Dear Utah: A love story

Indian Creek, Utah

Originally published 4/18/2010

April 10

Dear Utah,

I can already tell that our week-long tryst will seem much too short, curtailed by the irritating realities of time and money. For now, though, I feel as if I’ve slipped into a breathtaking dream, where liquid bronze rivers meet emblazoned red rocks, and the scent of sage hangs in the air like velvet.

Juniper berries are scattered across the earth like a broken pearl necklace. It seems almost obvious that the women of ancient tribes would use these juniper beads, hardened by the sun, to craft jewelry. 

I trace my fingers over a petroglyph resembling a person performing a handstand. I’m glad to see the ancient peoples of this area had some fun. It’s amusing that anthropologists think ancient people devoted their time almost exclusively to hunting and gathering, without squeezing in some time for yoga.


April 12

Dear Utah,

An alarming thing happened to me on the way to the copy center today. Whilst walking down the main street in Moab, a car full of shirtless young men (or shall I call them boys?) hollered and laughed at me while driving past. I didn’t hear what they said, and naturally, felt a bit self-conscious following the incident. I looked down at my attire. Was my skirt tucked into my underwear? Did I have bird poop smeared down my hair? Was I trailing a streamer of toilet paper behind me? No, all clear.

I continued walking. Down the street, their car turned around. As they approached me, they started shouting something unintelligible again. But this time, announced with unmistakable enunciation, was the distinct expletive: “SLUT!”

With nothing but my shoulders and toes bare, I wondered what they could mean. I thought I looked tasteful and bookish when I dressed this morning. Shall I even go so far as to say stylish? (eh, probably not) Even so, would the person who shouted that have had the same level of gall if he weren’t armored by his car and his comrades? What could I have done in response besides ignoring them? Given them the finger? Fired some ball-shrinking hex at their nether regions? Intellectually disarmed them with a witty-sounding Shakespearean insult?

“Chauvinistic pigs,” was all I muttered under my breath as they careened around the corner and out of sight. 

I decided I would start Terry Tempest Williams’ Finding Beauty in a Broken World at the soonest possible moment.


April 13

Dear Utah,

About 200 pages after diving into Williams’ work, she presents this question:

“What moments in our personal histories determine contempt or communion; cruelty or care?”

What moments in my personal history are different from those of the boys who defiled my dignity as a person and as a woman yesterday?

Today I realized why such a small incident has me so unhinged. I’m angry not because it happened, but because it has happened more than once, many times–too many times to me, and too many times to too many women.

My anger is not just mine. It belongs to every single woman who has felt victimized. Sadly, I believe I can say it belongs to every single woman.


April 14

Dear Utah,

I have been practicing the art of thinking.

That sounds silly. You wonder, how did I survive college?

Allow me to re-state: I have been practicing the art of passively thinking– letting thoughts come as they come and go as they go. Yes, and now I just sound like a meditative hermit who has been too long isolated from human contact.

What I mean is, rather than thinking those thoughts that bounce around everyone’s’ brains every spare moment we have– like “When is that deadline I was supposed to meet?”…”What do I need to accomplish tomorrow?”… “What do I need to buy at the grocery store?”… “I need to remember to call so-and-so tomorrow”…– I have been practicing letting my mind wander away from all that. It’s more difficult than I remember it being when I was a child.

“Much of our world now is a fabrication, a fiction, a manufactured and manipulated time-lapsed piece of filmmaking where a rose no longer unfolds but bursts. Speed is the buzz, the blur, the drug. Life out of focus becomes our way of seeing. We no longer expect clarity. The lenses of perception and perspective have been replaced by speed, motion. We don’t know how to stop. The information we value is retrieved, rarely internalized.”

-Terry Tempest Williams

Utah, your wild silence and stillness have allowed me to think clearly for the first time in a long time.


April 15

Dear Utah,

Today was a day for exploring. I covered as much ground as possible, hiking through your canyons, wandering along your mesas and dry riverbeds. In my week here, you have given me the emotional bedrock to confront my drive and my passion for the environment again. Your land is truly sacred. Lucky for you, you have allowed many skilled writers to grace your wild lands. Without them, would you still be here? Without you, what would they have written about?

The world is just so damn interconnected, isn’t it? It’s both a beautiful and frightening thing.

Goodbye, Utah.

‘Til we meet again,



About devon

Devon Fredericksen is a freelance writer who specializes in environmental issues, social justice, and book reviews. Her work has been published in Indian Country Today Media Network, The Sheet, Eastside Magazine, The Planet, The Western Front, and Huxley College's book, Green Fire, a collection of environmental profiles. She holds B.A. degrees in environmental journalism and Spanish from Western Washington University. She currently lives in Bishop, CA.
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One Response to Dear Utah: A love story

  1. Rosa Tran says:

    Beautifully written. I pour over this post again and again to refresh my spirit when I’m pouring my brains into mindless banter with visitors. I was in Moab around the same time this year, and your imagery brings it back vividly. Thanks for giving me this small respite from a long day at work.

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