Teri Orr: A slower kind of fast…
I took a drive over the weekend — all the way to — Midway. The leaves on the trees along the river road were a uniform sort of amber with black branches. The sky was a flat slate blue. The river curled along the edge of town and cut through the century-old farmland.
It was midday in Midway but something made it all feel like a kind of suspended time warp.
The mountains there are admittedly more dramatic. Jagged. Undeveloped — still — for now. There were traces of snow near their tops.
I used to drive over there a lot in another chapter of my life. On a rare occasion I would rent a room at the Homestead and pretend I was very far away. I would write and walk and try to fix parts of me that were broken. It was a pretty indulgent thing to do as a single mom with two kids in college. When I was between — work and relationships — being lost over there was always good medicine.
It wasn’t all built up like it is now — not that property nor that community. I would arrive by the longest possible way I could drive. Up and over Guardsman Pass, Bonanza Flat and down the backside — a rutted dirt road. And I loved it. I was shooting more then. So I would stop and pull out the camera and snap some pictures where backlit fall leaves were becoming art waiting to be recorded.
There was always a walk — where I would find rocks and crunchy leaves and pine cones and I would create little altars everywhere. There was an elegant dining room and I would pretend I was waiting for someone and order a pot of tea and then another and keep writing in my journal. They served it in a fine china teapot with a proper, thin, bone china cup to match.
That amount of space and time would be a therapy of sorts and it would last me for weeks. We had no cellphones then nor internet. The pace of life could be undone pretty simply if you were intentional.
I would bring books and bubble bath and candles and a bottle of wine. No one needed me on those nights. I was free to reimagine my present life and dream of my future one, all the while lighting matches to my past.
There was a sound track to that time. No longer the mixed tapes of ’70s music I had brought with me from my Lake Tahoe days. It was the ’90s now and I needed classical music more often — notes with no words. “Imagining music” I had taught my kids when they were small. I didn’t grow up in a house where classical music was played. My mother had a record player and Sinatra and Tony Bennett were the vinyl records I remember most. I didn’t understand or appreciate classical music in my early 20s but I was determined to learn.
I had help from Safeway.
Every month, stacked on a side table by the checkout lanes were 99 cent vinyl records with unpronounceable names (for me) of classical composers. I would buy a new one each time they switched the display. And at dinner time I would play the music and ask my small children what they “saw.” Mostly they “saw” nature — butterflies and rainstorms and ocean waves. But sometimes — armies and fairy princesses and thundering horses and cowboys. They had to tell me — in the middle of all that listening and imagining — the best and worst parts of their day.
For the past 20 years music has been a critical part of my work life and I am constantly on the lookout for the new band or trio or up-and-coming duo with driving beats or sweet harmonies. When I need downtime on a drive I try not to “work” musically. I find myself more and more returning to classical music — no words — just notes — that have me imagining/remembering people and places that pop up unbidden.
Don’t get me wrong — I love a good story in song. I love a good story in a podcast with no music at all. But sometimes I need to imagine my own stories. Or get transported — without a ticket — to another country and century and life.
I found a bakery in Midway on this last visit. It was new to me. Just off the Main drag. They have a rye sourdough bread that is transcendent. And cinnamon rolls — big as your head — with drippy, thick, white icing. I grabbed an armload of treats to distribute to friends.
When I returned home I discovered, strangely, only a couple of earth hours had passed during my time travel. There was still time enough, on the now, slightly blustery day, to fill all my bird feeders. I have dozens. And having colorful creatures, whose many names I learn and forget, return to my yard is a joy. Filing those feeders serves as a kind of forced mediation — when I am putting thistle here and sunflower seeds there and mixed nuts and berries in still other hanging diners.
On Sunday morning I toasted the sourdough, read the newspapers and played more music without words. I stayed off the phone and mostly stayed away from electronic devices. I needed a news fast. And a people fast. I needed to absorb as much quiet as I could absorb, to recharge, to fill myself up. The planet is so very loud right now and demanding of attention and actions. To be still is a gift I need to remember to give myself — at least on the occasional Saturday and Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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