It’s been a while since I’ve driven down to Boise, but that passage along the Salmon River is one of the reasons I love this state. As I head south and the river winds north I think of the big not-so-empty middle it drains. All those little creeks draining draws, rushing down steep canyons, gathering the snowmelt, the runoff to finally head west and meet the sea. We, the lucky few, get to live in this wondrous state. I am thankful.
I think of the remaining native salmon and steelhead who traverse those waters, still heeding their call. They too are a blessing. I am thankful.
It’s hard not to imagine, as you round the turns and see the steep hills above, the people who lived here for the thousands of years before any roads made this trip so comfortable. Their subsistence, their culture, their trade, and their persistence give me pause for gratitude, and humility. We must not forget to give thanks.
To be traveling along in a warm car at a mile a minute where wagons or horses or your own two feet might have carried you a mere hundred and thirty years ago is a reason to be thankful too. But all comfort has some cost, and only with gratitude can the costs be carefully balanced. We pay the price for comfort, but give thanks and show gratitude.
The small towns you pass, the lights on the prairie or in the canyon from farmsteads and homes makes me thankful that folks can call this place home. They are our neighbors, our fellow Idahoans. Though we may not know their names we share this land, this state and we want the best for ourselves and for this place. We can be thankful for each other.
As I climb the narrow Little Salmon River Canyon I think of my own family roots a bit off to the south and west. I am thankful they shared their character, their lives with me. A sense of place doesn’t always have to have family roots, but history, knowing the lives and struggles of those who went before gives depth to one’s place. We all have such depth, though it may be in a foreign land, or a different state; we can all be thankful for our forefathers and mothers.
That steep and twisty Little Salmon canyon is just a hint of the big wilderness to the east of there. Miles and miles of ridges, timber and creeks, hillsides and canyons, mountain meadows and mountaintops are the heart of this state, even if the Treasure Valley is the destination for this drive. It isn’t empty. It’s very full, but just not with people. And for that I too give thanks.
Memories of my own times long ago on this path are a treasure too, for which I am thankful. That trip from McCall to Moscow in my little 1972 Toyota truck, right after our wedding over forty years ago, snow floor and slick; I pulled over just North of Riggins to consider putting on chains. Instead I watched river otters slide down the snowy banks into the Salmon, then pushed on, going slow. It was a gift, as was arriving safe and sound on the Palouse to my new bride.
We have much to be grateful for in this world, and living in this state is just one of many blessings. I’m sure there are potholes and rocks on all of our roads of travel, but what is a trip if not an adventure?
I wish you all the best in this fall season. Be thankful.