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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of August 7 - 13, 2002

Opinion Columns

Why we live here

Commentary by JoEllen Collins

That we can know each other, hold contrary positions, speak up in a public forum and perhaps even be heard by the "Powers that Be" is one of the most precious reasons to live here.

I canít help it. Itís time for my annual paean to summer. I love this season. Every summer I resent time I might have to be away from the Wood River Valley. Better to travel in spring or fall, when there isnít so much going on. Just this week I enjoyed the free chamber music and symphony performances under the big white tent, participated in a poetry reading evening, and dined at two of Ketchumís finest eateries. The week before I was delighted by two local theater productions of exceptional quality, New Theater Companyís "Proof" and Company of Foolsí "Dinner with Friends." At each performance others shared with me gratitude that we have such high-caliber theater so close to home. Ice shows and art walks beckon; more events than I can handle are shimmering possibilities.

Next week I plan on more symphony, a trip or two with my visiting daughter to Redfish or other alpine lakes, some hikes in the mountain grandeur, and my daily walks with my doggies. Even my annual glut at Irvingís hot dog stand is special to me, a symbol of summer delights, plus we now have our own bicycling ice cream vendors! Along with summer reading, movie-going and good conversation over iced coffee, I never lack for stimulation. My only regret is that I canít do it all. Others with more varied skills no doubt have a different wish list than mine, like bicycling along the expansive network of paths or on many quiet trails, camping in the Sawtooths, fishing in clear waters, rock climbing in spectacular views, horseback riding, boating, windsurfing, or kayaking and river rafting, Our valley in summer suits its energetic inhabitants.

Growing up in California, I truly enjoyed the moderate all-year-round temperature, taking in the beach in December or January while other parts of the country shivered in the cold. I thought I wouldnít adjust easily to the change of seasons. But I have learned that the brevity of the seasons makes each one special. Like knowing a loved one is leaving soon, we find we appreciate the ephemeral more intensely. Just look at the people dining outside as much as they can; alfresco meals are only possible for couple of months. I can even appreciate going barefoot, heavy winter boots tossed aside for a brief period.

Last week another reason for my gratitude was played out at Sun Valley City Hall, when the hearing room was crowded with citizens expressing their views on the proposed arts complex on Sun Valley Road. Opinions were many, viewpoints varied, and the speakers articulate and, at times, intense in their presentations. But overall, our opportunity to attend a Town Hall Meeting and voice our support or objections to the project is rather wonderful in itself.

Whether one wants that particular arts complex in that particular place is one thing, but the fact that we could all stand up and talk about it is more precious than any buildings man can erect. While I have learned that I have little control over most things that happen around me, it is nonetheless refreshing to be reminded that, at least on this local level, one may actually sway an opinion or provide input in a process that is important to our community. Skeptics may say that these projects are "done deals" by the time the public gets to speak about them, but I donít believe that is true. At least at this particular meeting, I had the feeling that there would be further opportunities to give input before anything was signed, sealed and over.

With this so-American quality of democratic discourse comes, of course, the incumbent responsibility to participate. If I do not want the hillside ordinance to be violated, then I must attend hearings where someone proposes a change. I must speak up, even at the risk of others not liking what I say. In short, I must be vigilant in my contribution to preservation. I have always been burdened with wanting people to like me, with avoiding controversy for fear of offending someone. However, I feel more daring as I get older. I am secure in knowing that I have dear friends and family who love and respect me, and acquaintances who accept me even if I hold opposing views. Maturity has helped me realize that.

At the Town Meeting on July 17, I expressed my views on the proposed project. After I finished, a good friend of mine expressed an opposite point of view. I respect her, and I think she respects me, and I doubt that our friendship will be tarnished in any way by our differing opinions. That we can know each other, hold contrary positions, speak up in a public forum and perhaps even be heard by the "Powers that Be" is one of the most precious reasons to live here. My town is small enough to make me feel I matter, and most assuredly part of a society that honors my right to speak.

Walt Whitman, the great American poet, described grass as being "out of hopeful green stuff woven," a reflection of his optimism about mankind. So, while I revel in the summer treat of the feel of fresh-mown grass under my feet, I also will take a minute to be grateful for the larger blanket of freedoms upon which I rest in my hometown and in the USA.



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