Letter from the Life editor: Enjoy burnt landscape by Snake River this spring

This editor savored imperfection on a trail by the river, appreciated unedited writing



Life editor Maggie Quinlan took photos of burned brush at her secret hiking spot Thursday before nightly production.

MAGGIE QUINLAN, Evergreen reporter

Before work today, I squeezed in a trip to the Snake River with my three dogs. Our little adventure made me want to write about beauty in nature’s messiness.

But I didn’t have time to sit down and type before work, so I thought about what I’d write and recorded myself talking on the drive home, winding along the riverside.

As an editor I tend to scrub sentences clean. But sometimes a raw thought is better. In the spirit of appreciating disorder, here’s the exact transcript of my recording in the canyon.


On my hike just now by the river in the canyon, I passed a couple in their 60s. The woman had a walking stick. And the man asked me if I knew when the fire had come through. And I said it must’ve been in the last year.

And he said, “Too bad.”

And as I walked through the canyon, I was really paying attention to the residue of the fire. And I thought, “Too bad?” What does he remember?

Dachshund Joni Shnitzel, black Labrador retriever Zelda and white labradoodle Gaius enjoy a canyon view.

I remember this trail being lined with thorny, prickly bushes. It was a maze of scratchy semi-arid shrubs. It hurt, I remember bleeding.

Now, you look out and you can see the gorges in the canyon. You can see straight through to the rivulet that makes that sweet sound while you’re on the hike and then pours out into the Snake River, you know, just a hundred yards away.

You can see straight down into that.

The trees are still alive. Their trunks are burnt up. They’ve got these curled up tawny leaves hanging on that have made it all the way through the winter, all the way through the snow.

And they look so proud. Their branches are reaching up, and they look like Joshua trees with arms in prayer, thanking God that they survived the fire. They look so powerful with their trunks black.

After the hike, I load the dogs up. They’ve run down into the stream unencumbered by shrubs. They’re covered in mud. I put them in the car. My arms are covered in mud. My arms are already darkened by tattoos, but they are covered in mud. And I feel kind of like the trees. I have this dark mark that shows that I did this amazing thing in this amazing, gorgeous canyon that no one knows.

[9 seconds of driving sounds]

And I’m excited to see how it changes. I’m excited to see the stages of little plants, that are finally getting a chance, growing up where shrubs used to take over. I was excited to see the little grass. I was excited to see the bare earth — I liked it black, I liked it brown, I liked it that safari tan. It looks good to me. It looks like the curvature of the land itself.

Not everything needs to be lush and green.