Tiny Things Loom Large
I have lived in Utah almost all of my life. I spent two years in New England, one year in Maine, the other in New Hampshire. Three years of my fist six were spent in Roy, Utah ( A town about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City) and another two in Provo, Utah (just after getting married). Other than that, I have lived within the same ten miles, the same valley and for 15 years, the same city.
I have been other places. Some of them I have actually been able to see myself living, being and breathing every day. I have only spent less than a week in Manhattan and most likely have no idea what it would actually be like to live there, but I like to pretend I do. I like to imagine myself in that city, complaining about the smell of garbage in the summer, the ice and cold of winter. I see myself walking to some place or other, getting street food and coffee. I come home to my absolutely too tiny apartment, where my wife, kids and dogs are packed in, warm and happy, if not a bit compressed. I love taking the subway, I love dodging and weaving through other unaware pedestrians. I even see myself smiling in the press of too many people going the opposite direction I am going. I don’t want that image messed with, regardless of its potential for falsehood.
I have spent several weekends in and around Phoenix. I love the thought of never seeing snow, never really being all that cold. Though that image is often shattered by the expanse of sprawl, the traffic that seems to have no purpose. All of us in our cars going nowhere. It is the antithesis of New York. Spread out over thirty miles or more…people everywhere. Still, I love the thought of it.
The other side of me loves the great expanses, the wide open land. I have often seen myself living in Montana, owning a small building that doubles as a bar and tiny motel. Maybe three rooms; more of a bed and breakfast. Adding to the contrast of here and Phoenix, I see myself waking up early, making eggs and pancakes for my current winter guests, wandering out in the vast amounts of snow and ice, the deep cold of winter, to dig out the driveway. Or I see myself staying up late, pouring another draft for my regulars, the guys that live a few miles away and come here for my inexpensive supply of Pabst and my most excellent conversation. I can see the dirty bar rags and the deep dark wood of the stools and tables. It would be dingy, seem dirty and have that smell all good hole in the wall bars have. I could pass many years like that.
Whenever I have these thoughts of being somewhere else it is easy to find fault with the place I currently live. I easily condemn the political climate, find fault with an overly vocal minority of people who have no issue with imposing their idea of how things should be on everyone else. Some of you have heard me complain about what I see as the hypocritical notion of freedom, unless that freedom runs contrary to their idea of morality.
I get frustrated very easily regarding what I view as unwanted pity, people who think they are much happier than I will ever be, that feel I don’t understand real happiness looking down at me.
I am often wrong.
But it is those things, that sense of living in a flawed place, that makes staying here worthwhile. I am constantly challenged to evaluate why I think what I do, why certain things are important to me. It would be easier to live in a place where more people think like me, want the same things as I do, but then I would easily find myself becoming just like those I complain about. Living in a very conservative place brings out the best in me more often then the worst.
I also am fortunate to live in a place where I am five minutes away from some of the most spectacular places on earth. I can get on my bike and ride up any one of five canyons, starting out in the city and then being completely surrounded by trees. Some of these canyons offer views of the city and valley that are wonderful. You feel so detached from all of it, staring at it, almost not comprehending what you are seeing. In winter you can find yourself in near pristine landscapes. Perfect snow, perhaps some wildlife, just minutes from your front door.
If you pay attention, if you look, you can find everything here that any other place, large or small, offers. Great music, theater, dancing, food, friends, these things and more are here in abundance. Silence, nature, empty spaces, they are here as well. In many ways it is ideal to live here. It is easy to forget that, easy to want more and different. I am grateful when I get the chance to remember, to understand why it is I love it here much more than I dislike it.