Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Valley

Written November 1, 2008. How I adore my valley! I've driven into it from the west, north, east, and south, during daylight and under inky black skies, with clouds low and hovering covering the mountain peaks, with the sun shining so brightly my eyes hurt, under a blanket of dark, stormy clouds at dusk, with rain falling on the west and east mountain ranges and the sun beaming into the valley below, and lit by a million stars above. Entering the valley is such a treat! Through the Nephi Canyon overshadowed by the massive Mount Nebo, a highway winds deep into the canyon's bottom. When you drive in the opposite way from the valley toward Mount Nebo, you literally cannot see the canyon. Your car drops slowly and subtly into the crevice between mountains. Pioneers died in that canyon, killed by Indians who jealously guarded their land. I first experienced this drive in winter, snow piled deep on all sides. As I am lifted from Nephi Canyon up into our Sanpete Valley, I lose my breath each time. As I arrive at the top of the hill and look down into the valley, the lights of six towns brightly reveal their presence. To the far right is Wales and next to it straight ahead is Fountain Green. Over to the far left is Mt. Pleasant and beyond is Moroni. Ephraim is a little further away and clearly the largest of the cities. Lastly Manti is made apparent by the glowing white Manti Temple. It shows just a fraction of an inch tall, but is the brightest object in the entire valley! My heart allways skips a beat as the temple comes into my view. I never had a clear understanding of mountains until I moved here. Only a select few are named. In our particular area only two have been given identification, Mount Nebo (the tallest mountain in sight) and Horseshoe Mountain, aptly named for its horseshoe appearance. This is an agricultural area, but unlike Illinois from where we hail, corn and soy beans are not the means of support here. Livestock are everywhere. Herds of cattle and sheep abound. Turkey buildings dot the landscape and even light up the night with strips of orange color from the heat and light inside. A turkey farmer told me Sanpete Valley houses a million turkeys. Horses are utilized as working animals herding the cattle and sheep up into and down out of the mountains. The old west is alive and well in this beautiful valley. The bi-annual sheep movement is amazing to behold. The bleeting white and black sheep are walked from the valley below up into the mountains and brought back down again. Boys are OHVs, barking and able sheep dogs, and men astride horses guide the herds to safety right on the city streets and down the highways. The old ways are still followed, while newer technologies are embraced. Deer and Elk walk freely along our highways and down the middle of our city streets. Last winter five deer fed in our yard as the snow-covered mountains just behind our home hid their sustenance. Just a few weeks ago hunting season began and gun shots could regularly be heard from our east mountains. I do not see as many rabbits and squirrels as I did in my Illinois yard, but I'm assured they abide here in abundance. I also have seen a lack of fowl compared to my life before. While I was quite accustomed to seeing bald eagles, hawks, owls, other birds of prey, bats, and all manner of smaller, lovely, colorful, and chirping songbirds, their numbers are hugely diminished here by comparison. The LDS faithful are humble, hard-working, stalwart, service-oriented in an open way here. They live righteously as a matter of course. Discussion of gospel principles can be and are conducted everywhere, in the check-out lines of Wal-mart, at breaks during work, across the fences with neighbors, and in the refreshment area of the local theater. Invitations to church activities are extended regularly and are, typically, received gladly with words of agreement by the recipient that going back to church is a personal goal. The activity that prevents most from living the ideals of the mostly LDS population is almost universally breaking of the word of wisdom, which is to say smoking cigarettes and/or drinking alcohol. Satan's control through the use of addiction is as alive and well in this area as in any other. The difference, as I view it at least, is the constant reminder of their previous church activation through church buidings, superb examples, and the media. A large number of church meetinghouses and 13 temples are found throughout Utah. The shining countenances of those who still embrace and live their church covenants must influence others to copy their examples. The unashamed media reports of church members preaching and teaching gospel principles are frequent. Finally, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views on a variety of topics as well as church announcements are shown without censure or sneering comment. I am still surprised when on the daily television news I see reports of church activity with the Salt Lake Temple used as the backdrop. I heart thrills when I read "Mormon sections" of the area newspapers. I can be myself here without censure. I no longer need to compartmentalize my life, but can act freely without fear of causing offense or being criticized. Others from areas outside of Utah might counter they do not feel a need to censure themselves. I applaud you all for your courage and hope you would realize these are my own personal feelings and do not believe they are universally true for all people. The mountains encircle this valley on all sides. It is true that the mountain ranges run north and south, but they are not exact. They curve in and out forming safe coves as if a loving mother was extending her arms around her huge brood of children. Driving is dangerous for me here. I find it incredibly difficult not to stare to my right or left at the magnificence all around me. Mountains are enormous, breath-takingly beautiful creations! I love the way light from the sun plays in the folds. I eagerly search for which exact cloud is casting a gigantic shadow on the each rise and fall of each individual mountain. I gaze at the deep hues of greens and browns. I had to go in search for the cause of the reds that suddenly appeared this fall. As you climb higher winding back and forth lifting to ever-increasing elevations the flora changes. The aspen trees begin about 8,000 feet. Their leaves jingle in the wind as though thousands of bells grow from the branches. I sincerely desire and hope the love I feel for my new home is felt by any who read this account. If you, in turn, feel a desire to visit, you are welcome here anytime.

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