The Art of Life: Take Me Back to Salmon

Good Times (Salmon, Idaho)

As a writer, I think in terms of words, phrases, and scripts. I love dialogue – the sharing of words between people. A lot can be learned from what is said or not said. I’ve always argued that a well-written scene is better than any photo. Arguably, however, a well-written scene and an accompanying photo will always hit a home-run in the literary sense.

I’ve done a lot of writing over the years. My first story was a four-page third-person narrative about an Indian boy named Two Wolves. I wrote it in Mrs. Hoffman’s fourth-grade class for a journaling assignment. The story, in my mind, was worthy of awards. None came – only recess. But my foray into storytelling had begun, and I couldn’t stop the flow of ideas and words.

I suppose like most writers, I carry four or five – sometimes more – plot lines around in my mind. As often as possible, I scribble a few notes about the plot so I can easily recall them later. Most of these plots involve protagonists doing heroic things – saving people, looking out for the underdogs, winning the hearts of their true loves. Some are even revenge stories where the good guy wins, either with fists or wit or both.  

But sometimes the plots involve people similar to the way I existentially view myself – just ordinary people doing ordinary things, but with passion! What I call the “art of life.” These simple but profound plots include basking in sunsets, walking beaches, story times with kids, contemplating the future, exploring abandoned places, and being in love – real, true love.

I also love nostalgia. I like all things ‘old.’ Old mines, old cabins, old houses sitting on a hill, old, gnarly trees, old people with a story to tell. I love sitting around telling stories about the good ol’ days. Of course, the good ol’ days are different for everyone. But I think every person thinks their version of those days are the greatest in some way. I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. I left home in 1982 after graduating from high school and never looked back – only in memories. And those memories are special.

About twenty years ago, I was visiting my hometown, Salmon, Idaho. It was a family outing with my kids. We jumped off the bridge into the river after rafting and tubing our favorite section – from the Shoup Bridge to the Island Park. Like every visit, my kids tried their best to talk me into moving the family to Salmon. I guess they wanted what I had growing up. It’s really what every kid deserves.

During that visit, I had some words pop into mind. After a few minutes of playing with and arranging those words, I came up with this simple, five-stanza poem about the Salmon River. It speaks to what I was feeling at that moment and perhaps since. Perhaps we will all eventually return to our roots and reclaim in some intrinsic way what was once ours.

Mother River

Peering out from my vantage on the shore,
The cool breeze cradled my nostalgic soul.
Inner weeping for buried memories of before,
Resulted in remembrance of my youthful goals.

That ole meandering, rolling, raging flow,
Traveling onward – flowing onward to the sea,
Cloaked at times ‘midst the fog’s heavy glow,
Keeps rhythm, a cadence to Nature’s simplicity.

Fertile banks guide those anxious currents.
Adorned lush in spring, barren in fall,
She’s mothered her hungry brood with opulence,
Nurturing Nature’s balance, her greatest call.

‘Twas my river, my home, I dwelt here long ago!
Sharing claim with others, our sentiments the same,
We tread her banks as children. Running to and fro,
All basked in her beauty and wild torrents of fame.

Gone are those moments of mirth and swank regaling,
Of each new day – loving life near my river’s banks.
But the memories! The gist of nostalgia’s lonely hailing,
Cause my soul to weep with joy and give God thanks.  

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