We're delighted to introduce a collaboration we've been working on with our friends at The Salmon Project. Our Holiday Gift Boxes are incredible collections of ocean-inspired goods, each including a piece of clothing designed together by Salmon Sisters and The Salmon Project, and specialty items made in Alaska by Alaskans. Below, the executive director of the Salmon Project, Erin Harrington, shares her own salmon love and more about this project we've created together.
Sometimes when I’m at work—perhaps tapping out an email on my computer or chatting with a colleague, or reviewing data about Alaskans’ connections with salmon—I am struck by a powerful, visceral longing for the feel of a boat deck beneath my feet. Something in that moment will catch my imagination and I’m transported. Maybe it’s the thread of a story, or maybe it’s an effort to reach for the right language to describe the passion I have for the connections between Alaskans and the renewable resources of fish and game. But in that moment a nerve is struck. I am nearly knocked over with love and longing, for the ocean, for the resources I’ve been blessed to pull from it. I crave the deep exhaustion of hard-laboring hands, aching shoulders. I’m hit in the gut like a girl falling in love again. I hunger for that bone-deep knowing, born of the things we do again and again and again until we no longer can describe how they happen. Bait a hook. Cast a line into the eddy of the current. Stack corks. Fillet a fish with the practiced flicks of the wrist and pressure of the palm. I crave a moment of that old knowing, and the sense of wellbeing and connection that grows from it.
As the executive director of The Salmon Project, I am privileged to find these moments again and again in my work. I’m invited into people’s stories of salmon life and salmon love, and am able to see my longing for the ocean and rivers and their resources mirrored in the many people I meet. Our work asks that we learn from the lives of Alaskans, and the ways they are connected to the renewing salmon resources of our state. It asks that we gather and hold their stories and their dreams for the future. Alaskans are animated by their passion for the natural world, and upon it they build community, through work and food and play and sharing. We are able to be part of that—to be invited into their experiences of their lives, told through the stories of their salmon.
The invitations to connect to other Alaskans are what make my heart sing. Yes, our salmon and our oceans and lands are powerful and evocative things. But equally or even more compelling are the ways that we Alaskans are tied to one another through these relationships. Many are the evenings that I have spent sharing food with friends and telling tales of our summers, of our falls, of the work we did with salmon. I need only close my eyes and I can feel the skiff rocking beneath my feet as I pick fish from a gillnet, elbow to elbow with some of my best friends, laughing in the summer sun. I can breathe deeply and feel the rhythm of 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 10 o’clock, hearing the quiet “snick” of the fly line cracking beside my ear, seeing the kind nod of the angler on the other bank who walks quiet and wide around my fishing hole. I can feel the squish and pull of the mud beneath my boots as I take my best friend’s son to explore tiny channels filled with pink salmon at low tide.
The passion of Alaskans for their salmon is also what has brought us to our partnership with Claire and Emma, the Salmon Sisters. Their work to connect a community of salmon-loving people, through art and hyper-local business, reinforces everything we know to be true. They are motivated and driven by the power of place, labor and love, and they channel the joy of these things into the connections they build with people everywhere.
The people of Alaska—salmon people—are the focus of our work at The Salmon Project, and this winter we bear witness to their salmon lives. We’ve traveled the state documenting the lives of people who are inspired and sustained by salmon. Come join us and see how salmon bridge the gaps and bring Alaskans of all stripes together through our Salmon Lives, our Salmon Love.