Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Summertime and the living is easy


JoEllen Collins

This morning the smell of pine trees confirmed my joy at the emergence of summer days. I find myself extolling the virtues of Idaho almost every year about this time when I sit down to connect again with my community through this forum. I just can't help it. I guess I am like Annie in "Oklahoma." She may refer to her sexual inclinations when she sings, "I'm just a girl who can't say no," but I am equally absorbed by the need to say "yes" to all that is around me. Like a grandstand rooter, I say "yes" to that smell of pine, to the outrageous sunset of a few days ago, to the view from my window of bicyclists heading toward Galena, to the enthusiasm of my neighbors who have given so much to me.

Today, as I walked to the market, I passed Cimino Park. I haven't taken time to utter what I am sure is on many lips: thanks to the Cimino family for that extravagant gift. When many are turning in-town property into yet more empty penthouse-retail spaces, the Ciminos chose to enrich us all with the laughter of small children running in gentle fountain waters. Because of similar generosity, I will be able to hear music and see theater all summer, and such luxuries are not normally available to areas of this sparse population density.

Even returning one of the many book-tapes I borrow to keep me company while walking with my dog, I am reminded of the gift of our library. How many small towns have such a facility?

I won't go on, as the list is long, and I need to work on the art I will exhibit at the Ketchum Arts Festival, a local summer happening with scores of booths showing the creative talents we have so close at hand. By the time you read this, it will be over, and I may or may not have added a few pennies to my business for my efforts, but one thing I will have done is see many friends and acquaintances walk by. At last summer's festival, I had a chance to visit with people I hadn't seen for a very long time. I knew so many, and it was almost as rewarding as is the creative impulse that got me there in the first place.

I carry around file cards so I can note things I might use in these columns and elsewhere, and I pulled one out just now, remembering another plus for my small town. There used to be a time when locals seldom locked their cars or homes, and, while that number is diminishing, I have noticed there still exists here a sense of honesty and trust. Just before I left on a trip, my watch fell off my wrist. I remembered later it must have landed on one of Ketchum's streets. On my way out of town, I placed an ad in this paper's "lost and found" classifieds. While I was gone for three weeks, the person who found my watch kept it for me, and, when I returned, I called the number left on my machine and retrieved it. It wasn't a Rolex, but it was valuable to me, and I love it. (I splurged in Florence when I lived in Italy in 2002.) The finder demanded no reward. I'm sure most of us living here have similar stories. Somehow, the greed that I see in some places hasn't yet hit the average resident here.

I am aware by now that I will never be wealthy in a monetary sense. I have always hoped that if I should publish a well-selling book, have my screenplays actually produced, get my stories in fabric featured on Oprah—all those dramatic pie-in-the-sky rewards—that then I would be generous with the money. I would hope not only to indulge in what small luxuries I think I would need (fresh flowers in my home every day and a massage twice a month), but that I would send my friends on trips, buy books for kids who couldn't afford them and so on. The list is endless. I would certainly wish that I could at least emulate the Ciminos and create a loving environment for children—and even for me as I stop to smell the roses and the pines.

Even without ready cash, I feel truly wealthy.

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