Thursday, July 17, 2003

A PILGRIM IN MY OWN LAND: I have been meaning to blog something about being in Utah after spending several years in the East (aka Babylon). Jacob and I have been spening our sunday mornings wandering around Salt Lake looking for obscure Mormon stuff. So far we have found several interesting spots. Our first sunday we went to the grave of Brigham Young. Interestingly, it is a blank granite slab with no inscription. Close by are buried other notables, including his son -- and apostle -- Joseph Young and Eliza R. Snow. Interesingly, Eliza R. Snow's tomb stone is very pointedly inscribed "Eliza Roxley Snow Smith." Last Sunday we drove up Emigration Canyon to Little Mountain and then from there up Echo Canyon to Big Mountain. At Big Mountain you can stand where the scouts from the first party of Mormon pioneers first saw the Salt Lake Valley. You can also walk over part of the original trail. In addition, we have been to the Beehive House and sought out some of the 1850s duplexs built for plural wives that still dot the city.

There is something powerful about the way that Mormonism has worked its will on the landscape of Utah. The brute existence of the towns and cities, the wide streets, the grids eminating from temples and tabranacles, the old Mormon chapels, and -- less inpiringly -- the new ones. It is as though the whole country is a vast text that can be read, testifying in its own way to the Restoration. I have always enjoyed cultivating a sense of place. In Washington I liked to learn the stories connected with old political dens and note the place where the Army of the Potomac built its forts to protect the capital from Lee's legions. In Cambridge I knew where Pierce and James lived and read the flocks of historical markers put up by pious Catebrigians. Among the other advantages of leaving Utah, one of them is the ability to now cultivate a sense of place in my hometown. Having driven through the cradle of the Restoration in upstate New York several times this year, I can't help but think about what propelled people from the granite of New England to the sand stone of the Great Basin and from the luxuriant green of Mendon to the dry, irrigated blooms of the Lion House.