Release: a collective found poem

Mar 11, 2011
A story about releasing fish, raising hopes and discovering our true nature.

1.  allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free
2,  remove restrictions or obligations from (someone or something) so that they become available for other activity
3.  allow (something concentrated in a small area) to spread and work freely
4.  allow (something) to return to its resting position by ceasing to put pressure on it
---New Oxford American Dictionary

Land Trust loyalists, Whychus Creek, a brilliant sky, Chinook salmon fry, release and hope.  In their own words (and picture), the women and men fortunate enough to take part in this almost-Spring celebration, remind us of why Land Trust work gratifies our hearts:

It was a great day to descend into Whychus Canyon with volunteers carrying  backpacks full of Spring Chinook salmon fry. This was our 1st fish release since the Land Trust acquired Whychus Canyon Preserve and this 2 mile reach of Whychus Creek.  I was joined by Steve Williams and Frank McKim, who had offered to help portage the fish down the steep slopes to this otherwise inaccessible reach of creek.  Without a trail into the canyon or along the willow and alder choked stream, releasing the fish was a challenge, but the effort was a success and roughly 6,000 young salmon can now call Whychus Canyon Preserve their home.  All agreed that we look forward to the development of trails in the new Preserve, as it should make future releases a bit less challenging!
---Brad Chalfant, Deschutes Land Trust Executive Director

Rimrock Ranch Release ("RRRR")  Hosted by Gayle and Bob Baker. 

The Bakers provided spectacular setting, sunny weather, access to Whychus, and delicious food for the releasers. Sherry from the Land Trust transported the fish who seemed to have survived captivity, truck travel, plastic bag travel, and finally bucket travel to the creek, and were quite enthusiastic about finally escaping to the challenges of Whychus.  It was exhilarating to see all those silver bodies launched on the journey of a lifetime.  Attempts to give individual fish names failed, but neither the release team members nor the fish really seemed to mind.  RRRR participants all want to sign up for next release with the Bakers.  Word has also spread in the fish community that the most grand entrance to Whychus is via Rimrock Ranch.  Rumor has it that a number of the participating fish plan to eventually return to Rimrock Ranch for a reunion in several years.
---William J. Rainey

First they are a just a ball
of whirling hope and promise,
Transferred from truck to bag to bucket to river

But sometimes, in the net, or
as they meet with their new home,
arrow-straight into the current,
we make eye contact.

And I think, You are the one, the strongest.
Go long,
Grow big,
Come back.
---Rod Bonacker

It was a gorgeous day at Rimrock Ranch. Whychus Creek was sparkling and cold! We all gathered around the buckets, and gently poured the fish into them so our group could spread out along the creek in search of that perfect calm spot to let the little guys and gals go! As we all said goodbye to “our” fish, I kept thinking about how many little fish were being released throughout the creek, from Camp Polk (and above) all the way to Alder Springs, and how cool it was to be a part of this larger effort. We all returned to the Baker’s picnic area, empty buckets in hand, and enjoyed each other’s company and a lovely feast put on by our host for the day.  
---Sherry Berrin, DLT Land Steward

The physical aspects of the fish release are easy to describe:  carry a bucket of fingerlings to the river, pour the fish into the water and watch them begin to learn how to navigate swift water.
The emotional or spiritual aspects of this adventure are much more difficult to portray.  Having worked with the Land Trust for 15 years to acquire land and improve habitat, I have an attachment to the land and the streams that I would not have acquired by just living and hiking this area.  The restoration projects, especially Camp Polk Meadow, make this bond even more important.  The actual release of the fry brings back to Central Oregon, and these restoration projects, the life that was originally there.  It is the final culmination of these projects of restoration and conservation.
---Cal Allen

This was a hands-on—no, a hands-in—project.  More than one participant was seen gently swirling the waters around the little fry—just a bit of encouragement for them to get out there and thrive!  It was not just Mother Nature at work, it was Human Nature as well.  
---Mary Alice Willson

I've been photographing these planting events for sometime so for me it was basically "same stream, new fish, hope lives."  
---Jay Mather

Hope lives - and we are again reminded that human nature is a part of greater nature - not separate, not above or below, always capable of releasing into the patterns of life.