I have been absent in so many ways. I do not know how to be a river for a world dying of thirst. It’s May now, mid spring, and the rivers are clear and filling. Always moving. I’m taking notes.
Dear Little Griz, When I see you, I see your beauty. I also see this river is empty. It is only early fall and I know there will be no more fish to fill this river, to fill your body before the winter. I wonder if you are braced for such scarcity, or if you are hoping that right now, another pulse of salmon are making their way ‘round the bend towards you. Little Griz, I cannot untangle your beauty from the truth you face; that no more fish will come, that you may not make it through the cold season. Here, knee deep in the river, in the way of all my most life-shattering truthcomings, I know I cannot seperate your beauty from your reality. I do not want this portrait of you to fall into the hands of the world. Not without bringing all those who see you to their knees with want to do better for you. I do not want my livelihood to be made on the backs of beautiful bears like you, who have been exploited, extirpated, exiled enough. I do not want to perpetuate these patterns in the slightest. And some might say, it was not I who made sick your river. It was not my hands that stopped the salmon from coming back. It was not my back that fell your forest. It was not my choice to tip the climate so carelessly as to unsettle the seasons you rely on as a compass to survive. And so to those, I want to say, look. Look. My hands are dripping with the earth’s blood, my own blood, your blood, their blood. Don’t you see? It is all of us who walk on two legs and cloak our nakedness in a culture so narcissistic. Don’t you see? We all have a hand in the way of the world. If I do not hold myself accountable, then how shall I be driven to act? Hope has never made a home in me, has never soothed my grief. Hope has never been the force to ignite me to do better. You do, Little Griz. All of this, and still I know too, not my words nor my guilt will nourish you through the winter ahead. Not my love nor my grief will keep you well until spring. Perhaps you understand all of this. And so you do not look to me for an apology, nor for revenge. You only look for salmon. So, Little Griz, I suppose I have a lot of work to do to help bring those stolen salmon back to you.
Did ya flip your Coast Calendar page to February four days back? I'm pretty floored that we already find ourselves a month deep into the calendar year. Tomorrow marks the Chinese New Year, the year of the pig. It's the International Year of the Salmon, an initiative sparked by concern for the state of salmon in the Northern Hemisphere. It's also a new moon today, in the thick of a February freeze. There are many ways to measure the passing of time, but I hope you find yourself in many timeless moments this year, too. Since January has come and gone, the first page of our Coast Calendar is rendered yours to do with as you please; frame it, gift it, burn it, rip it out and make a card out of it, wrap a gift in the page. (These are some of the things I do with my outdated calendar images). We still have some calendars left, so if you haven't gotten your paws on the 2019 Coast Calendar yet and you still want to, we've put them on sale to reflect the 1/12, or 8%, irrelevance of it's original purpose. That makes the calendar 11/12, or 92%, still relevant. I'm atrocious at math so this could be entirely wrong. In any case, the calendars are on sale. You can order yours for $25 plus shipping at the link in my profile, or this web address here. longlivethecoast.ca/store All proceeds go to support @TavishCampbell and my wildlife conservation work. Thank you for your support! Learn more here: www.coastcalendars.com Image: @tavishcampbell’s orca image marks the month of February in the calendar.
Methods to the strange act of photographing fish - Sometimes when I photograph salmon, I dive down and place the camera on the river bottom. I set the camera to take hundreds of shots at a few second interval, compose the shot, weight the camera to a small tripod, and make myself scarce. Sometimes I'll swim away and play around in the river elsewhere while my camera works unattended. Sometimes I meditate for a time, facedown and buoyed by the river, breathing in and out of my snorkel. I try to remain open to the energy of the great migration unfolding beneath me. It's far too easy to remain closed off to such forces, even if it's happening all around. Most of the time I'll make like a thoroughly saturated sea lion and unabashedly haul out to dry on the rock bluffs. I'll slip sweetly into a waterlogged daydream. Still in my wetsuit I'll splay my limbs out with belly up to the sky, arms wide open to catch the fleeting autumn rays. This allows the salmon time to school up, hold, and generally do as they would any other day in the upper reaches of the river. In this way, the camera captures their undisturbed behaviour. The thing about photographing salmon while freediving is that I resemble their natural predators. Just like a scrawny seal, except markedly less graceful, when I descend upon the school - they scatter. I can challenge my breathhold abilities and come to rest on the river bottom for a minute, maybe two, and the salmon will begin to pass by overhead. I might get a shot or two out of it before running short of oxygen. I can't stand to scatter the fish when I inevitably head for the surface just as I've tricked some trust from them. I don't believe these fish need to feel any more fear on their journeys than absolutely necessary. I think of the seals, bears, and hooks they've dodged to make it this far. This is their place to rest and hold before the next surge to their spawning grounds. In this shot, I'm diving back down to collect the camera. A few pink salmon swim between me and the lens, and I pause to let them pass by. Later, I smile when I come across the unintentional self portrait. #longlivethecoast
the great dilemma of the oil people ____ when i say my heart is this place, it is not a metaphor. if this place is to be lost to the blood so ready to pour from the body of our greed - thick and black: if this place is to be lost i am to be lost, we are all lost. do you understand the truth of that? the way roots grow - not from feet into soil but from place into person. break these shores and i will know what it is to be broken. it was decided somewhere along the line: this place is worth risking to fuel a culture that chooses convenience over connection; a calculated risk crafted with the blind consent of oil-laden addicts. and when your roots have been stunted by the concrete; well, you can not feel the loss like those who depart from the sidewalk, like those who were grown straight from the earth. but trust me when i say - if you go looking to be whole someday you may find something as vital as a pulse is nowhere to be found. you may find the soothing sound of a future lapping at your shores is missing.
When I say it is quiet, I mean I can hear everything. Wings on brackish water, becoming wings on salty air as the goldeneyes take flight. I can hear the tide slackening after it’s swift rising; swelling so much as to embrace the bottom-most branches of overhanging cedars. A tide that reaches to the sky to meet the Wolf Moon in her fullness. The shape of a V forms overhead and I hear Mary Oliver’s voice whispering the hushed words of her poem, Wild Geese. It is haunting, what the quiet gives voice to. She died three days ago. The morning sun cups my face with two warm palms; stains my closed eyelids an illuminated red. I grieve the only way I know how. To place myself in the hands of a river valley, to be held in silence. To give myself to the morning. I grieve the death of someone I never knew. Someone I will never know. Someone whose words have shaped the person I have become; the person I am becoming. When I say it is silent here, in the grace of this estuary, I mean I can hear everything. I mean that last night I had a dream that I died. In the wake of my death, I overheard someone describe me in one word. They said, ‘She was quiet.’ Quiet. I’ve gone so much of my life speaking to be heard, seeking to be understood. In the dream I felt at peace with that simple summation of my being, though somehow knowing I’ve yet to earn such an adjective. Quiet. I hope that means I am listening. Listening to everything the silence gives voice to. Most mornings I read my favourite poem written by Mary Oliver - Dogfish. One that I scribbled out and place next to where ever I sleep so that it should greet me when I wake. I read it aloud upon rising. I read it to myself, to my dog. To the morning. The words wash me with peace. It feels strange somehow, even to a stranger, that Mary Oliver is no longer waking to the world she wrote so honestly of. It feels like a great gift that her words are immortal. There, always, to wash over anyone who opens to them. Here, held high by the tide, I am quiet. I am thanking someone I did not know for their life. I hear the wild geese pass by overhead - harsh and exciting.
My shoulders ache. The day falls dark and I continue this work because the process demands it. The whiplash laced into my back is protesting loudly. It’s a rainy January night but I’m sweating through the winter’s chill. I run my hands over the hide and see all the work still needing to be done to part the flesh cleanly from the thick skin. I’ve never done this before. Uncertainty tugs at my mind; I want to do this right. But like anything, it takes time and many lessons learned from mistakes to become skilled at a process, especially in the absence of a teacher. I’m trying to be patient with my inefficient technique and ailing body. I weild a dull machete in lieu of a fleshing knife. My little rowboat, Pisces, acts as a make-shift fleshing stand. I worry about nicking the hide as the hours stretch on and my strokes grow tired. This hide belonged to an elk, and now it is in my care, though it does not belong to me. It was given to me in a trade after the elk was hunted for food. Tonight, I’m preparing it for bark tanning. I began the process only days ago and already it has demanded much effort and care; has earned my full respect. I have a reverence for prey. I know my fate might be to become prey one day, too. I walk the woods with that knowledge. I don’t believe my life is more important than this elk’s. Taking the life of another, however indirectly, to shape our own is the most sacred everyday act we do on this planet. The more connected I become to the knowledge that my body is dependent upon plants, animals, earth, air, and ocean, the more respect I hold for the days I am gifted. The more drive I have to protect that which I am made of. Working this hide is grounding. The process has given me perspective. Already it has changed the lens through which I veiw leather goods. Already, I treat them differently. I regard them with new appreciation. I find myself running my fingers over my belt, my knife sheath, my boots - with an awe I did not hold for these items before I laid my hands upon this hide. I think that’s what happens when you lay your hands upon a process; your respect swells, your care deepens. Your relationship to the world shifts.
Scaled silver bullets evade the shining hooks of fishers, out-dashing sea lions to hold where saltwater meets fresh. The rivers swell with the autumn rain, and the waiting dog salmon pulse from ocean into stream. The anadromous beasts bid a final farewell to the same estuary that raised them as young fish. Now they are welcomed back through the brackish gateway to the river after years of growing in the Pacific. The sea-strong chum fin upstream. Purple stripes stain their sides like war paint as they dodge the claws of bears and slip past the teeth of fishing wolves. Not all will make it back to spawn upon the very spot in which they were born, but the ones who do will dig their redds until their tails are worn. Salmon remind me that we are the ancestors of tomorrow. Witnessing these fish give their bodies to fuel the future, I am given perspective. What I do or do not do today does matter. Every decision a thread in the tapestry of tomorrow. The future created by those who live today soon becomes a gift to our children; their present. I hope they will know the gifts given by salmon, too. #loveletterstosalmon #longlivethecoast
Black-spotted tails glow gold like stained glass. The school of fish catch the river-filtered rays of sunlight and light up like a thousand underwater candles. The pink salmon hold in between the stillness of deep canyon walls. They've overcome the shallow rapids and swirling back eddies that exposed them to casted silver hooks, the sharp claws of black bears and yellow talons of bald eagles. It is a long journey back to their origins, and this is but a glimpse of it. #longlivethecoast #loveletterstosalmon
Photos by @CristinaMittermeier and portrait by @Ben_Moon ✨ The double-meaning of the word ‘inspire’ has always struck me as apt. The act of breathing and of being inspired share a foundational nature, both connecting me to all those I share the planet with. Nature inspires me. My life reflects this; revolves around it. Then there are the people who have gifted me inspiration. @CristinaMittermeier’s work is infused with her deep love of the people, places, and diverse beings who make up the earth and oceans. But while Cristina’s work moves me greatly, it’s the way Cristina moves through the world which inspires me most. As a woman navigating the tangled bushwack of conservation work, having someone to look to as a guide has been a gift. I have been mentored by Cristina on and off since I began this work. We have shared the ocean together with mola mola (sunfish), beautiful blue sharks, and shared islands with coastal wolves as we documented the coast we both love and live within. Through these experiences, Cristina has always made the time for me. She has a million valid reasons to be too busy to lend an ear, advice, or to gift her support - like the 25 conservation books she has been the editor of, the non-profit ocean conservation organization @SeaLegacy she leads, the million followers she shares her conservation messages with on social media, the conservation photography expeditions all over the world she undertakes, and more. Not to mention nurturing her three remarkable children into caring adults along the way (these three also inspire me greatly). Yet if I send her an email she always answers, and if I don’t send an email for a stretch of time, she always reaches out to check in. Cristina’s generosity in her everyday interactions with people inspires me to be generous with my time, too. Absolutely, her work inspires me. But Cristina makes me want to be a kinder human being, and that’s invaluable. Kindness is contagious. And just like that, with a simple act we are all capable of, we all rise together. I encourage you to check out @CristinaMittermeier’s work, as well as her latest book ‘Amaze’ - which will gift you oceans of inspiration. 🌊
A powerful few days spent in Tribune Channel with @AlexMorton4Salmon documenting the empty Glacier Falls fish farm in the process of being disassembled. This Mowi/Marine Harvest salmon farm is the first to be removed from the wild salmon migration route of the Broughton Archipelago thanks to the enormous efforts of the First Nations whose territory and lives have been tremendously impacted by the salmon farming industry. Thanks to the 280 day Indigenous-led occupations ( @AwinakolaWarriors & @CleansingOurWaters) and to the Indigenous leadership of 3 Nations for hammering out this agreement to remove 17 fish farms from the Broughton Archipelago over the next 5 years. Thanks to every single person who contributed to making this momentous day a reality - a day where we get to bid farewell and good riddance to the first fish farm to be removed, enabling the potential for wild salmon to begin to recover. Thanks to @AlexMorton4Salmon for giving everything to protect the salmon, the rivers, and the entire coast who relies on them. I will be spending the rest of my life thanking the wild salmon for their resilience and their patience, which should have never been tested so heavily. Thank you to the river who will birth and release the next generation of juvenile pink salmon this spring; young salmon who will pass by Glacier Falls and, for the first time in decades, not be subjected to the disease and sea lice from this fish farm. Please swipe to enjoy this video I made yesterday with @AlexMorton4Salmon as well as some images from a powerful moment in time that I’m so grateful to have shared with Alex. There is much to be done to free the coast from the deadly grip of this industry, and your continued care and action is vital for the return of wild salmon to the B.C. coast. #longlivethecoast 🎥: @aprilbencze with additional footage from @tavishcampbell @seashepherdsscs @simonagerphotography @alexmorton4salmon @sealegacy @cristinamittermeier
When I lose my way, it is largely in sharing space with wild animals that brings me home. I've never felt like I have belonged in the society I was born into. I struggle greatly with post-traumatic stress, social anxiety, and depression. I have a deep desire to learn from those around me and share in community and friendship, but often am thwarted by my own internal battles when connecting with other people. Something I am working on. My time spent with wild animals has been my greatest teacher. I communicate with photographs because it is a language that moves me, and my own spoken words seem to fall short most of the time; tangling and twisting when they leave my tongue. Wild animals and wild places are a source of grounding, of gaining perspective. Of belonging. If I'm caught up in my thoughts and a raven rolls an intricate call from his throat, I am pulled from my inner world into the present. I will never be alone in this life. Not here at least, where just this morning I woke to the call of a loon. Not as long as the salmon still spawn, not when I know nearby the wolves still trot smilingly and silently through thick salal. Planetary love seems to be a tough love. It's a love that has you feeling insignificant and not at all special. You, so tiny and short-lived in amongst the grandeur of all of the splendid beasts and mountain ranges and great oceans that ever lived; it is a love like an ego-dissolving medicine, one in which I know I am in near constant thirst for. It's a harsh love that would just as soon kill you as fill you with joy, should you fall prey to or play within the natural laws of the planet. While at the same time planetary love shows you that every single life is indeed significant and special; each life a gift that might feel at times quite like a curse. It's in these paradoxes that I find my peace with the world, that I accept the gift and the challenge of my life, and all the while - love the planet back fiercely.
All eyes on Unist'ot'en Camp. It's time to rise to stand with those who have rooted themselves to the massive effort of halting LNG developments on the North Coast of BC. LNG Canada and the Province of British Columbia have recently announced a positive Final Investment Decision in regards to their export facility in Kitimat. TransCanada Ltd, a pipeline contractor, filed for the injunction against the Unist'ot'en and Wet'suwet'en to remove them from their checkpoint at the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River), where they have been occupying their territory and operating a healing center and a trapline, preventing LNG pipeline construction for the past 8 years. Unist'ot'en Camp is the last obstacle preventing the LNG pipeline and associated tankers. The long established resistance to LNG developments - Unist'ot'en Camp - is reaching out for support at this time from allies opposed to LNG and oil tankers on the North Coast, as well as communities who have an interest in how title is respected by the state and the RCMP. With the injunction now granted, the RCMP can move to arrest and remove the Wet'suwet'en from their own territory as soon as today. With this removal of the resistance, the development of the LNG export industry through coastal waters would proceed unrestricted. The Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en were the plaintiffs in Delgamuuk, so the courts have already ruled that Wet'suwet'en title to their lands have not been extinguished. The legal precedent established with this injunction is disastrous to all communities seeking title in that it would enable corporations and governments to continue to be the primary decision-makers on lands where Indigenous communities have already established title in the courts. Stand with Unist'ot'en Camp in any way you can - you can donate, share information, volunteer to go up to the camp and physically stand with the Wet'suwet'en and allies. At the very least, please lend your eyes and voice to Unist'ot'en today and let the police know they are being witnessed in how forcefully they remove the Indigenous and allies from the land. Make it heard that this is not okay. WWW.UNISTOTEN.CAMP Thank you! ⤵️
So the news comes and I am overwhelmed by how much was poured into forming these black and white headlines. Seventeen fish farms to be removed from the migration routes of the salmon of the Broughton Archipelago. To be removed from the respective territories of the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis, 'Namgis and Mamalilikulla First Nations. While five years seems a long time to hang on for these populations of salmon that have been driven to such decline, what a step in the right direction. What a massive feat to begin to move the seemingly immovable fish farms that stain the Archipelago. But I keep coming back to one thing. How do I say thank you? How do I say it so that it is heard as deep as it is felt. Thank you: To those who have fought for longer than I've been alive to ensure wild salmon return to the rivers. To all those who have given a moment or a lifetime to this righting of such a multifaceted wrong. To the First Nations in whose territory I live within, the caretakers of this land, sea, and salmon for well over ten thousand years. To those Indigenous to this land who have fought with their lives at stake for the removal of these fish farms. To every incredible human whose energy, blood, sweat, bodies, and tears were poured into the 280 day fish farm occupations that acted to evict salmon farms from Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and ‘Namgis territories. To the salmon, for their resiliency. For the lessons they share. For the contagious will to keep going. For their giving, of their flesh and of their beauty. I know that my words alone are inadequate to properly thank all who contribute. So much has been sacrificed for this outcome. I see that. I feel it. And so in the wake of such news, I keep coming back to one thing. How to say thank you. This is how I have learned to give thanks: Keep going. Keep coming together for the removal of open net-pen salmon farms from the ocean. From the Discovery Islands. Clayoquot Sound. Keep thanking each day for another chance to heal the deep wounds colonialism and capitalism have carved into people and place. I want nothing more than for the sum of my life to be a ‘thank-you’ to this coast and those who care for her.
📷: @tavishcampbell On this coast, the destructive intersection of human and non-human often remains out of sight and out of mind, whether hidden deep underwater or far within rainforest valleys. Our commitment to stand up for this coast is deep rooted. It is born from a feeling of responsibility to care for our home, the Pacific Coast; a place full of immeasurable beauty and unimaginable injustice. The 2019 Coast Calendars, an annual collaboration between @tavishcampbell and I, supports the environmental justice and wildlife conservation work that our lives centre around. Thank you to all of you who have ordered yours! If you'd like to learn more or order one, visit the link in my profile or www.coastcalendars.com. The next mail-out date will be before December 19th - just depends on a weather window to get to the post office! #coastcalendar #longlivethecoast
Bowker Creek ______ I go to the nearest creek to check my pulse today to remind myself what alive sounds like. I strain to listen but I cannot hear my heartbeat over the boom of the cityscape; Where sirens out-sing songbirds where the steady rumble of rubber rolls upon asphalt drowning out the sound of water on it’s way to the ocean. I walk for hours to find Bowker Creek buried beneath parking lots, briefly resurrected in parks, before diverted again, all the while reaching her fingertips desperately, blindly in search of the sea. My feet fall on cement poured into the shape of a sidewalk which makes my legs ache in a way that days spent walking through a forest Never has. I crawl under overgrown blackberries and over a stone wall just to sit with the creek. I place two fingers on her wrist and feel for anything. There, where shopping carts outnumber salmon I mourn with a creek who lost her way; empty of the coho she once birthed and raised, then welcomed home again after so long at sea. There, I grieve for all the streams swallowed by hungry cities. There, on the cement banks of Bowker Creek I grieve for all the children who will grow up thirsty. ____ I wrote this poem in the summer while doing time in the city undergoing treatment for my car crash injuries. I was heavy with depression and empty of hope. A friend sent me on a mission to find this creek, follow it to it’s estuary, and write about what I found. Somehow sitting with the truth of things proved necessary; there is a strange sort of healing that happens in acknowledging and spending due time with one’s grief. A sense of resolve to seek justice follows in the wake of witnessing a stream stripped of salmon. #longlivethecoast #loveletterstosalmon
An interview I did with @scubadivermagazine just came out today chronicling my beginnings as a diver and underwater photographer, including some early images and stories of nocturnal hunts with an octopus companion, various mis/adventures and a close call rebreather diving on a shipwreck. To read the interview, swipe up in todays story or go to ➡️ scubadivermag.com/underwater-photographer-of-the-week-april-bencze My spread out dive community will always feel like family to me; those in Indonesia, Australia, the Caribbean, and North America. The people I’ve connected with along the way fill me up and make me smile to this day. I’m grateful to every one of em, for sharing in underwater experiences or letting me crash on your floor while hitchhiking from reef to reef. There’s been a lot of kind and generous hearts that fill my memories. 🐙
Welcome, December. It is winter once again on the Coast Mountain ridges and do we ever feel insignificant in a significant way, taking in a perspective on the coast that puts it all in perspective. The forests that fill your lungs are the same ones that take your breath away. Looking out over the inlet and islands, the dance between the sea and the land is what shapes both this place we call home and our lives. Coast Calendar. December, 2019 Looks like my weather window to get to the post office and mail calendars is Monday so you have a few more days to order before this mail-out date, next one will be around the 15th! You can I order at the link in my profile. Thanks for your support 🙏✨
And how to follow those who leave no footprints? Those born with fins rather than feet. Those whose lives are spent moving through bodies of water and through bodies of all kinds. A salmon’s trail can be tracked up the towering trunks of the tallest trees lining the river. If you look closely, you will find the mark of salmon everywhere. Coast Calendar, November 2019. You can order your calendar via the link in my profile as well as learn about our environmental justice initiatives the calendar proceeds support! Thank you ✨
📸: @tavishcampbell Laying flat on the river bottom, I know if I stay still long enough the school will eventually accept me. But I’m visiting on a single breath. The fish begin passing overhead like birds blacking out the sky; a great migration of the finned. Whether feathers or scales, this abundance of movement driven by such purpose, I will never grow tired of witnessing. I only wish I had gills. Coast Calendar, October 2019 You can order your calendar at the link in my profile, all funds go to support @tavishcampbell and my conservation and environmental justice initiatives in 2019. You can read about these at coastcalendars.com. Your support is incredibly valued. ✨🙌 Next shipping date is December 1st if weather allows me to cross the straits to the post office! 🌊
📸: @tavishcampbell The first heavy rains of September are welcomed by thirsty communities and scorched landscapes. The forests drink their fill. The rivers swell and begin to breathe. The waiting chinook hear the call of the rain, finning up rivers, rapids, and waterfalls. As the raindrops beat against our rooftops and upon the ocean’s surface, we are set into motion to begin our fall rituals. Coast Calendar, September 2019. Next shipping date is December 1st (or the closest weather window to the 1st as it’s a long boat ride to town). Thanks for your support! Link in profile to order and learn more. ✨🙏
Here, where the fish gather and hold in the thousands despite everything. Still here, despite cement poured high upon the riverbank, every year a little more, casting shadows of an industrial cancer taking wilderness hostage in broad daylight. Between the cracks in the concrete the fish return for now, like dandelions striking yellow between the slabs of a sidewalk. Here, the fish show me what resiliency looks like. Coast Calendar, August 2019. Shipping December 1st (if weather allows me to get to town across the Strait), you can order your 2019 calendar at the link in my profile! ✨Thank you.
At the end of an inlet that reaches into the heart of a valley; the estuary begins. The river greets the ocean like an old friend, and fish fin from salt into freshwater, spawn, die and feed a hungry forest. A hive of activity splashes and caws, howls, prowls, slumbers, and feasts. The salmon river; where the griz gather to celebrate the return of the fish that feed the coast. Coast Calendar, July 2019 Packaging up calendars tonight, order yours at the link in my profile! ✨Shipping December 1st, and every two weeks to follow.
There’s no question this is her territory. The way she moves through the thick understory without a sound, how her paws grip the barnacled shore, the sound of her long howls filling the landscape like a rising tide. I felt this wolf’s eyes on me even when she was nowhere in sight, and I am humbled by her gracious acceptance of my stumbling through her salal-woven world. Coast Calendar, June 2019. Only a few days left to order your Coast Calendar to have it shipped on December 1st. Next shipping date after that is December 14. Link in profile ✨ Thank you for your support. Coast Calendars is an annual collab between @tavishcampbell and myself. This year we are raising funds for our environmental justice and grassroots conservation work on the coast.
And how to follow those who leave no footprints? Those born with fins rather than feet. Those whose lives are spent moving through bodies of water and through bodies of all kinds. If you look closely, you will find the mark of salmon everywhere. Look for their bodies melting into riverbeds. Pink falling from suspension into the embrace of emerald-sheathed river rocks; falling just like the autumn leaves above. Look for the black dorsal fins of chinook-fuelled orcas breaking the barrier from ocean into atmosphere. You’ll see the mark of salmon in their health. You’ll even smell it in the exhales they leave hanging above the sea on a windless day. Look for the coastal wolf mother teaching her pups how to fish at the local river come fall-time. You’ll hear the mark of salmon in her howls as she summons the pack to the annual feast of chum brains. Look to the bear who waits patiently at a waterfall to catch a leaping coho in midair; you’ll feel salmon in his spirit, you’ll see it plain as day in his perseverance. And if you could see what builds us coastal people, well you would find the mark of salmon in the endlessly loving grey matter of my mother. You would decipher the source of my bones, the source of my strength, as the riches of sockeye that built my body from infant to woman. So how to follow those who leave no footprints? Well a salmon’s trail can be tracked up, up, up the towering trunks of the tallest trees that stand alongside the river. Then cast your eyes downward to find scales scattered like sequins on the moss blanket pulled up tight to the body of an elder spruce. Once you learn to look, you will find salmon everywhere. #loveletterstosalmon #longlivethecoast #salmon #pink #chinook #coho #chum #sockeye #forthewildones #fishprose
Words by @eckertleckert - "Along Heiltsuk shores, part of the temperate rainforest iconically known to the world and National Geographic as the “Great Bear Rainforest”, the irreparability of such spills defy calculation. For the Heiltsuk people, the impacts of the spill still ripple ceaselessly through their lives, nearly two years after the incident. While the oil slicks have disappeared from Gale Pass beaches, Heiltsuk people wonder if local black bears harbor toxins, if ancient cedar trees and their bark that is so culturally important are forever changed. How do we understand the magnitude of spill impacts for a culture that views the Ocean as home, and whose cultural, personal, and physical sustenance is supported by the abundance of species it houses? Perhaps we do so through poetry, through ecologically-embedded social sciences, or through improved cross-cultural communications. More importantly, perhaps we do so by restoring the Heiltsuk’s – and other First Nations’- rights to respond to environmental destruction in their own territories, and by recognizing their rights to dictate who, and what, navigate through their Oceans (and lands)." Read more of this piece on the @natgeo blog written by Lauren Eckert (@eckertleckert) and Megan Humchitt ( @megzzzh). Thanks to these two incredible coastal women for putting these photos by @tavishcampbell and myself to use in further telling this important story. tinyurl.com/natgeoblogNESoilspill #heiltsuknation #truecostofoil #nathanestewart #longlivethecoast
As we followed the Fraser River away from the sea, we watched BC’s longest river transform from a city-stricken industrial waterway into its peaceful wild-ish tributaries. The Fraser River Basin consists of 34 interdependent riversheds, altogether draining more than a quarter of British Columbia. It supports more salmon runs than any other river in the world. We were searching for the late-fall run of Fraser River Chinook; the species of salmon that both the fishers and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population (with a mere 76 individuals remaining) are primarily chasing after. @tavishcampbell and I were on a mission with @raincoastconservation to document these incredible fish to help tell the story of the salmon-dependant, sound-sensitive killer whales of the Salish Sea. Raincoast's science has allowed them to create an action-oriented approach to steer the local population of killer whales away from the extinction they are slipping towards. Here’s an excerpt on their recent work: "Encouragingly, our modelling analysis also showed that if noise and disturbance were reduced, and salmon abundance increased, Southern Resident [Killer Whales] could recover. In fact, the risk of extinction could almost be eliminated with 15% more Chinook and 50% less noise. Both of these are achievable; but not under scenarios where the federal government increases shipping - whether oil tankers or freighters - through the Salish Sea.” sources: raincoast.org & rivershed.com
I'm finding the most healing experiences I encounter all have a common thread. They all aid in untangling the knots of ego. This is no easy task when raised within a culture that applauds the narcissism that has become so central to daily existence. The place I first experienced the dissolving of my own ego was underwater, and since that first liquid merging, the feeling has seeped into all aspects of my life. When I am suspended between the ancient walls of a water-carved canyon, I am not an individual, but a part of the river; the same as the water, the rock, the salmon, the crayfish, the suspended leaves. And if I am a part of this river then so it is that I find myself a part of the ocean - a drop in this blue planet. And how humbled I am to find myself held in the paradox of such insignificance. How it sinks in that the way I spend my life matters, and at the same time knowing that it does not matter any more than the life of the salmon who hangs suspended in stillness in front of me. The salmon who has just come from the deep sea all the way upstream; salt-soaked wisdom so apparent in her disheveled scales and ragged tail. The salmon who has spawned and who before my eyes I watch die right there on the riverbed. How it is not death or sadness that fills the river in her absence, but the opposite. In her selfless dying I see the very heart of life itself for the first time. And so through my days I try my best to always carry with me the humbling, home-coming truth of my interdependence with the world around me. For this truth is medicine for the lost and for the homesick. #riverspeak #longlivethecoast freediver: @galynfranklin
This morning I am sending off the final donation to the Twyla Roscovich Memorial Fund, the annual environmental filmmaking scholarship set up in Twyla's honour. Thanks to everyone's generosity and support, we all raised $6000.00 for Twyla's Fund via the 2018 Life on the Coast Calendars. Over the past fall, winter, and spring since Twyla left, the creation of these calendars gave me space to grieve. Choosing the images with @tavishcampbell allowed the time to sort through all of our favourite moments on the coast made in the places Twyla fiercely loved and fought to protect. Both Tavish and my filmmaking/photography paths have been deeply influenced by Twyla's dedication to wild places and the pursuit of environmental justice on the coast we all call home. Carefully and slowly wrapping each calendar gave me the time to let the waves of grief crash into me and out of me. Sending the calendars off to their new homes with so much love poured into them had my heart overflowing with the wonder at all the lives she touched in all sorts of ways. I was originally going to wrap this project up months ago. The very last calendar was sold a few weeks ago. It's been difficult to sit down and finalize it. Even now I'm crying hard as I type this and I think this project means more to me than even I understand. I don't know how to say goodbye, or thank you. But this feels like both. I don't think I'll ever stop saying goodbye, and thank you. Thank YOU all for making this possible. Thank you @pacificwild for setting up this fund. The opportunities this fund creates for new filmmakers to carry on Twyla's work will reach further, deeper, and wider than can be measured - as did her life. @tidescanada @pacificwild #twylaroscovich Photos of Twyla by @tavishcampbell.
I am thirsty for rivers. Have you ever seen the way sun-dried cement soaks up the summer rain? And the smell of fresh-wet pavement. Do you ever wonder where the water goes? I probably spend too much time staring at the yellow fish painted beside the grate-guarded holes in the street. Do you ever wonder who that fish is, what river she was born in, and how she is to trust herself to know how to find her way home? I miss following the curves that trace creeks and I miss the rustle of salal as my body momentarily parts thick leaves, rough but forgiving against bare skin. I miss palms full of huckleberries and the armour of hard-won callouses on the bottoms of my feet. I miss the sight of the purple stripes of sea-strong salmon returning to their birthplace. My heart is thirsty for rivers. This missing is temporary in my life and I know I will be back on the banks of my favourite salmon-bearing streams soon enough. However these past few days this missing is magnified by the fear of the unthinkable grief we will all collectively face if the Canadian government continues to barrel down a path that leads straight off a cliff. I choose the planet over this pipeline. Yes, it is one or the other. Yes, it is life or death. #stopkm protecttheinlet.ca ______ Image made on a mission for @raincoastconservation searching for salmon last fall.
Thank goodness for islands, for safe harbour, for friendship, for long days and the slow dusk that steers us homeward, that is, back to the waiting tide-risen boat to rest weary legs and dream of who wanders these shores by night. ______ On the edge of land last summer with @farlyncampbell @tavishcampbell
The excitement invades my body as the bait ball crescendos to its climax. I can almost feel this flock of gulls inside my belly. The baleen mouths of giants rise to welcome as many herring as possible inside. Gulls scatter at the excited exhalation of the whale. The humpback dives once more and the birds fill his place, expertly plucking the small silver forage fish from the sea's gentle hold. When I think of Nahwitti, my pulse quickens. A gateway, a swell-shaped hub of life, welcomer of the open Pacific's reaching fingertips. Nahwitti Bar is a humbling bringer of either caution or relief to the passer-through, depending whether they be travelling north into the open sound or sailing south into the relative safety of the channel. This particular dusk was one in which we witnessed the life and death dance of a bait ball as it formed and dissipated right there next to us. I still can't help but dream of singing giants with full bellies beneath a tiny boat rising and falling with the swell. _____________ Image made with a telephoto lens & cropped to keep a respectful distance from this feast; with @tavishcampbell #longlivethecoast
I would say that to wander a wild river is where I feel this life makes the most sense. How rivers call. How I crave to be held in the palms of water-carved valleys. And once there, enjoy the brief encounters with wilder ones who regard me with curiosity rather than fear in their eyes. How I fear this curiosity is becoming rare. And it is perhaps more frightening than curious how it seems I must wander further and further away from the touch of my own species to sit upon the banks of a wild river and feel as if this life makes sense. ___ This curious little black bear wanders one of my favourite rivers, far up the coast. This image is from an expedition with @raincoastconservation, who are currently raising funds to protect this incredible river valley (among others) from the trophy hunting of coastal carnivores. tinyurl.com/safeguardcoastalcarnivores #wildlives #longlivethecoast
Dreaming of searching for salmon with River again this fall. #dogfish
Oyster mushrooms bloom in the thick of spring. Being forced to slow down due to injury this spring has allowed me to notice the less obvious, and no less incredible types of wildlife living all around us, sometimes right under our feet. My eyes have been newly opened to not only a vast array of beautiful, intelligent, and medicinal mushrooms blooming this spring - but also to the abilities of these fungi to help us out of the mess us humans are making of the planet in recent years. "Mycorestoration Potential: Oyster mushrooms have a demonstrated ability to break down petroleum-based pollutants, particularly the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the core molecules within oil, diesel, pesticides, herbicides, and many other industrial toxins." - excerpt from page 283 of Mycelium Running by @paulstamets. You can look up mycorestoration and mycoremediation for more info about this. Also, if you're interested, check out the newly released CBC's 'The Nature of Things' episode "How Fungi Made Our World" that is also fascinating (and free to stream for those in Canada): cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes #oystermushrooms #myceliumrunning #mycorestoration #mycoremediation