When I was just shy of six years old, my family made the wrenching move from Hallstead, Pennsylvania to Ogden, Utah. I remember it quite clearly. Probably more clearly than I should.
I remember moving from the “endless mountains” of Pennsylvania to the ROCKY mountains of Ogden, Utah. Where was the green? Where were the TREES? Where were the lush meadows and gentle morning mists? And what the HELL was with those sky-high cliffs overhanging our helpless little house? Those aren’t mountains! Mountains are gentle, verdant, rounded things alive with cardinals, jays, and white-tail deer. These were angry, snaggle-toothed beasts! What’s that you say, Dad? We now live on a seismic fault? Overdue for “THE BIG ONE?” And what’s that falling from the sky in JUNE? Is that SNOW?
And what do those kids mean when they say they can’t play with me because we don’t go to the same church they do?
How did I feel upon arrival in this “Pretty, Great State?” I think it went something like this:
Oh, Christ, I hate this place. It’s utterly foreign, like Mars! The mountains are going to fall down on my house when “THE BIG ONE” hits! It snows in June! Some kids ask me what “ward” I’m a part of, and when I can’t answer they don’t play with me! The people don’t even speak the same language! They laugh when I say things like “drapes,” “shears,” and “davenport!” They think Box Elder bugs are fireflies, and they get mad at me when I try to explain that fireflies LIGHT UP!
Really, they do light up. They glow gold or green (or red, in some mutants). And, while I’ve heard rumors of some out Plain City way, fact is I’ve never seen a firefly in Utah. It’s something I’ve missed most bitterly. I can’t even describe how sad I was when we left the east coast at the end of our last vacation. After sitting on the damp, green ground near the Susquehanna River at dusk and nearly crying with joy at the sight of my fireflies (fireflies I hadn’t seen in 25 years), we left.
We left. Every mile west we moved, the harder it became to breathe. By the time we were back in Utah, I could barely bring myself to get off the train.
I know Utah has a lot to offer. I haven't spent 38 years glowering balefully at the mountains. I haven't steadfastly refused to partake of what Utah has to give. I don’t sit around looking at the leaves falling from my trees and think, “Oh, it’s rubbish, I’ve seen it all before!” I don’t breathe in the heady smell of our autumn grapes on the vine and think, “Pffft, it’s crap, I’ve smelled better!” I’ll miss these trees—hell, I had a hand in the planting of almost all of them! I’ll miss those grapes—we waited years for that vine to become something worthwhile. I think the desert is striking, and I’ve spent many nights by the campfire, listening to the coyotes sing in the breathtaking dark.
But I’ve done 38 years of desert, and I need a change. A return to something I love even more than howling coyotes and skittering lizards. I’m done living with greys and browns. I’m done living with prickly pear and dust. And I’m done having to search for my small treasures. I’m ready for lush woods, gentle mountains, salamander and crawdaddy catching, flaming fall colors in blinding profusion, and green everywhere I look. I’m ready for summers with rain, rivers of size, massive museums with world-class exhibits, and rockin’ mass transit. Ocean beaches, real Philly Steak sandwiches, vineyards, a multitude of lakes, and beloved relatives I haven’t had nearly enough time with.
And fireflies. I’m so ready for fireflies.