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My Own Private Idaho


24 x 30"

acrylic on canvas

Portland Art Center, Portland, OR


Here we are, at another National Historic Landmark. This one is the World’s First Nuclear Power Plant and free tours are given daily. I’m a little hesitant about taking a tour and choose instead to visit the fire and ice caves of Craters of the Moon National Monument. But first, I feel compelled to write about Soda Springs. Here, settlers drilled for hot water but only ended up with a man-made, cold-water geyser. It wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, and more interesting, the geyser began throwing off the timing of the world famous “Old Faithful.” Finally, the government forced the town to cap their spewing water, only allowing it to go off on an hourly timer.

Farmland stretches as far as the eye can see. This isn’t always far, since hills and mountains frequently interrupt the view. I experience the sight of potato shelters for the first time, and it isn’t uncommon to come across a desolate wooden structure, sagging into the soft earth. Most of these ancient houses are abandoned; yet remain on the property like prized antiques. These heirlooms are full of character and history, and I find myself filling the doorways with stories of the lives that once passed through them. It becomes a mysterious and romantic tale of the land. 

Almost equally influential is the Idaho sky. As soon as we cross into the state, we stop the car to photograph an opening in the clouds. The canyon below us grows crimson and violet with the retiring sun. We stand in awe until a tour bus drives up behind us and vomits out a crew of Japanese tourists, who fight over the best shot. Each day brings another unique, and illusive sky. It seems that between lightning storms and sudden hail showers, the ever-changing world above becomes predictably unpredictable. One minute, pink rays fan from the burning orange sun. Eight hours later, light cuts

through the veiling clouds, creating a dark and ominous ceiling. It is as if we have stepped into an endless canvas. 

We find ourselves just north of Ketchum and Sun Valley at Sawtooth National Rec. Area. Surrounded by white mountains, Alfonso and I set up our tent in a bed of flowers. We explore the swollen river next to this free camp spot, and I decide to board an inflated bed mat. The water is numbing to the touch, but shallow enough to stand up in. However, as the current drags me down stream, I attempt to stand and can’t find my footing. Before I know it, my sandals have floated over a small dam in front of me, and I am straddling a fallen tree. To my right, water crashes into my body. To my left,  a six-foot deep whirlpool leads out into an assemblage of logs and limbs, ready to shred my naked flesh. In

front of me, Alfonso stands on the bank, reaching for my hand. My greatest fear has always been the thought of drowning. In fact, that is how I have determined that I will die someday. So, as anyone could imagine, my current predicament paralyzes me with fear. “Just let go,” yells my husband. When I do, instead of falling over the edge, I am pulled onto shore. We finish the evening roasting marshmallows on the fire, and reliving the adventure. The next day, Alfonso ventures down river and comes across one of my sandals that has washed up onto shore.