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What Could Have Been

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By Andrew Quadri

Just blessed enough
In time and place
This lucky lake
Always two or three wrong moves from disaster
Can you believe that over all these years
Your waters have been spared
The worst of the worst and
Only beer, silt, and snowmelt have spilled in?
Think what you could have been
A national park, Tahoe!
You’d stay blue by law
And we’d laugh if someone said
You needed a slogan on a sticker.

If you were much less fortunate,
You could be choked with sediment
Clogged like so many foothill rivers
By stubborn slickens from hydraulic mining
The 49ers’ everlasting legacy
A gravel wasteland saddled
With some sly name —
Witness “the Yuba Goldfields.”

Or like Mono Lake, Owens Valley
Once nearly drained and dying.
Long ago, the Big Four
Hoped to send your water to San Francisco
Maybe then Hetch Hetchy wouldn’t have drowned,
But what would we have here?

Forests? Fully expendable, they’d say.

A quarter million inhabiting the basin,
A four-lane freeway through Incline
A bridge across Emerald Bay
Those were ideas once
Their ilk ready to resurface
Dare we drop our guard

What battles would we fight
If the state line or lake
Landed a few miles differently
If the people hadn’t prevailed
If México hadn’t lost Aztlán
If the Confederacy had split for good
If Utah and Nevada never divided
If gambling had no place here
If the Olympics stayed east,
In Appalachia or the Alps?
With Interstate 80 elsewhere or unbuilt
Would big rigs still squeeze across Rainbow Bridge?
Imagine that Reno never boomed
Erase the mile-high haze above the East Shore
Entertain all those thoughts and more

Who would live here?
Who would visit, how?
Who would know and
Who would care
About our adopted and adored home?
Would this lake be more, less, or not at all?
It’s a scuffed jewel that we’ll polish for eternity
That’s one lucky-enough lake’s destiny.


Wrangling words with aplomb since second grade and carrying a camera since college, Andrew Quadri has been fortunate to witness and document the beauty of the West and the brownfields of the East over the last decade. Loving winter in Tahoe for 22 years, living here for eight; always having fun on a board or on skis, or with the North Tahoe Theater Troupe. Drumming and drawing, well, those are fun too. Every new day is an adventure.

 
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February 14, 2019