This is the closing passage from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. [You may remember the film with a young Brad Pitt, directed by Robert Redford.] The narrator is reflecting on his life, those who have touched that life, and the importance of his time spent fishing on the Blackfoot river in Montana:
It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.

Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.

Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fisherman in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

Can you think of any reason why your language shouldn’t sound like that? Look at the text again. There isn’t one word in that passage that an average adult hasn’t heard or seen or read at some point in their life. So why are our reports choked with jargon? Why are our speeches rambling and shambling? And why-oh-why are our presentations shoe-horned into: headline, sub-head, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, graph?

“The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.”
“… in the Arctic half-light of the canyon …”
“… and the hope that a fish will rise.”

Every time I re-read Maclean’s prose, I am slack-jawed with admiration. So spare. So lyrical. So marvellous!

If you want a real treat, listen to Robert Redford narrating the closing scene in his film version of A River Runs Through It here. The sound is a bit clipped and doesn’t really capture the timbre of his voice, but listen to the emotion and his phrasing. It doesn’t hurt if you have Elmer Bernstein composing your background music either …

The film is one of my all-time favourites and includes some lengthy scenes of Brad Pitt emerging dripping wet from the river – which, I am reliably informed by she-who-must-be-obeyed, is a good thing.