Point of advice: Whenever transforming into a salmon, try using a silver swim cap.

Somehow, the stretchy, waterproof head covering affords an easier plunge in the world of the far-traveling aquatic critters. Goggles and a red turtleneck shirt help, too.

Take it from me, when you're doing a salmon shimmy, diving into every drop of inspiration counts. But before you think I've really gone off the deep end, understand that I had a good excuse to do something so fishy.

Recently I had the honor of participating in a series of performances for Clatsop County elementary school students, mostly in kindergarten through third grade. In addition to serving up a rendition of a salmon, the show offered a chance to take on several roles in rapid succession, including a beaver with a hard hat, a bird with nifty visual aids and a sea captain with a penchant for narrating stories.

"Once Upon a Watershed" follows one of those stories, the adventures of a tender sweet young raindrop. A recent graduate of Rainon U, she wants to make a difference even as she tries to understand where she has fallen.

The two-person show was written and directed by Brandy Hussa, who also made a terrific splash as the raindrop.

Hussa, the coordinator of the Seaside Watershed Estuary Discovery Program, is among many grand friends I have met in local community theater.

When she asked if I could help with the project awhile back, I could not resist trying. After all, here was a chance to stretch my wings - not to mention fins. How often do you get a chance to take a short break from your job, strap a big beak on your nose and bob and stride to and fro like a heron? How often do you get to chomp on a stick and boast about your abilities to eat bark and help to make wetlands?

Unless you're on the cast of "Sesame Street" or simply a lunatic, probably the chance does not arise too often.

A grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and help from Clatsop County's association of watershed councils made the presentations possible. So did support from teachers, school administrators and others - including an employer willing to allow me to adjust my work schedule.

After rehearsals and refinements, the presentations began. They supplemented instruction in Astoria, Knappa, Warrenton, Gearhart, Seaside and Cannon Beach, eventually reaching nearly 1,000 students.

In trying to present a story, I'd like to think we touched on the importance of exploring the world around ourselves in new ways, and the power of theater and humor in conveying information.

Discoveries happen in all sorts of ways. Stepping outside the normal daily work pattern can make a difference for others as well as yourself, whether helping a local school project, mentoring or volunteering for programs such as Start Making A Reader Today.

I have always respected teachers, but I discovered even more admiration for their abilities to hold attention and nurture and sustain a sense of awe among their students.

Newspapering seldom offers interaction with children. Their expressions and observations cheered me, kindling memories of my own experiences in the days of assemblies and low drinking fountains.

Their excitement was almost palpable as they snapped their fingers and patted their knees, listening as we guided them to collectively make sounds like rain.

After the performances, they asked questions not only about the show ("Is Captain Columbia really hard of hearing?"), but also about the content ("Is Antarctica a watershed?").

So I enjoyed my life as a salmon, swim cap and all. I felt honored to shimmy as a fish in these schools.

Point of advice: Watch out for unexpected chances to try to offer what you can do for students. You might just get hooked.

In light of his fishy transformations, Brad Bolchunos, the south county reporter for The Daily Astorian, wonders if people will start calling him a foreign "correspawndent."


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