“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
This quote struck me the first time I laid eyes on it, partially because I am an angler and partially because it is such a beautiful arrangement of words that sum up life. Universally speaking, the words penned by Norman Maclean 40 years ago in his semi-autobiographical novel translate to so many aspects of our lives. You don’t have to enjoy fly-fishing to appreciate the trials of a family dynamic and their love for fishing or the abundance of metaphors that Maclean laced throughout his story. Similarly, it does not take a literary genius to see that the story talks about fishing and relationships but it speaks to the pursuit of the meaning of life and the different paths that each of us take in that journey.
In Downtown we really do see all things merging together as our cultures come together. Ironically, we also have a flow of water bifurcating our neighborhood that carries water as ancient as time itself. If this quote truly is universal we should be able to compare it to Downtown SLO, which begs the question, “What do water flows and fly-fishing have in common with a Downtown?” I am going to radically oversimplify my contemplation of this matter but I have gleaned from my ponderings that the basement of time is deep, it contains our expansive community history and the flow that we exist in is irreversible. While it is tempting to follow this vein of philosophical deliberation, that is not my intention.
My point is that whether we are anglers, designers or cooks we exist in the same flow of time as our ancestors and mark the same rocks as them while we drift closer toward the end of the line. This point of time may only be a single raindrop but the effects are forever etched in time and eventually absorbed into the world’s great flood. With regard to Downtown, I have had the privilege to serve our community as Downtown SLO’s Executive Director and have come to realize how significant community engagement is at this point in time. The strength of the river is not in the mass of single molecules but the bonds of many as they move together toward a common point.
When we put our hearts and minds together we can do so much more for Downtown and our community than we can as individuals. I challenge you as readers to think about what you want to leave in your wake. Who will you bond with? What marks will you leave on rocks? What would you have those rocks whisper to future generations? My hope is that future generations will stumble upon an old dusty box in the basement of a history museum and in that box they will find our story. It will be a story of how we revitalized Mission Plaza, loved our Downtown SLO Farmers’ Markets and beautifully executed the Downtown Concept Plan so that they would be able to enjoy it. I hope that the stories in that basement haunt them, reach into their souls, captivate their attention and inspire them to splash a few rocks on their journey to that place where all things become one.