Keep Going Eastward

We left early, but early for us just meant sometime before lunch. We stopped at 711 to get snacks and fuel. The teller had a curious tattoo with the words “love and hope” or something similarly and vaguely inspirational. I asked her what it said as I paid for my watermelon juice and generic blueberry sour candy. She quickly and without reservation pulled her shirt over and down to reveal the whole art piece and a significant amount of clavicle. “It’s itchy” she said.

We drove fifteen or twenty minutes until we saw a large formation of rocks in the shape of a heart on the side of East 6 Highway. We crossed the 4-lane highway to get a closer look. Brady, Drew, and Mandi walked ahead of me. Brady noticed down a dry ravine a little sign in rusted metal that had a few lines and a funny silhouette of some cowboy boots. It read, ‘Learn This Well…The last ride is never the last ride, and the end is not the end.” At the bottom it said “In memory of Heather and Brad.” As odd and unexpected as this 3-foot epitaph was, it moved me, made me smile, and made me miss my Grandma.

We climbed back up to the road and jogged towards the heart. The heart was placed against a hill, and made visible by brightly painted stones, three crosses at the heart’s apex, and red dirt in the center. We just stopped for a minute and appreciated it. Then someone noticed one of the rocks had slipped a few yards down, lying by our feet. It was orange and heavy. I decided it needed to go back. I climbed up towards the top of the heart in my Birkenstocks, removed part of a tumbleweed and reunited the rock with its vibrant neighbors. We hustled back to the car while Mandi lagged behind muttering something about a dead rabbit she saw.

hearts

With dirty shoes we got back in the car and headed East not knowing for certain what we would see or what we even wanted to see.

Our next stop was in Fairview to procure some sort of local lunch. But first we wanted to survey the town, so we drove down the main street and followed a sign pointing towards a museum of art and history.

We spilled out of the car, stretching and grunting before meandering around the outside of the museum where rusty old pioneer artifacts sat dying and forgotten. A few of the doors were boarded up and we saw old boxes with artificial snow sitting around scattered trash. Assuming the museum was closed or abandoned we looped around back to the car, only to find that the main entrance was open, summoning us in.

A short woman in her seventies greeted us with the enthusiasm of a young golden retriever. She had on high-watered white pants and a shirt with the phrase “Ladies night, 2014” written across the chest. Her name was Terry and it was obvious that she lived for this. It was clear that city youths didn’t enter often, and we soon received the top-shelf tour. Terry’s excitement for an otherwise dusty and kitsch display was invigorating and contagious. She encouraged us to ring a bell upstairs, prefacing the instruction with “I shouldn’t tell you this, but…”

She tarried (pun intended) behind us to the adjoining building reserved for trinkets and a small dino-skeletal display. We wandered around discussing lunch. Terry could be heard bragging to her co-workers of equal age and even less flattering clothing choices how four college students came in and “saw everything!” Her moody retired-in-Florida-type colleagues kind of nodded as if to say “Here goes Terry again telling one of her wild tales.”

I gave T a hug and told her how grateful we were. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

We lunched at TeeCee’s, a small burger shop that used to also accommodate video rental services. The refills were not free, but we enjoyed the small town burgers before heading out again to the great road.

In search of ghost towns, land art and adventure we stopped in a tiny town with a reservoir and a lot of green roofs. We followed our Google Maps toward the dirt road that would take us to an old mining town, since abandoned. But a half mile later we met with large gates and No Trespassing signs. Knowing the nature of isolated farmers, that were within eyeshot, we decided not to risk the trespassing citation.

Chagrined by our luck, we jumped back into the car. My eyes got heavy and my body felt spent from a night of little sleep. So I rested my head into my left hand in a way that eliminates a little bit of tiredness, but eventually leaves your hand numb and your wrist sore.

Thirty or forty minutes later we arrived in another small town in a different county. Here, we explored for hours, eventually finding the road that led to a very accessible ghost town called Spring Canyon, an old coal mining town. Only a few buildings remained, ravaged by decades of neglect and local vandalism. They were barely buildings. But one still held metal containers, large, elevated, vat-like containers full of coal that had no doubt been there since before my Father was born.

We took pictures inside by the profane graffiti and mechanical structures. We ventured around outside on porous escarpments, taking in vistas and hurling rocks downward into other bigger rocks. Mandi kept saying, “These aren’t the richest rocks I’ve ever seen, but they sure are the porous.” Puns followed us the rest of the day.

The sun was starting to droop, so we left in order to see our main destination that was still a good sixty miles away. In the perfect time of twilight we arrived in Green River, Utah. We parked in a dirt lot, crossed the tracks and beheld the great work of art on the desert floor.

It was a massive pyramid-like structure built by a visionary artist in 1973. It was called Ratio. A couple hundred feet away was the accompanying piece called Elements. The land art wasn’t exactly breath-taking or life-changing. But it was beautiful, and someone made it. And sitting there in the cool wind as the sun merged with the horizon, you could feel a certain divinity in it all.

The sun fell and we needed victuals. We decided on Tamarisk, a restaurant that sat on the banks of the Green River. We didn’t look into its prices or menu, it looked romantic enough for us.

We ate soggy fries and delicious entrees, tipped well, then left the eatery near closing time. Walking to the car we noticed the motel next door had a pool and hot tub with an unlocked gate. No one had a change of clothes but we contemplated swimming any way. We settled on sitting with our feet in the hot tub, listening to folk music and rehashing the greatness that was the day.

We all were quiet for a while, so satisfied with our day that little else could be said. It was like when an athlete has an amazing performance, and instead of celebrating wildly, calmly walks off the field with a smile and a full heart.

 

ratio 1

ratio 2

 

 

 

If you find that you like my words and want to read an entire book by me, contact me for a copy of I’m Trying Here or be patient for the summer release of my next book, Return Not Desired.

Contact me in one of the following forms:

taylorchurchbooks@gmail.com

Instagram- @taylorchurch44, or @taylorchurchbooks

 

Little scraps of wisdom

My poor Father’s birthday falls on the day before your taxes are due. This is like having your birthday as a child be the day before your huge science project is due each year in school. It’s not catastrophic, but it’s a bit annoying. What isn’t annoying is having a Dad you think of as more of a friend than anything else, a friend that brought you into the world, and essentially taught you everything you know.

Italian novelist Umberto Eco said, “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Mr. Eco has managed to describe a small portion of the role my Father has played in my life much better than I ever could. Here are just a few examples of those odd moments and scraps of wisdom.

I remember in the heat of Phoenix summers my Dad narrating as he drove. He knew that my sister would soon be 16, and I would follow a few years after. He would explain why he was yielding, or why other drivers were so unfit for traffic. He would use his horn in an almost graceful and pedagogical way.

Even to this day my Dad will pause a movie or TV show we are watching to explain a certain actor’s pedigree, or a certain director’s lack of creativity. Growing up this never felt like a lecture on cinematography, or an annoying adult projecting on those less educated. It was sharing. It was knowledge. It was togetherness for us.

I remember hugging my Dad after my final high school basketball game. I was crying cause we lost, and cause I knew it was over forever and unlikely that I would play at the next level like I had dreamed about for so long. He knew no words could really console me at that moment. But his eyes told me that he got it, and that he loved me. And his timely silence meant everything to me, cause it was proud silence.

One high school afternoon my Dad came home from work and called me out to meet him in the driveway like something was the matter. I ran out, and he just said “Hurry, come listen.” There was a Pink Floyd song on Serius Radio that he didn’t want me to miss. Probably without outwardly trying to, my Dad taught me about passion, taught me how to love lots of things and find beauty in art and the small things around me.

Ultimately, along with my Mom my Dad taught me something so simple but so missed by so many people. In her memoir, Patti Smith preaches the same wisdom,  “To be an artist was to see what others could not.”

Love you Pap.

 

 

pappy