There is a place along the lonely road of Interstate 15 in the desert heat of southern Utah that I fell in love with as a child. I think I’m just about the only one who loved it. My mother certainly didn’t. My grandparents who owned the place didn’t seem particularly thrilled with the hassel of dealing with renters, mice, maintenance and more. Perhaps it was because I was still young enough to not see the mosquitoes and rodents and dirt that I could love it like no one else.
My grandparents’ home in Leeds, Utah was not fancy. The upstairs was rented. The basement where we stayed had concrete floors and sparse furnishings. One could always count on finding large bugs hiding in uncomfortable places. There was nothing in Leeds. My Grandma would drive us twenty minutes south to get dinner at Shoney’s where I’d always get the soup and salad bar and end up disappointed that it was actually just soup and salad.
Leeds consisted of a few houses surrounded by the raw unadulterated desert earth. Red cliffs thrust themselves out of the ground, orange sand whipped itself into the air, and the wind was known to howl at night.
One time, my two brothers and I were sleeping in lawn chairs in the kitchen, when in the dark of the desert night, the wind began to howl through the rocks and the gnarled pines that surrounded us. It was a beautifully eerie song and it sung to my soul. I breathed it in, giddy and laughing. The next morning as the sun struck the red rock with blinding ferocity, the three of us sat in the same lawn chairs eating fruit loops from paper bowls and avoiding the June bugs.
Maybe it was the future geologist in my that was awakened in Leeds by those stunning red cliffs that years later, I would research for my Master’s thesis. (Foreshadowing does occasionally happen outside the pages of a storybook.) There is something about rock carved by wind and water and not by hands that is both powerful and peaceful. I always feel at home in sandstone.
Or maybe it is because as a child, I lived in a world of freeways and interchanges and buildings and bridges that was so altered from what the earth had once been, you never really had to think about the earth at all. I was a city girl, raised in the southern California labyrinth of humanity. Sure, to the north the rolling San Gabriel Mountains turned shades of blue at sunset, but I remember better the rivers of white and red lights crawling through the night as we crossed interchange after interchange on drives home.
Leeds was a place where the Earth was raw and real and left you breathless and whole all at the same time. Sure, there was a road here, a house there, a mine shaft, a cemetery, but they were hardly noticeable against the grandeur that is our home. Our Earth.
I fell in love with Leeds is because I could feel the Earth there. And they don’t call her our Mother Earth for nothing.