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The Gearboat Chronicles

Salvation Mountain

Happy holidays, all you good people.

May Santa fill your stocking with a warm August day on the Salmon River, toes scrunched in the sand as you recline in a folding chair at the rivers edge, eating crispy rice crackers from a blue bowl and sipping lemonade after a spirited rock-skipping tournament where you found a particularly perfect flat stone, then got your release just right, lighting up a double-digit score, impossible to count, since it skipped so many times there at the end.

At least that’s what I’m asking the fat guy for.

Just kidding about the fat guy thing, Claus. We’re cool. Right? Nick? We good?

My holiday greetings this year involve a scene from the movie ‘Into the Wild’ that you may remember.

If you haven’t read the book, it’s worth doing. Written by an Oregonian, Jon Krakauer. I particularly like Krakauer’s handling of the pull to get out amongst the boonies, or far from the maddening crowds, however you want to identify the urge to get out amongst the chunks of earth that don’t get visited as often as others.

I’m guessing you recognize that draw. I think I can speak for all of Winding Waters by saying we enjoy going along when we feel that tug.

Chris McCandless is the subject of ‘Into the Wild,’ and he picked his own route through the world that led him wonderful places, but ended tragically. I’ll refer you to Krakauer or Sean Penn, who directed the movie, if you’re not familiar with the story.

One of the places McCandless visited was Salvation Mountain, in the California desert down by the Salton Sea. It’s a sprawling art project painted on a hillside. Bright. Colorful. Elaborate and one of a kind.

Leonard Knight is the artist. He’s been out there for 29 years, painting his message to the world. That message is heavy on the Bible verses, as you can see in the photos, but talking with him is not.

Talking with Leonard is non-denominational, at least my discussions with him were. And what it boiled down to was this man saying he couldn’t understand why things ever got so complicated. We’re all here on this world and we should get along. It’s pretty simple.

“Keep it simple,” Leonard repeated. “Keep it simple.”

I never heard him criticize anyone or anything, just expressed his wish that things wouldn’t be so complicated and everybody in the world would just realize we’re all in this together and there’s no reason we can’t get along.

I couldn’t agree more.

After I left Salvation Mountain, the holiday spirit was picking up all around me and I started to recognize how much it reminded me of the mood back at Salvation Mountain.

Leonard even gives out gifts to visitors. Postcards, puzzles made from a photo of the mountain or DVDs. He doesn’t ask for money, but will gladly thank you for a donation and puts that money toward buying more postcards, puzzles and DVDs to hand out. To get the word out. Spread his message.

Leonard wants us to keep it simple. And get along.

I think that’s a fine holiday message, so I thought I’d pass it along.

Happy holidays from the gearboat.