Praying Chief at Sundance, Utah
For my next fiction manuscript I have chosen settings close to home. This setting at Sundance Resort, Utah is a pleasant place where I have gone to refine every manuscript ever written, including The Last Valentine, a novel adapted by Hallmark Hall of Fame to produce the 2011 hit release with Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt; The Lost Valentine.
It is peaceful, and often passed over by visitors to the state. Not a large resort, its natural peace and beauty lends to a slow pace, thoughtfulness, and introspection.
Within a range of a couple of miles are the locations where the plot for Vivian’s Book of Love takes place. That would be on the Provo River, a rafting and fly fishing spot just below Robert Redford’s Sundance.
I hope you may enjoy this “set up” to the proposed novel as I use both first narrator and third person voices for the development of our story. Here is the opener to Vivian’s Book of Love.
Snow capped peaks loom over the village park that carries her name. For one hundred and twenty years it has been a pleasant get-a-way spot for residents from the valley towns down the canyon.
Simple charms attract a certain kind of visitor to this often passed-by connection from the valleys above to those below. One reason they come is its smallness. Natural beauty alone and modest cabins greet the visitor to the trout stocked river, lined with its willows, pine, and the cottonwoods which shed like snow falling in June.
The scene of the white fluff wandering in a summer breeze, and Vivian chasing it with girl-like glee along the river path, still stops my heart, making our wonderland feel like an eternal replay of a favorite ballad; the one heard when once upon a time, you first fell in love.
For most others the ride is the experience. Creosote treated railroad ties and aging iron track still carry an original 1905 Baldwin Steam Locomotive with turn-of-the-century passenger cars in tow and the quintessential caboose guarding the tail end of the train. The locomotive winds its way through the river gorge in the shadow of soaring pined ridges where the eagles nest. Tourists come to the one whistle stop called Vivian’s Park each Saturday with the Ghost Train chugging up the canyon for Halloween, and the Polar Express breaking through snow drifts during the Christmas season. Slow, with passenger cars resembling the old west era, a magic lost to our modern world of fast everything, comes alive.
From deep within aquifers of the Rocky Mountains above us there is the unfailing year-round source of spring water falling from two sedimentary formations created over one million years of passing time.
Constant, the Bridal Veil Falls reminds me of its timelessness. Someone one hundred years ago would have witnessed with their natural eyes the exact same dramatic vista–cascading sprays of water forming a wide veil when the unending stream of droplets finally reach their destination from the heights above. The locally romanticized falls speak to the human senses this truth; that everything of value and beauty takes time.
But, where there is an end to life, the passage of hours turning in to days, makes time an adversary to the one thing in youth you think will be endless…
Like the Swiss clock handed down from generation to generation, it relentlessly ticks away. An equal amount of the tick-tock stuff is given to all, but those precious seconds of lingering hand-holding, pleasant conversations, and admiration–which the eyes lock into memory–become like a leaf caught on a sudden breeze.
What you fill one minute with passes on—even as you contemplate how to spend more hours doing what brings you pleasure. There are precious snap shots–those moments frozen in a day from long ago–but you can only memorialize them, fill albums with them, or write of them as I do now.
Time is a thief. It passes away. It doesn’t sleep, slow, stop, or rewind. It simply goes on in a ticking of give and take, but allowing for memories.
Memory is a good and wicked thing at the same time. When love falls upon the soul like the Bridal Veil does upon its admirers–narrow in the beginning and wide at the end–it carries you away.
With Vivian I learned the things of love that her presence cemented into my heart. Those wonderful, terrible, haunting, and dream-like phantoms are encased safely where I can go and visit; and for a moment I feel her lips against mine, and her hand teasing me as she waves for me to come and follow her down the now silent tracks.
I awaken angrily from those day dreams which seem more frequent, now that the clock only seems to tick more slowly. Within the same cursing of breath–that my pleasant visions have vanished so suddenly–there is also some sense of gratitude for having been with her, ever so briefly. Time gave those gifts to me, and I mustn’t curse it.
I seek now to share the cold hard truths and the idealized romance of it all, but not with moralistic rhetoric; well except, perhaps, in my opener to “The Western Philosophers 101” class each I teach each Fall and Winter semester at the U.
They can take it or leave it, but the sooner a person seeks what I lay out–well, I’ll let you decide…
I welcome that first freshman class each September and then it begins:
“There are many kinds of love,” he said. “Have you ever been in love?”
He looked out over the classroom of fresh-faced freshmen and watched some suddenly sit up from their slouch, others nervously shift in their seats, and a few offer the cocky assurance that they are about to waste an hour of time.
“If you have not, then I will tell you how it feels. Everyone keeps a book of love,” he began.
This sneak peek is the set up to Vivian’s Book of Love. Twists, turns, and secrets kept follow as we learn a young man’s background, his name, and the surprise that Vivian becomes to him.