High Mountain Deserts

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Yeah, I know that. I believe that, and yet some eyes are tainted early on and don’t seem to be able to make the transition to a “new beauty.” Maybe because I had a happy childhood in a world of green trees, green grass and green hills and mountains, I have trouble finding beauty in the browns and grays of the high mountain deserts of Utah.

Of course, I can see the beauty of the unbroken orange and vermilion sunsets and the majestic rock formations, but mostly I think about the Utah terrain as fascinating and interesting but not necessarily “beautiful.” On occasion, I find someone who sees the specific beauties of the desert and  points them out to me. Then I see can them, but only if they are pointed out. Sigh!

One of my poems, dealing with this issue won first place in a Utah contest and was published by the League of Utah Writers in their anthology, Crosswinds. It is titled “Only in the Ditches” and I am including it in the body of this post rather than in the poetry section. Hope you enjoy it.

Only in the Ditches

Come with me to my hometown, he says and grins from ear to ear.                                                        It’s a great place but it is small. He wants to be perfectly clear.

We have dairy farms and beef cattle and we grow alfalfa and hay.                                                       And there is a new business opening just about every other day.

 We’re going to get a manufacturing plant by the end of the year.                                                          And kids who grow up there have lots of fun with nothing to fear.

 They swim in the irrigation ditches in the spring and go sledding in the snow.                                     And the people there, well, they are the best you’ll ever want to know.

 I of the Oregon rains have been invited to this magical place that makes his eyes shine.               I picture quaint cottages nestled under trees and I think that a trip home will be fine.

Then there are miles of sagebrush and greasewood. Browns and grays of every hue.                And I think a beautiful little town must be like an oasis at the end of this view.

The road dips and a dirty river worms its way through the rabbit brush.                                         As we come up out of the dip he says, There it is, in an exultant rush.

After all those miles of sand, wind and brush I feel a sense of relief,                                               but when my eyes follow his finger – my reaction is unbelief.

Shabby houses hunkered down trying to survive. Home, he says with feeling.                                  The homes are weathered and small, trash in some yards and paint peeling.

A few struggling elm trees stand in forlorn begging lines along the street                                     and leaves and paper wrappers skitter and gather wherever corners meet.

Winter has been hard. Life is only now breaking through the frozen earth.                                   But in the summer, he says, there will be water in ditches and new birth.

 Water only in the ditches? Carefully controlled, granting or denying life?                                    Only in the ditches? The edge of the icy wind cuts through me like a knife.

He looks but he doesn’t see. But then maybe he’s seeing and I am not.                                       Don’t you think this is the perfect town? he asks. And I am caught.

I see excitement in those sparkling eyes. He is without guile.                                                         Sure. It’s a great little town, I lie and manage a smile.

This is where I want to live my life, he says. This is where I want to stay.                                             And I of the tall trees look down at the dust and find I have nothing to say.

 

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About Lorraine Jeffery

Lorraine Jeffery earned her bachelor’s degree in English and her MLIS in library science, and managed public libraries in Texas, Ohio and Utah for over twenty years. She has won poetry prizes in state and national contests and has published over thirty poems in various publications, including Clockhouse, Kindred, Calliope, Ibbetson Street,and Rockhurst Review. She has published short stories in War Cry, The Standard and Segullah. Her articles have appeared in Focus on the Family, Mature Years, and Utah’s Senior Review, as well as other publications.. She is the mother of ten children (eight adopted) and currently lives with her husband in Orem, Utah.

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