Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Back to the old sod

 lazy photographer
Warning: This post touches only fleetingly on food.

My father and I went to Utah this past weekend to tour the new LDS temple in Brigham City before its dedication, after which non-Mormons (us) aren't allowed in. Neither of us would ordinarily jump on a plane to visit a building, but Brigham was my late grandparents' hometown and my father still owns some pastures there and wanted to touch base with the tenant. Also, Layne lives there and I wanted to meet her family, admire her goats, and talk for a few hours about religion, politics, child-rearing, Nie Nie, Disneyland, favorite cheeses,  Zappos, bicycle helmets, this clever blog660 Curries, basement houses, how teenaged girls should dress, and more.

What is a basement house?

I had never seen such a thing.
Layne's goats, by the way, were beautiful.

Nubians always make me feel disloyal to the Oberhasli.
In India, Owen and I visited a number of Hindu and Jain temples. They tended to be "relaxed" by which I mean they were open to the elements, you took off your shoes, and were welcome to sit on the floor. At one temple, women were noisily peddling marigold garlands at the entrance and the place was  festive and unregulated and -- there's no other way to put it -- dirty. I will not soon forget walking barefoot through that temple a few hours after a rainstorm, muck squelching between my toes. The temples were ornate and fancifully decorated with elephants and statues of gods and they were tactile, human in scale, almost cozy. You felt at one with the space. This is in sharp contrast to the mosques and other Islamic monuments we visited, like the Taj Mahal, which were grand and humbling.
Owen and friend in Jain temple
The LDS temple in Brigham falls on the grand and humbling end of the spectrum. It's a landmark in a town that previously had little in the way of landmarks, and there were busloads of people visiting. We walked in a long, hushed line through the temple while Layne explained what we were seeing.

What we were seeing was the most sacred of spaces for a Mormon. As a child, I often accompanied my grandmother to church on Sundays, but the church felt more like a meetinghouse than a sanctuary for spiritual searching. The temple felt like a sanctuary. Inside, it is hushed, pale and pristine, lit with crystal chandeliers and, in some rooms, flooded with sunlight. It feels safe and restful, but also like a place where you want to be on your best behavior. The walls are hung with paintings featuring American landscapes and there are peach blossom motifs incorporated throughout, as Brigham is famous for its peaches. There are peach blossoms carved in the lintels and stitched into the carpets, and, best of all, there are peach trees planted around the perimeter of the building. The temple was altogether lovely and worth the trip.

The rest of the weekend, my father and I visited places we remember well but which didn't seem to remember us at all.
My father's childhood home: "What did you say your name was? Nope, doesn't ring a bell."
We stayed at the Days Inn just off the freeway, built on one of my grandfather's old hayfields.
The old hayfield: "Can't you see I've moved on to bigger things?"
We drove by my great grandparents' house which had a sour cherry tree in the back yard that I picked clean circa 1974.
Great grandparents' house: "Those were good times and amazing pie,  but you need to move on." 
Then we drove up to the Wyoming ranch where my grandfather ran his cattle from June to September. My father worked every summer of his youth there and I vacationed there every summer of mine. You have no idea how much we loved this place, what dinners my grandmother cooked, what hell my uncle raised.
The ranch: "It's you! At last."
Just look at it. Sad. This was my paradise? Yes it was, still is, but it was sold and abandoned and someone has broken the windows and unlike all the other smug houses we drove by, this one remembered us and wanted us to stay. I felt terrible that we couldn't.

We did eat some delicious food. Every trip to Utah entails a meal at Maddox, a steakhouse that has negatively impacted the health of several generations of Reeses.

There is so much wrong on this plate.


  1. Beautiful post

  2. That ranch house needs a hug. It looks like it would hug back.

  3. Thank you for the nice things you said.

    I love that ranch house. Can it be saved?

  4. For someone who's usually not interested in these things, I find your background and family posts very entertaining. Along those lines, would love to hear more about Guatemala and your great grandmother. I'm still fantasizing about the candy store in Antigua you wrote about!

  5. Sorry, I meant your grandmother.

  6. Having grown up in Brigham City, it was lovely to hear your thoughts on visiting. My husband and I went back for a visit in mid-August (to load up on peaches, of course) and the crowds around the temple were intimidating.

  7. Memory lane, like the call of the sirens, isn't it? I loved this post. I hope that reinforces that I love all your posts, not just the ones that contain calories. The meat and the butter are OK, and while the corn and french fries are of questionable nutritional value, they were priceless for sentiment, were they not? Besides, everybody's gotta eat some junk now and then!

  8. This is my favorite thing you've ever written. Is the ranch for sale? I think I'd like to buy it. You made it sound like a vey special place.

  9. I think there is something to be said about mud between your toes in a temple. Spirituality is about acknowledging all facets of existence, good and bad. Frankly, exposure to the elements and muddy toes are closer to reality than pristine, humbling buildings. It points to the blessings and spirit that can be found in everyday life, not just once a week. Inclusive, not exclusive.

  10. I go through that kind of sadness every time I go to my parents' hometown.

    My mom's parents had a farm. The new owners have let the barn fall down.

    My dad's mom owned a gas station, which was very, very cool: the mechanics would give us bottle cokes out of that old machine where you open the glass door and pull the bottle out of those grips. My grandma would let us clean the bathrooms. (Yes, gullible.) Her house burned down years ago with the new owners in it - don't smoke in bed. Really. The gas station has been razed and replaced with a C-store.

    The little house my mom's parents built in town when they sold the farm has gone into foreclosure with the new owners. The beautiful flowerbeds that my grandmother worked so hard on are just weeds.

    It should be legal to shoot people who let places fall apart.

  11. Being from Wyoming and missing that part of the country desperately, I appreciate your trip through the area! We live in Hungary right now, where beef, especially the kind you can get in WY/UT doesn't exist. Your picture of the steak made me homesick! I would do bad things for a steak like that right now....

  12. You MUST go back and buy back that little ranch house NOW, You must! It breaks my heart!

  13. This makes me happy and sad, all at the same time. My hometown is unrecognizable, although there have been very few changes on my street.