Water Trust Writing Contest: A New Beginning

A New Beginning, by Diane Falconer, won first place in the 2024 Water Trust Writing Contest.

A New Beginning

Diane Falconer

Isabella followed her parents along the riverbank, snatching up plastic bottles and discarded wrappers as they went. Marta and Carlos had seen a sign at the laundromat and used Google Translate to read “Celebrate Earth Day: River Clean-up Saturday 9-4. Meet at Scout Hut.” Now their sacks were filling up with trash. It felt good to be part of the crew helping out.

The family was new to Salida, still settling into the tiny 1940s apartment a block from the river. When Carlos could not find work in Guatemala and rising crime threatened even their small village beside Lake Atitlan, the offer of a job building modular homes in Buena Vista, Colorado, was too good to pass up. Ten men signed up and headed to the US.

Arriving two months later, local churches came to their aid: first a month in a local motel, then the 2-room apartment became home. In the still of the night, the murmur of the river lulled them to sleep. It brought Marta solace: here they had found peace and security in a welcoming community.

After the clean-up. Marta perched on a boulder near Riverside Park. Children body-surfed the rolling Arkansas River, shrieks of laughter drifting down from the playground where Carlos pushed Isabella on a swing. Sunlight speckled the water as tourists peered over the F-Street Bridge at the passing rafts and kayaks. Marta returned to the notebook in her lap: she and Carlos were both taking English-language classes. Isabella was learning right along with them and would soon begin preschool.

Azul—blue sol—sun arboles—trees agua—water rocas—rocks
The beautiful river pulsed past. Rio—river. Casa—home.

About the author: “I am a retired school librarian. My husband Dave and I retired from Michigan to Littleton, then moved to charming Salida two years ago. We enjoyed Michigan’s countless lakes, but love the beautiful Arkansas River now. Fishing, floating, and FIBARK! I volunteer with the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and know how vital our rivers are to our ecosystems and our economy. I’m concerned for the welfare of our new immigrants and support efforts for more affordable housing here in Salida, so my story encompassed all those issues. In my spare time I enjoy photography, skiing, pickleball, and travel, and watching our grandchildren grow.”