Fishing and Flight Letters

26 April 2013

Dear Heeth,

My fifth annual pilgrimage to a remote fishing village on the far edge of the world—Bristol Bay—ends and begins today. Our two-prop plane just flew over Kenai, your burial ground, and turned west. Snowy mountains as far as I can see. Below me, Mount Redoubt, the volcano whose lava and smoke you and I used to watch from across the inlet, and dream about climbing to, the Ring of Fire's northern arc encircling us. It’s comforting that no matter how far away from here I run, some container—vast as Alaska or small as this plane—will hold me.

From my friend a poet, a text: no step is completed independent of another.

I have taken many, and not always been conscious of where I place my feet. He's right—when I shift my focus center, I realize that each step both follows and leads. Every choice affects my next set of options. If only I had followed your example when I felt right to die, the eight years between your bathtub suicide and that highway incident with me and the street light might have been for naught. This is me, learning how to learn. Nice to meet you. Thanks for your patience.

Thank you also for showing me how to rest. My savasana winter in Portland, modeled by your eternal permafrost calm, taught me how to place my energy where it thrives, to attract what I want from life unabashed, and to listen to, and respect, the voice within. Listen, at least, often enough to know I need not be commanded by its whim—my fear.

Twelve days ago, I asked Heather to marry me. She said yes. When I land in Dillingham to kill fish for the summer, I'll cast off to the most demanding work I’ve yet known. Both bear infinite possibility and great consequence. I’m not sure that I’m ready, yet feel more prepared than ever to embrace life.

The glacial white Alaska Range is flattening into the limitless breadth of southwestern Alaska. To the north, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta makes its own way to the sea. South of here, Bristol Bay, home of my summer abundance. Behind me, east, my past, quieted by the propellors' optical illusion, and my focus on the ever farther West: possibility and wonder, love and adventure.

These frozen rivers will soon break, their ice floe will flow down the Nushagak with the Bay tides and through me. The wide open countryside these waters quench watches me work and play, holds me close. It reminds me to step carefully, to move consciously, for my body is a growing temple, always just strong enough for the journey. 

We've started the descent. Here we go. Thank you, brother, for doing what seemed most right, for inspiring and teaching me, in your backward way, how to live.

So much love. So much.



Sean Talbot is a commercial fisherman, traveler, and storyteller. He currently lives in Portland, OR.

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