A Visit to Saltair

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In August 2015 I took Hannah (9) to the shore of the Great Salt Lake.  We stepped onto the dry salt-crusted sand, rough and hard on our bare feet.  The water seemed miles away.  As we walked toward the enormous salt water lake, the fine sand became progressively more moist and soft, yielding to our feet with small wet depressions.  A calm day, the water reflected the sky.  Coming to the edge of the glistening water, we ventured in, walking a hundred yards out but barely wading up to our ankles.  Walking a path parallel to us was a tall, slender woman in a pastel red dress.  As Hannah and I played in the sand and water, my mind wandered momentarily into imagination about the beautiful woman.  This poem finds its genesis in the moments before catching myself in my fantasy and pulling myself back to reality.  Having come to my senses, I still felt a twinge of longing after she had gone.

A VISIT TO SALTAIR

You stepped out,
ahead of me,
onto the sand,
hard and salt-crusted,
a pastel-red floral dress
draped from bare shoulders
to delicate ankles,
the water still half-a-mile
distant, it seemed,
and I ventured, nearby.

You delighted
in the softening sand,
scrunching your toes and turning
slow pirouettes in the lake
breeze, uninhibited.
You lifted the hem above
your knees to wade and frolic
in water, shallow still
for a hundred yards or more,
lapping at your legs.

A low sand bar separated us.

“Did you know
the Great Salt Lake
is 25% salt?  The oceans
are only 5%.  Nothing lives
in this lake.  Except
tiny brine shrimp, trillions of them,
harmless little creatures
swimming with frilled gills,
some orange, some yellow, some rusty red.
See? They’re all around us.”
I wanted to say all this,
and more.

As you turned back
toward land, my heart filled
with shameless longing.
I wanted to splash
my clumsy feet in the water
with your long slender feet,
hold your salt-white hand,
listen to you talk about your dreams
for the future, release
your pastel red dress,
make gentle love on the sand—
if you wanted me—
and come back and back to this place,
forever.

But you are half the distance
to the parking lot,
looking small, smaller,
pastel red fading,
and while the glow yet lingers,
you are too soon
nowhere.

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The name Saltair references a lakeside resort that reached its heyday in the early 20th century.  My grandmother Dora told me of taking the train to Saltair with her friends to enjoy a day in the buoyant water.  Fire ravaged the resort, and only one meager building remains to remind of the resort’s former glory.  Few visit anymore, except those who want to walk out onto the salty sand to wade into the shallow water.

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4 thoughts on “A Visit to Saltair

  1. Harv Russell

    I think I could relate a similar experience. Maybe the time when we get together and “talk about life”.
    And yes!! Salt Air!!…What an enchanted place that was…as just a kid my mom and aunts would take me and my cousins there a couple of times a summer and would we have a blast! There was the large (something like 50 feet high and 6 to 8 ft. wide and close to 200 ft. long) slide that we would ride down on gunny sacks and 2 8-ft. in diameter barrels end-to-end rolling in opposite directions that you tried to walk thru without falling down,and at least a half dozen more carnival type rides that you could ride on but not to mention the largest Roller Coaster in the West at that time. Most of this was built over the water supported on large power pole like posts driven deep into the lake bed. There was even a dance hall with live bands and celebrities who were known to frequent there. I can still smell the aroma of genuine hamburgers and onions and real root beer, popcorn and cotton candy. The building that stands there now was built just before the flood of ’83 and sits nearly 1/2 of a mile closer to the road than the original site. There used to be a daily train that went back and forth from the city bringing customers.

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