Friday, June 27, 2008

The BIG Beehive

Despite having spent my entire youth in the Salt Lake valley, I’m always blown away when I return just how BIG the mountains there are. The mountains, part of the Wasatch Range, rise abruptly from the valley floor to form an 11,000 foot granite barrier which is broken only by a series of deep gashes that have been sliced into its side by millennia of snow, ice and raging waters-Little Cottonwood Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Millcreek Canyon and Parley’s Canyon. It’s difficult to explain the immensity, majesty and sublimity of these mountains to anyone who has not seen them up close and personal; it’s even more difficult to get the residents to see the grandeur of these spectacular mountains, the laps of which they sit on daily. If familiarity has not bred contempt in the locals, at a minimum, it seems to have bred blindness and apathy.

Although the bigness of the Wasatch Range is impossible to miss, the general culture of bigness which permeates life in Salt Lake City may escape notice. That is not to say that it is any less obvious than the upward thrust of the mountains that encircle the valley. However, the “culture of big” has become so pervasive that your chance of recognizing it is probably no better than your chance of getting a Salt Laker to see the peaks that surround and protect them. It seldom happens.

But it happened to me on a recent pilgrimage. I gained my sight as I was driving through Riverton (granted, not Salt Lake proper, but Salt Lake in spirit and kinship) on one of my ritual treks for substances forbade by the Word of Wisdom. BIG SUVs crowded the roadways. BIG trucks pulled BIG boats and BIG trailers down the wide highways. BIG (nay, gargantuan) homes sat on BIGGER lots to house even BIGGER families. BIG churches and BIG temples dotted the landscape to serve the BIG Mormon population. BIG box stores littered every nook and cranny of what were once beautiful green fields. BIG women wandered the aisles of BIG supermarkets buying BIG steaks for their BIG men. Suddenly, I understood how Gulliver must have felt on his visit to Brodingnag.

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but I don’t know. The Beehive State just might give the Lone Star State a run for its money. And with a lot of extra notches still on their belts, Utahan’s sure seem intent on expanding further until their Mr. Mac slacks are good and snug around the waist.

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