April 2, 2013
Easter dawn broke splendidly over here in the Heber Valley foothills. In all likelihood, first light arrived in such incandescent fashion due to it being ushered in by quite possibly the most perfectly absent morning star in the history of the night sky.
Just in case you didn’t get the memo, Venus gave us the slip and ducked behind the sun last week. When it next appears, it will be in the evening sky. There is a trade-off for morning folk, however. Mars isn’t long for the evening. Soon, it too will slip behind the sun and head toward dawn.
It’s not that I follow this sort of astronomical flux on a regular basis. In fact, I just stumbled upon this current planetary switcheroo while on a mission from God to monitor various eclectic Easter rites operating in the heart of the Wasatch. It’s an ongoing annual assignment with no expiration date but it works for me it’s what I signed up for.
Each Easter Sunday morning, if in fact I remember to set the alarm, I roll out of the sack prior to daybreak, swath myself in fleece and footwear, fill my thermos with thick black Joe, and head out into the darkness. No flashlight permitted. Proper night vision is of the essence!
I first trek east, then north, and finally a bit west. Would that the deck provided a proper line of sight, but, alas, that would be too easy. Not that my wanderings about the hills is a penance of any sort. Quite the antithesis, actually. When the weather holds, even if it’s a bit nippy, the joy of spring fills the void.
There’s something about the first Sunday that follows the first full moon that follows the vernal equinox. Especially before sunup. As my friend, mentor, and longtime, yet now retired, night lift operator "Henerishi" has long expounded, "In darkness there is light."
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But back to my trek. Many previous jaunts around the neighborhood have served to identify proper vantage points from where to witness that which my Easter mornings have come to signify. It’s all about having a sightline to the summit of Hidden Peak, which, in daylight, from this angle, is adjacent to the huge massif that makes up the American Fork Twins. Over time, I have learned just where to stand.
My goal is to catch sight of flickering candles lit and held on the summit by those sunrise-service adherents who arrive via Snowbird’s tram each Easter morn. The Runyan clan annually invites me to join them in the cathedral of the great outdoors and participate in their celebration, but, so far, experiencing it from the Heber Valley is the closest I ever get.
It’s easy to keep comfortable on these late-winter early-spring mornings. Seldom do I recall ever adding or removing layers due to a disruption in the tranquility zone either before or after the sun peeks over the eastern horizon. As a way of honing preparation skills, I even dropped the backpack from the tradition a few years back. Who needs training wheels?
Straining to visualize anything in the dark can be problematic, of course. Hallucinations are not strangers to this sort of inquiry. Both light and the absence thereof can play tricks upon the mind. Every year I "see" something. A flickering? Perchance. A reflection of light off the metal superstructure at the top of the tram? Possibly.
I have yet to return to the house disappointed, however. It’s all about the journey, as they say. You can still hear the hares darting through the sage and you know the Runyans are at 11,000 feet with peace in their hearts. That’s good enough for me.
And there’s always the next day. Easter Monday, among many of the Irish persuasion, has also become a holy-day-of-obligation. This year it celebrates the 97th anniversary of the launching of the "Easter Rising" in Dublin and the nationalistic call for Irish resistance to British control.
No doubt I’ll be quoting "Easter 1916" by William Butler Yeats before the week is up. The phrases "changed, changed utterly" and "a terrible beauty" have stuck to my literary ribs for more years than I care to remember. It won’t take long to locate the rest of his classic composition, however. Yeats is never very far out of reach in these parts.
And, of course, this year, Clown Day in Park City was also celebrated on Easter Monday. As was Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, at least for us Dodger clowns. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound and Vin Scully in the booth, what could possibly go wrong?
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.