"Looking at a thing is far different from seeing a thing. And you have not seen a thing until you have seen its beauty." -Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband
Southern Utah has always been a fine place for me, not my favorite, just fine. For 18 years, I've visited the place and its people out of respect for my husband's past- his memories.
The trip started with a funeral. I only met him a few times and am now at his funeral in the family section. At the graveside, the veterans of foreign wars honored him for service in the Korean War with a gun salute and a mournful rendition of taps. Holding their guns straight and proud, were some 7 plus ancient gnomes. One in a plaid work shirt, had a large knobby nose that was blue, and blue hands, but his voice shook with emotion as he presented the elderly widow with the flag from "a grateful nation". Another looked like a character out of a Zane Grey novel. He matched his long drooping gray moustache with gray wranglers and a slick jacket covered in a silk screened logo. His old fingers moved by their own accord over his weapon from memory of an experience years ago in some far off land. "Where had they been?" I wondered. "What adventures had these men, once young, known? What feelings did they have as they left this small town and faced the world, in all its ferocity during war? After seeing, living, opening their eyes to new things, what was it that brought these men back? A sweetheart, love of the mountains, family? How had they adjusted to a life of feeding the livestock or changing tires? Did they ever get together and talk of the world they had seen?" At first glance, I would have pronounced an easy judgement of uninteresting small towners. I know now that I never really saw any of them, nor uncle Hal, just looked at them. Just who were these men, what courageous acts have they performed, what have they seen? I had enjoyed this man we honored's hugs, and dwarflike attention to Snow White, as though they were my due, but I never saw him till today. My retinas missed so much!
I have wandered this landscape thanks to my kind in-laws for many years, slightly disgusted or annoyed at the cactus, the lack of abundant greenery and wild life. I found the rock formations interesting but bleak. In view of my funeral experience, I try to expand my vision to really see the place by seeing its beauty.I examine the funnel shaped web of a deadly spider. I let my imagination work with my mother in law as we find a woman posing over the left side of an arch for us. I track small animals with my small ones. I marvel not only at the tenacity of the vegetation that thrives here, but at the beauty of the arranged colors and leaf shapes. I enjoy the absurdity of the rock shapes. I ponder the strength and resolve of a tree that incorporated the rock that could have killed it into its structure. I appreciate the lessons of courage and trust the landscape has given us, of fear overcome, of cooperation, exploration, and self sufficiency. I bask in the radiation, as only a winter starved person can, and listen to the self hum of bakers. They bake peach pie, blueberry pie, pancakes, buttermilk cookies, cinnamon sticks, popcorn balls, and rows of truffles. Truffles with sprinkles, truffles with cocoa, they are rolled with sticks, dipped in sand and presented to me for my judgement and consumption. I listen with joy as the stick beats three times on the rocks to the words of "Magical, magical, turn into a spoon!" and watch the rolling pin magically turn into a mixing spoon for Sunshine's use. I hear the song of Ladybug echoing high above me as she explores the caves to find the miraculous discovery of a vein of crystals running through a cave of sandstone and grizzly evidence of a predator. I lay under a perfectly blue sky and watch the tiny new spring leaves open heralding the hope of spring as I hear my husband yell from the caves to look up and see the soaring falcons. I think about the cactus, so prickly and uninviting, yet so strong they can survive in the harshest environments.... and other similar live things...
I rephrase Wilde's statement. To know/understand any thing or person is to see its beauty. For all God's creations are marvelous, miraculous and beautiful. The desert is beautiful to me now, as are the people that chose to live there. My spouse seems more beautiful now that I see his heritage, personal and environmental.