Warm April days, clear water and blue skies over the Shuswap.
As last looks go, it’s not bad at all.
Last looks for a while at least. I’m writing this column having completed my last newspaper story for the Salmon Arm Observer. My fingers hit the keys as I take a break from preparing for a long journey to the Yukon to start a new job telling a whole different set of stories.
I came to the Shuswap five years ago as a 21-year old kid with nothing but a journalism degree and a rattly old Jeep to his name. What was supposed to be a four-month temporary job grew more and more permanent. Reasons to stay were obvious and everywhere: beautiful lakes and mountains, interesting and caring people, a growing feeling that this might be home.
I guess I remain young and dumb enough to grow restless anywhere, so off I go.
I learned a lot during my time in the Shuswap and my work at the paper offered a great opportunity to see things and meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise. With that experience, I am able to make an educated guess where things are heading and offer a few words of advice. But first, a story:
A few weeks after moving here from a larger centre, my roommates and I left for a 7:30 p.m. movie at 7:26.
I was privately horrified by the lack of a buffer against unexpected delays those four minutes offered but I played along.
We were, of course, seated, with popcorn in hand, before the previews started. There was no need to negotiate any traffic jams or long lineups along the way. Even if there had been, missing the opening credits wouldn’t have been terribly tragic. The Shuswap seemed a place free of friction. I soon learned that it wasn’t the place itself but the mindset of its residents that made it so.
This leads to my first piece of advice. It is directed first and foremost at new residents like I was on the April evening five years ago.
Resist the urge to rush about town, strive to match the ease of your neighbours and, above all, learn to love this place as it is before you think about trying to change it.
Salmon Arm is growing and big city problems are on their way. When they arrive there will be no way to ignore them, opt out or say, “That just doesn’t happen here.” Salmon Arm will have to meet them with the grace and compassion of a tight-knit community.
I owe thanks to everyone who works hard to make the Shuswap such a great place to live. I am especially grateful for my friends at the Bulldogs Boxing Gym, all my dedicated co-workers at the Observer and everyone who shared a story with me.
It has been a privilege to report and record the triumphs and tragedies of this special place. It will follow me wherever I go.