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Tele Aadsen: Bow author and fisherman 

CDN’s weekly community profile

Tele Aadsen, an author and fisherman, stands outside her boat, which docks at Bellingham's Squalicum Harbor. Aadsen's six years of social work informed her understanding of the gray areas in the world, and she considers “What Water Holds” to be “a book of grays.” (Jack Warren/Cascadia Daily News)
By Ava Ronning News Intern

Tele Aadsen (she/her)

Age: 46

City: Bow

Lived here for: 2 years

Originally from: Anchorage, Alaska

Notable: Lover of baked goods, working harbors, hand-written cards, cats and kindness.

What drew you to writing?

I was a weird little kid who didn’t have people other than paper and pen. But as an adult and as a fisherman, what the value in writing for me is being able to transcribe that sea-to-plate story to people who really want to know, where is their food coming from? Or how is a fishery managed? Or what’s happening in the ocean climate-wise? … Maybe why many of us write: an ongoing effort to be authentically human, insecurities and all, seeking connections with others trying to do the same … 

[I want to] thank Village Books for their generous support of What Water Holds [and] recognize Bellingham’s Red Wheelbarrow Writers, the rich literary community that has been such a support to local writers, [and] honor local author/teacher extraordinaire Laura Kalpakian, the Maestra whose memoir class changed my life in 2010 and started this entire venture.

What were you doing before you wrote your book, ‘What Water Holds’?

I was a social worker in Seattle for six years when I was a lot younger. I’d grown up fishing before that. I left the fishery to do social work when I got burned out and broken. I went back to fishing … not everybody can go to sea. Not everybody should go to sea, but that’s the closest thing I can bring them is through those essays.

How would you describe this book?

This is a memoir. It’s a collection of lyrical essays that aren’t chronological, but they’re kind of themes of identity, equity, community, the changing climate and sustainability. So, there’s a lot in there that land folks have experienced in their own lives just in a different geography. There’s basically what it was as a little kid. I went to sea and have spent my whole life ever since seeking answers from the ocean and often finding them, but finding them in some kind of circuitous route. 

What have nature and travel taught you?

When we’re on this 43-foot boat, this is our world in a much larger world. Every day or every minute of every day is dictated by ‘What’s the weather doing? Is the wind going to come up? Where are we, where are we going to be tonight?’ All of these things where we are not the focus, and we are subject to everything around us, and just a real visceral awareness of how small and insignificant we are in the scheme of everything around us. And also, as you see changes in the landscape around you or changes in the salmon patterns, the awareness of the significant impact that humans are having on that environment. We’re watching the impact that we have as a species.

What is one of your favorite stories or moments from the book?

One of my favorite stories from the book is a later essay called Ryan’s Tuna, and it’s about both noting some of the impacts of things changing in the ocean, with stories [about finding] Albacore tuna in southeast Alaska. And that wasn’t something that either Joel or I had ever seen in our lives before it had happened. The summer that it happened was when one of our friends in Sitka was dying of brain cancer. He asked Joel and I to bring him a tuna that we would catch in the Gulf of Alaska. We didn’t know anything at all about catching tuna, never had. And my sweetheart promised our terminally ill friend that we would bring him a tuna. So, then that’s the story of, ‘Could we uphold our promise’?

“Faces in the Crowd” is published online and in print Fridays. Have a suggestion for a “Faces in the Crowd” subject? Email us at

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