Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Aunt Laura and Dixie

Recently I took a trip for the news to Southern Utah; Utah's Dixie. I went to photograph the first lady at Zion's Park and had a few extra days to re-explore St.George and work on a couple other stories. My family settled St.George and has been there sweating ever since. As a kid I used to hate going there because it was "boring". As a kid a tell-tale sign of the excitement a told held was determined by the thickness of the phone book. Back then it was still quite thin. Years later fate played a joke on me and I moved to Brigham City, an even smaller town on the opposite end of the state with an even smaller phone book. On this recent trip I was shooting photos documenting the growth of Washington Co. and the St.George area. I climbed ontop of the Black Hill overlooking the old city and could see the growth behind the hill, further into Ivins and Santa Clara and across St.George over the buttes and onto Washington Fields. I imagined what my grandparents and ancestors would say if they could see their town today. My 3rd great grandfather surveyed the red rocks and hills over 100 years ago. Although I have never lived in St.George and despite the new developments that dwarf the original city, I felt very close to it from the top of the hill. I felt very proud of my ancestor's legacy.

Before leaving I paid my Aunt Patsy and Uncle Tom a visit and Tom shared stories about his uncles, the cowboys that rode all across Dixie. He even sent me on my way with an article from a book about the type of men they were. On my way out of town I stopped by to visit my grandmother's baby sister, Aunt Laura. She is in a home now and as I entered her little room I was greeted with a "Come on in Darling." I have always loved to talk to her, maybe because she reminds me a bit of my mom. We chatted and through brief pauses and tangents caused by Alzheimers she shared stories and pictures of my family in Dixie. She even showed me the photos that Dorthea Lange took of her children on their ranch in Gunlock. I realized that we as people truly construct ourselves from our past. We set standards for ourselves based on the achievements and legacy of those gone before. I thought of my Grandfather Terry every time I thought of quitting as a missionary in Germany and as I caught up with my family down south I began to feel even more compelled to do the right things in life. Work hard, be honest, take care of the family and keep the faith. I began to see that if we draw on the past to set standards for ourselves, how much more important must it be to make the right decisions now, for those who will come later and look backwards at our lives? Every few moments, Aunt Laura would lose her train of thought and bring it back with the same phrase, "Ahh, Life IS interesting isn't it? And we do the best we can." How simply truthful. I hope I am doing the best I can for myself, those before and who ever else comes along. I am, and feel young. My phonebook is still skinny and light. When it grows and thickens I hope it still resembles the legacy I felt ontop of the Black Hill.