For all the years I have lived in Park City, I have been making pilgrimages to the county which is the country. There are roads I have traveled there in all seasons for decades now. And spots along the river, where the water has jumped the banks and years when just a trickle passed by. I have always been blessed to know folks who lived "out there." And just like Old Town in Park City, there is a piece of me that lives in places I have never lived in.
There are quieter times where the cottonwood trees cling to the river banks. And horses roam over hills outside the confines of pristine equestrian centers built for show. Eagles build nests there, heron have been spotted and sandhill cranes find hills and marshes to nest quietly.
This is the shifting season, when the bounty of summer and her long days and long nights starts to truncate and freeze. So one night you go to bed with green plants in the garden and in the morning there has been a metamorphosis. Wilted, stringy, flaccid stems hang where vibrant stalks stood just hours before. Yes, this was the week when the frost was on the pumpkin if you were lucky enough to have had the pumpkins already grown. And the tomatoes vines shriveled and any little flowers still left in the flower beds wilted blackened and fell over.
Out in the county this happened, too. But there, you notice it differently. The blend of tiny vegetable gardens in town with manicured lawns and potted plants, is alarming when the frost appears.
I had dinner this week at a home I have been in so many times over the years and even in the years before the house was built on the land along the river. The hollyhocks planted with such care years ago have jumped fence lines and more formal garden spots and are everywhere in the bountiful yard. The screen porch, where so many meals have included so many people, was too chilly to dine in this night. But I got there early enough to walk down to the river before the sun set.
I sat on a tree stump. And I tried to remember how the river flowed before the flooding, years ago, when it had to be fortified and bigger boulders were added. I tried to remember my friend's laugh the last time I had spent the night here and we stayed up late, like silly girls, and giggled about our lives and held steaming mugs of tea in the kitchen and dreamed a little. That last time was five years ago, just weeks before she died, tragically, unexpectedly.
On this night, I had been invited out by the lovely woman her husband married two years ago. They have created a vibrant home again with adult children coming and going and, best of all, a granddaughter with her grandmother's eyes, giggling in that same warm kitchen. It took no time at all for the blended family to jump into discussions from what to feed young children to a sexuality spectrum and where we all might fit in. I learned who was going to college and who was working in the private sector and, interestingly, how several members were involved in various aspects of healing. In fact, in a fashion, all the blended adult children are in a form of healing. That would have pleased my friend, who looked to non-traditional healing arts all her creative life. And the healthy meal cooked in the well-designed kitchen with a vibrant family, would have pleased her even more.
I left with a bag of their harvest that had survived the frost. Carrots and beets and giant crooked-neck squash. And something else. I had asked for permission to pinch some hollyhock seeds from those just turning in the garden. On my way to the river earlier I had passed too close by some stalks and they grabbed out and attached to my sweater. I didn't pull them off too quickly. They were reminders of the joy my friend shared, when those flowers first bloomed alongside the weathered wood that made up her first building on the river.
There were hugs when I left, including one, unbidden, from the big-eyed, beautiful child. Her momma's round belly announced a sibling... soon. In my car I made mental notes to look up the app "Digg" and find that new Tim Ferriss book and reach out to the adult son who couldn't make the dinner this night. The harvest moon was full and the sky was clear and I drove home, through the canyon with an eye out for deer. I didn't even notice I was crying until I got into my kitchen with the bounty. My friend had nurtured her garden, and her family. She would want happiness and good harvests to have continued and it was a joy to see they had.
I will take my hollyhock seeds and plant them with intent in strategic places in my yard. Except for a few... Those seeds I will give to the Grands when they come up to spend next weekend and we will toss them with abandon. Where you live and how you live should be a reflection of why you live. And so, a part of me lives in the county along the river and a part of me lives in my own backyard, each Sunday in the Park...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.