This summer I and my spare time have been focused on preparing for two different trips … one past, one (oh, happiness!) still to come. I think back with relish of that past trip last month, when I was gone from July 5 –19. Every moment of those fifteen days was something I want to remember. My flight on Saturday morning saw me awake before 3:00 so that I could get to the airport; I had a layover in Salt Lake City before arriving at my final destination in Rapid City, South Dakota, shortly before noon local time. Before I dropped into bed that night, I had been awake for twenty hours, which I really think is a new record for me (there was the time I was up until 5:00 a.m. at a slumber party, but I don’t remember how long I had been awake the preceding day!). A new experience, that; I don’t think I’ll forget how being awake for so long on a tiring journey feels—the heaviness, the bouts of irrationality, the determination to stay up until every last bit of excitement has been squeezed from the day. When I finally laid down, my body still tried to keep me conscious because I had been telling it to do so for hours. (Maybe this detail sounds trivial, but I never know when such sensations will serve me in a piece of writing.)
Have any of you been to Salt Lake City? I don’t know about the actual tangible streets and buildings, but from the air, the land surrounding SLC is fascinating. I wish I’d had my camera. The valley, perfectly surrounded by desertish, rather short mountains, looks, not really forbidding, but pleasantly desolate and … other-worldly. It reminded me a bit of the marsh Frodo and Sam cross in The Two Towers, because, like that marsh, you get to see the landscape with a bird’s eye view. Except in the Salt Lake valley, the sun was shining, the colors were bright, and you can tell the wetlands are bursting with life. See this Flickr photo and this aerial photo. There are maze-like waterways and ponds everywhere, mostly blue but sometimes greenish, verdant marshy spots, and sandy beaches. These all swirl together like paint that needs to be mixed, while the set-apart Great Salt Lake is deep and blue and vast. Its backdrop of barren mountains made me think of Noah’s Flood receding around Ararat.
|Sweet clover. I could see that from the plane!|
Western South Dakota, like much of the West in my experience, reminisces about wild days gone by. Most of what I saw from the plane was countryside: tall hills black with pine trees, rolling hills alternately grass green and rich yellow green. This summer had been unusually rainy. What is that yellow down there? I wondered. Soon after I landed and joyfully joined my friend and her family, I was enlightened: sweet clover. So much sweet clover was blooming yellow that the air outside Rapid City’s little airport smothered me in the smell of honey. It’s the strongest scent I’ve ever smelled outdoors, stronger than pines in the forest and fish by the lake.
|Can you see me way up there in the middle?|
|The Eye of the Needle|