We drove up yesterday, after church, through Snow Canyon (the colors are never the same twice, and yesterday the lava and the red sandstone cliffs were shining with the intermittent rain) to Central and then on to Pine Valley. This is where my Scots ancestors first immigrated to Utah after accepting Mormonism.
Between Central and Pine Valley, snow suddenly appeared on the road and on either side. A very different climate. A relative who lives in Central (where he herds cattle) told us last year that one of the reasons that our ancestors settled Central was to escape the relatively heavy snow of Pine Valley, which very commonly comes right down to a ridge a few hundred yards from his house and then abruptly stops.
The home where my first Scottish ancestor lived still stands in Pine Valley, and is still occupied, though it has been reconfigured a great deal since it was built. Nearby is the Pine Valley Ward chapel — built in 1868 and the oldest ward chapel still in use within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We attended church here for the first time during our last visit. (They still use a pump organ!)
I love coming to this place, and to Central (where the dilapidated shell of the house in which my grandmother grew up still stands; if I had the money, I would buy the place, though I don’t know exactly what I would do with it), and to St. George (where my mother was born and raised). I’ve always felt a strong sense of piety toward my ancestors — a deeply conservative sentiment that my early reading of Russell Kirk and others reinforced but didn’t create — and a strong sense almost of veneration toward the places associated with them.
Ahlan wa sahlan is a standard Arab greeting, given to someone just arrived. Very few people, I suspect, still think about what it literally means, which is that the person being welcomed has reached kinfolk, a friendly people (ahl) and a level place (sahl) where a tent can easily be pitched and where one can feel at home. Even nomads need a sense of roots and belonging.
Which reminds me, in passing, of an article that I came across today in which a young man, only recently wed, makes, on the whole, a non-religious case for marriage: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/26/man-top-5-reasons-to-grow-up-and-get-married/
I don’t think that we’re likely to hear a talk like this one from the Conference Center pulpit anytime soon, but it is, in its way, another summons to the life of family, a reminder of the central values of covenant, community, commitment, and continuity.
Posted from St. George, Utah.