I've spent the last week in my hometown of Salt Lake -- an annual summer visit to celebrate my Mother's 79th birthday. Although I was born in Denver, CO, I came to Salt Lake when I was but a couple of weeks old and lived here until I moved to Phoenix in 1983 to go to Graduate School. This town is truly my hometown -- it's buildings, streets, mountains and rivers are imprinted on my DNA like a salmon who migrates home to spawn. And though I grew up here and I've now lived away from Salt Lake longer than I lived there, its still "home".The physical structure of the land hasn't changed much -- the valley is still ringed by 11,000 foot peaks, but the space between is now crammed with over one million people. When I was living here it was something in the neighborhood of 550,000. This once sleepy little city in the middle of nowhere at the crossroads of the West -- like all of us -- has grown up. As I ride along the boulevard that runs atop the east bench of the mountains, I look down on a valley that is now filled from the West mountains to the East with people, ringed with freeways and other roads, and at night, lots of lights filling the bowl between the mountains. The open fields and farmlands in the West and South parts of the valley are now filled with subdivisions and strip malls and big-box stores, and the office buildings creep ever higher on the mountains.
But the family is still here -- my Brother Gordon and his wife and kids, my Sister Jill and her husband, and Mom and Ron. So is my best friend Dave, who I've known for nearly 40 years, and his wife and kids who have adopted me and made me part of their family. We are all older -- kids and adults. My little nieces and nephews aren't so "little" anymore. We are older, somewhat slower, and not as active as we once were, but still full of love and laughter. We've all changed and grown up, just like Salt Lake City has. They all still live here -- like those familiar places that mark the "old" Salt Lake City I grew up with -- while me, the rover with wanderlust in his veins, has left for other adventures. But like the prodigal son, I return time and time again to my hometown, that will remain my hometown even if and when everyone in my family has left or passed away.
And I'll continue come back time and time again -- to refresh my soul in the mountains, which, though more crowded these days, still retain their draw. The mountains are eternally unchanged in the scale of human time, and they remain just the same as when I was a kid -- filled with cool mountain streams and fresh pine air and towering granite cliffs. I'll return to Mom's house in the shadow of Mt. Olympus and enjoy her peach and apple pies which are the best ever baked. And I'll return to feel the love I have for this place and my family, and that they have for me. Those things will never change.