borders, connected by water, celebrated in the exuberant art of the people who thrived here before me for 10,000 years – and who continue to thrive here, making glorious art because of those very salmon.

I knew in each cell of my body – I was home.

The Calling

I worked 10 years all told at Yes Bay. During the last two, I’d spend my winter months delivering oysters and mussels for Penn Cove Shellfish on Whidbey Island in the Lower 48 United States and attending night classes at Vancouver Film School in British Columbia. I’d enrolled in the school’s director certificate program. To make this all work, on the days I had class, I’d rise at 3am and drive a big diesel truck from Whidbey to Seattle, delivering shellfish to the city’s fine restaurants until noon. When I finished the rounds, I’d beat-feet for home and would nap a couple hours before driving another two hours up to Vancouver for class.

By 2003, I’d completed the certificate course in Vancouver and had finished writing my 3rd feature-film screenplay. The script was called Tsonoqua. Set in Southeast Alaska, the story was loosely based on the coast-indigenous story of The Wild Woman who in later colonial times came to be known as Sasquatch - a “supernatural thriller,” by genre. It had come to me on a stormy September day in a vision of fog creeping up the sides of the fjord of the entrance to Yes Bay. In October of that year, I submitted the script to the Washington State Screenplay Competition then promptly forgot about it.

My full-time guiding days in Alaska ended quickly after I met my wife, Wenche on Halloween eve, 2003. Then I went to work at home in Seattle, learning the craft of making verite style documentaries, producing brand films for the likes of local behemoths like Microsoft, T-Mobile, Amazon and Starbucks - and some deeply meaningful projects to me, for folks like The Nature Conservancy and the United Nations Development Programme.

In June of 2004, a phone call told me that out of 400 submissions, my screenplay, Tsonoqua had won the Washington State Screenplay Competition. Part of the cash and prizes was a development deal with the Hollywood producer who made the films, Platoon and Se7en. I thought I was walking on water. Right up to the day Kopelson and co. dumped my project for a new Michael Douglas film. I had most of my emotional eggs in this basket and it was a tough but vital lesson in the impermanence of things.

So, I leaned into producing corporate short films. It was paying the bills but I felt a gnawing hunger spreading inside me. I ended up optioning Tsonoqua to a Seattle producer - my friend, John Comerford. We worked on the script intensely for six years and were beginning to fundraise to create an independent production of the film that I would direct.

Then one day, in April of 2011, on an airplane, en route to a commercial shoot for an ambulance company in California, I was reading a Pacific Northwest homage to salmon, Mountain in the Clouds, by Bruce Brown. As obsessed with salmon as I’d been my whole life, somehow, I’d never picked up this book until just then.

For the past year, I’d experienced a growing ennui about my work and purpose. But in that moment, in row 16, seat C, the wellspring of the Universe would gush forth once more inside me – and with the most intensity of my life.

In the foreword of the book my eyes tripped on the name of an attorney friend my aunt Judy worked with. In the slipstream of that moment, somehow that jog in my mind fired a series of synapses that probably lasted one second – but laid out the next decade of my life.

In seeing this person’s name, my mind conjured up another attorney, the father of a friend of mine, Russ Busch. Everything snapped into connected-clarity. I remembered that Russ had been working for 40 years representing the Elwha People in their effort to remove the illegal, salmon-blocking dams from the Elwha River that had separated them from the wild salmon who had been their spiritual, cultural, social and physical way of life for time immemorial. Simultaneously I remembered that at that very moment, Russ was battling stage-4 brain cancer, Glioblastoma – and just may, or may not, get the chance to see those salmon-blocking dams come out with his own eyes before he died. I knew with certain clarity I had to tell this story.

3 days later I was home in Seattle and having cobbled together a rough camera and lighting package, I sat down with Russ at his home to interview him. This kindled a brief, intense friendship that would forever change me and help define my life’s calling. And Russ, in the 6 short months we spent together, became one of my greatest mentors.

The Breach

Those first three interviews with Russ Busch turned into my best version of a love story for wild salmon. It became my first feature documentary film and I called it The Breach – to refer to the breach of contract we humans have perpetrated with the natural world - as manifested physically by the destruction of wild salmon runs.

In the end, Russ got to see his life work incarnate. He was able to witness both dams removed from the Elwha River before he passed away in April, 2012. I gratefully dedicated the film to him. Russ’ words and actions have been a guiding light ever since.

The Breach looked at the abysmal history humans have had with wild salmon every time we’ve moved into their birth-house territory – the lands next to their spawning rivers. Every time, wild salmon populations cratered or were left on life-support in the guise of human-engineered fish hatcheries which actually caused more harm than good for the remnant runs of wild salmon that remained.

The film then looked at what it takes to attempt to restore a salmon-system that’s been left for dead, featuring the victorious story of the Elwha, which in its case, took 40 years, $350 million dollars and dozens of indigenous, political, environmental and fishing groups of humans to muscle its recovery through (including and especially Russ!) And still, it almost didn’t happen.

We compared all of this to the last fully-intact place for wild salmon left in North America, if not our planet – Bristol Bay, Alaska. The very same place I’d learned how to work decades earlier - which remained pristine due to lack of human encroachment. Despite this, at the moment we were filming there, a Canadian mining company was working furiously to get a permit that would allow them to exhume the world’s largest open-pit copper and gold mine from Bristol Bay’s headwaters – where this world-treasure of wild salmon returned to spawn, year after year, for millennia. They called the project, the Pebble Mine - a cute name for a colossal abomination, that if built, would doom Bristol Bay to the same fate every other salmon ecosystem has suffered.

The Breach premiered at the Galway International Film Fleadh in Galway, Ireland – the coastal town in the west of Ireland my paternal Grandmother left to come to America. We won Best International Documentary for the festival, which was humbling. Most impactful though was watching the film in a theatre, packed with old men and women and hearing them weep quietly in the dark as they remembered the passing of their wild Atlantic Salmon runs. Those fish are all but gone in Ireland and this prayer in the dark of that theatre felt like a eulogy. It moved me to my core and lit an elegiac fire inside me to use my life to attempt to protect what remains in the salmon rivers of my homeland.

"Salmon help shield us from fear of death by showing us how to follow our course without fear, and how to give ourselves for the sake of things greater than ourselves." ~ David James Duncan - My Story as Told by Water
The Breach - Seattle premiere

All told, The Breach played at 25 film festivals and won more awards during its run. We then constructed a 20-city theatrical tour across the United States with a generous grant from Bristol Bay’s commercial fishermen.

Now it was 2015, and at that moment in time, the Obama Administration’s EPA had instigated tenuous protections for Bristol Bay. Still, after each screening, I’d go up on stage and listen to people, often in tears, ask one question about the fight to protect the wild salmon that remain.

“What can I do to help?”

The only answer I had at the time was: “Write your elected officials, give money to your favorite NGO (non-governmental-organization) and hope for the best.” This suggestion was not entirely satisfying to anyone. Especially me.

People would continually say: “I’ve already done that. What can I do every day?”

With wise counsel from my friend, Elizabeth Dubovsky and a generous grant from Bristol Bay's commercial fishermen, we partnered with local chefs around the country – serving Bristol Bay sockeye salmon at every stop of our theatrical film tour. People loved eating wild salmon as a part of connecting more deeply before and after the film screenings.

The wellspring gurgled forth again. To save wild salmon we should eat them – from well-managed and totally regenerative fisheries like Bristol Bay. Take them as sacred sacrament into us. Support the sustainable fishery and all the jobs that are already there. Eat wild to save wild.

I just didn’t know how to tie this all together. Yet...

The Wild

Save What You Love

(& a Descent and Reemergence from the Deep)

In November of 2016, in the span of 3 days, I started to free-fall into a grief I didn’t know existed. On day one, my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. On day two, my Grandma Dorothy, my great soul-friend, was admitted into hospice. On day 3, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America.

My Mom, Fran.

Political affiliations have no place in this story. What’s germane here is in 2016, the moment we knew for certain that a new president was to occupy the White House for the next four years, my heart sunk to the lowest place it had ever been, for one reason: I knew the tenuous protections in place for Bristol Bay and its wild salmon could soon be erased with a resource-extraction friendly administration in power, and the mining company desiring to exhume the minerals in Bristol Bay’s headwaters would have a four year open-window to get their shovels in the ground. And if that happened, I knew the last, greatest stronghold for wild salmon left on Earth would be defiled and left for dead – just like every other place this has happened.

Growing up, everyone in my family and social circle drank alcohol. I started drinking when I was 13 years old. It was ubiquitous and encouraged as a part of the social fabric I was stitched into. And, it instantly soothed the feelings I’d continually felt of not belonging in my own skin. Alcohol became a social emollient and medicinal elixir for anxiety. I drank to celebrate and I drank to enhance every joyous moment or blot out every grievous one.

In 2015 and into 2016, during the tour of The Breach, I crossed several thresholds I told myself I would never cross. I was experiencing bouts of crippling anxiety and I treated it with alcohol. That meant that I would drink at times I told myself I would never drink. Like at 6 in the morning before having to go to the airport and deal with cross-country travel. Or every single time before I went out on stage to speak before large audiences.

When I started to slide underwater in November of 2016, I turned to the only familiar medicine I really knew to obliterate the intense feeling of grief, bewilderment, anxiety and depression I was feeling. Alcohol. By the winter of early 2017, I was starting to find my bottom. My Mom contracted pneumonia and nearly died due to complications from her cancer treatments. At this point, I was drinking around the clock just to keep a stasis of alcohol in my system. Daily life was charcoal-grey constantly and the physical anxiety and depression were overwhelming me. I was losing hope and losing my physical health. My doctor told me if I didn’t quit drinking I’d die.

Grandma Dorothy. With my Brother, John on the right.

Then, on April 7th, 2017, my Grandma Dorothy finally let go. She left us here to join the love of her life, my Grandpa Orrie and be at peace. Days after her death, I was locked in our tiny bathroom, drinking alone. My 2-year-old niece, Poppy was just outside the door. When I finally came out, she asked me if I would go with her to her brother’s little-league baseball game. I lied to her and told her I had to work. The reality was, I was terrified to go to the game for fear that I wouldn’t be able to drink there. I picked her up and Poppy’s legs wrapped around my torso and her arms around my neck and she sobbed at my refusal to go with her. My wife, Wenche peeled her off me as she cried. Poppy’s sobbing red face disappeared in the window of my wife’s car. Then I went inside and called the hospital to see if they had a bed available in the Detox Unit.

Three days later I drank enough to get through my Grandma’s funeral in Florida. Three days after that, I was in detox at the hospital, fighting for my life.

That was May 3rd, 2017. Thanks to my wife and the people in my recovery community who loved me when I couldn’t love myself - I haven’t had a drink since.

"Something we were withholding made us weak - Until we found out that it was ourselves - We were withholding from our land of living, And forthwith found salvation in surrender." ~ Robert Frost, "The Gift Outright" - JFK's inauguration in 1960

55 days after leaving the hospital, I found myself on a commercial fishing tender, back in Bristol Bay, with 12 cases of film gear, heading out to the fishing grounds to film for the next ten days on a 32-foot fishing boat. I was completely untethered. Barely 2 months into sobriety, I was terrified my anxiety would overcome me and I’d drink again. I nearly aborted the mission before it even began, having a panic attack at the Seattle airport. I called my wife, and she, and a faint inner-voice somehow inside-and-simultaneously-outside me told me to go. To just keep walking. So I did.

I’d made a promise to a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman-friend to film the better part of his salmon season and help him turn it into a brand film for his company. That promise to him was the light on the horizon and the reason to continue on. Little did I know this action would be the catalyst for a brand-new film of my own and for the river of Life I entered by deciding to go.

If you’ve been to Bristol Bay, you know about the magic there. And the moment my feet hit the ground, it began. Having little idea where I’d eat, or stay the night, or how I’d get to where I needed to be, or meet up with the people I needed to meet up with, these things just revealed themselves to me when I opened my heart to them. The miracle of surrender began to happen and 24 hours later I arrived at my friend’s boat and assimilated with the fishing crew and began filming.

Potent epiphanies came to me in that time. The fecundity of Bristol Bay; the overwhelming feeling of witnessing one of the world’s greatest migrations at its zenith; the glorious light for 21 hours a day. But none of these were so great as the revelation of Belonging. Of my true connection to this land and this Life greater that myself.

I recorded all of this. On film and in my journal – and someday, I may tell a longer version. But for now, what I can impart is that I woke up. Life returned to me. And nothing has been the same since.

My team and I completed my 2nd feature documentary film, The Wild in time to premiere at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival. The focus of the film was the sanctity of Bristol Bay and the intensity of this moment to protect it despite overwhelming odds. It also chronicled the awakening transformation I was blessed with through the Wild of Bristol Bay, including telling my story of near oblivion by my addiction.

There were three reasons we included my personal story of recovery:

  1. Because it’s what really happened.
  2. Because it made for a better story.
  3. Because until I woke up in time to ask for the help I needed to save my life, my addict-self used to say the same thing the Pebble Mine proponents were now saying: "This time it will be different."

The Wild went on to play at 24 film festivals and win some meaningful awards. It is the symbol of gratitude for my life. And for the Life that Bristol Bay and its wild salmon re-awakened in me.

Nurture Capitalism

Meanwhile, I remembered the conundrum from the past after each theatrical screening of The Breach and was planning to have an answer for the audiences we reached with The Wild: A turnkey portal for folks to answer their ubiquitous question: "What can I do to help?"

In that question, and on a long flight back from the east coast, Eva’s Wild was born.

In Latin, the word Eva means Mother of Life.

Evas spelled backwards is Save.

Eva’s Wild = Save Wild.

Wild salmon are our symbol because they are the paragon of transformation through an act of love. They give their very lives so life itself can continue.

What could be a more powerful symbol of hope?

The Vision

The answer to the question everyone asked (what can I do to help?) then became: Use your voice, your vote and your dollar. All through this one clear and simple online community called Eva’s Wild.

You can easily buy and eat wild salmon from Bristol Bay. Your dollars become a demand to protect this fully sustainable, perfectly managed and regenerative source of food. You are in effect saying NO to resource-extraction mega-projects like the Pebble Mine and YES to a sustainable fishery that’s been thriving for thousands of years by supporting the 18,000+ jobs created by the fishery each year, producing over $2 billion in annual revenue in the U.S.

And, you’ll be able to watch stories like The Breach, The Wild and forthcoming, The Turn through our eva app - our online streaming platform that will become a home for like-minded storytellers with the same vision and dedication to craft, production value and social & environmental justice.

And, eventually we’ll help you travel to Bristol Bay in person to partake in the ultimate experience that will make you an inter-generational champion for this place, its people and the last fully-intact wild salmon system in the world.

Most importantly, 10% of our profits will be donated directly to the people who know how to protect Bristol Bay best – led by the Indigenous People of the region who have thrived here for millennia because of their complete relationship with wild salmon.

A Slow Birth in the Great Pause

Despite a global pandemic in early 2020, Bristol Bay’s commercial salmon-fishing fleet stuck by our side as everything fell apart for our planned 50-city road tour of The Wild. And through this, somehow, our little team pivoted and found a way – by creating a virtual tour.

The virtual launch wasn’t the original vision as the personal, tactile interaction through storytelling, food and connection. But it did one thing exceptionally. It created an emotional resonance with everyone who did connect through it. And this translated into direct action. We passed on thousands of folks’ comments, names and voices to lawmakers and public figures who influenced the fight to protect Bristol Bay.

And then a surprising thing happened as 2021 started to draw to a close. Through the lens of Bristol Bay as the outdoor sportsman-and-woman’s nirvana it is, we know that several high-profile, high-impact conservative leaders directly took action for Bristol Bay after watching The Wild. Which led to more high-profile exposure for the cause to protect Bristol Bay through exposure on widely watched conservative news outlets. (image by Cassie Bergman)

The day before Thanksgiving 2021, the Trump Administration’s Army Corps of Engineers announced they would not issue the proposed Pebble Mine the critical permit they needed to begin construction. This was huge. And we celebrated with the indigenous-led coalition who've poured their hearts and souls into this fight over decades . Then got back to work...

And now we have experienced a moment to celebrate and a reminder to stay vigilant. On January 30th, 2023, the Biden Administration's U.S. EPA vetoed the proposed Pebble Mine through the 404c Clean Water Act. This is a monumental victory for Bristol Bay's Indigenous People who have led the fight to preserve their sacred homelands and waters for decades.

That said, we have seen time and again how fortunes can change with a political whim. And as long as there continues to be greed in the hearts of men, we will continue on with the foundational strategy laid down with the formation of Eva’s Wild. Support the existing, sustainable economy driven by Bristol Bay’s fishery and donate proceeds from all sales back to the people who know how best to chart the region’s future.

So, What's Next?

  • Expanding our wholesale business to join current partners: Tom Douglas, Renee Erickson, Taichi Kitamura and Columbia Hospitality who want to partner and tell our shared story throughout Salmon Country.
  • Roll out diverse array of delicious, wholesome and regenerative food products like our wild salmon jerky.
  • Launching our eva platform, we will work together with our content creator partners toward a sustainable source of storytelling from our bioregion.
  • Select retail partners in mission aligned businesses like: Backpacker’s Pantry; PCC; New Seasons Market; and REI.
  • We have brought on our first Indigenous Fellow to learn our business and lay the groundwork for the future leadership of this company. We are seeking more.
  • A micro-hub buying club driven by regional events.
  • Integrated travel packages with partner, Roam Beyond to offer inclusive, accessible and authentic travel experiences to wild places in the bioregion like Bristol Bay.


In late 2024 or early 2025, The Turn will complete the vision of a tour The Wild was supposed to deliver in 2020. This will be the 3rd and final film in The Breach Trilogy that will complete a 12-year odyssey for the love and protection of wild salmon.

"It is time to reimagine business as a tool, first and foremost, for rebuilding communities and restoring bioregions...the restorative economy...I confess therefore, to being a NURTURE capitalist." ~ Woody Tasch - "Slow Money"

I’m still alive today because I awakened to remember I could come home. Or as Uncle Lenny said those decades ago, remembering that I’ve actually been here all along.

I came home by discovering my sense of place in this salmon country I blessedly stumbled into by an inadvertent act of grace when my parents moved from the distant land of Wisconsin way back in 1973. This home - in the mountains and forest, people and art, streams and rivers, wild salmon and trout and steelhead and whales and otters and elk and moss of this richest of bioregions here in the west. The sacred land, water, creatures and people of this wondrous place in salmon country.

And I am fed by the work itself. Engaging in it as an act of love. Like the swallows of Bristol Bay, joyfully dancing through the gold evening light over the backs of white whales.

This year, with grace, I'll celebrate 6 years of sobriety. And my family will celebrate 6 years of remission of my Mom’s cancer. I don't know for sure, but I think I'm feeling the signs of the spring I once never knew existed welling up inside me, about to burst forth from the clay again.

Wild salmon give their very lives so life itself can continue. This is the greatest living example I’ve ever witnessed of laying one’s life down for one’s friends. And I feel like that’s exactly what the world needs, right now.

It’s a feeling and a vision I’d like to share with you. Maybe you’ll join me on this path, or maybe you’ll forge your own. In the end, it's my prayer we find confluence, together, because we need one another.

Right now, I hold my hands up to you as I smile and say, Thank You.