I guess “home” can be two places…the place where you “live”, and the place that “lives” within you. Sometimes it’s both -- sometimes it’s not. It’s been said that “home is where the heart is”, and I can say for sure my “heart” isn’t in Utah. But while I’ve not lived in Utah for more than 25 years, it still is however, “home”. My birth certificate says I was born in Denver, but was adopted by my parents and moved here when I was but 10 days old. And so for all intents and purposes Utah is where I was born, and I say I was born and raised here. I left Utah when I graduated from BYU in 1983 and haven’t lived here since. I come back often though, although lately it’s only been once a year – at the Holiday season.
Driving across the Utah State Line always makes me feel like I’m back home – its generally a sign by the side of some road in the vast emptiness that is the American Intermountain West that says “Welcome to Utah”, and a bump where the pavement changes. I can still be hundreds of miles from Salt Lake City -- the “Crossroads of the West”, but its the state line that says I’m “home”. Just like landing at Salt Lake International to change flights reminds me I’m home – looking out the windows at the mountains and the city in the distance. I’m home, if just for a moment.
And while I love Seattle -- my home now, it drives me nuts sometimes. I can’t right now imagine living anywhere else. It’s a stunningly beautiful and vibrant place to live, with insane politics and attitudes towards some things. Just like every other place is I suppose, although perhaps in a different way. Salt Lake drives me just as nuts too.
But the Mountain West is still “home”. Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada. The vast empty land, the abandoned homesteads, the sagebrush, the mountains, the roads and trails I explored as a kid, the way the air smells and how Mt. Olympus looks from the valley, or my Mother’s chocolate chip cookies -- all the things that imprint on one’s DNA that makes someplace feel “home”.
People come and go, places change, we grow up, we move on, we look back. It’s a circle of life. Clifton, Idaho is still “home” to my Mother in many ways – she’s still in “Idahoan” she says as she spreads butter on a baked potato the size of a Volkswagen. Salt Lake City, and the state of Utah – if not the region are “home” to me. I may not live here, I may not want to live here again – but like a salmon swimming home to spawn, I come back to Salt Lake. I don’t need a map. I know the way.