2. A thrift store painting I saw on my last day in the city...I WANT THIS SO BAD.
3. We watched the sun set from the airport. In a few months, the sun will be up super late.
4. Henri on my laptop, reading the news like the old man that he secretly is. I absolutely love his adorable face.
And then eight billion miles later, seeing the Rockies:
And then flying into Salt Lake City five minutes later, coasting down over the Great Salt Lake.
I know it may not seem like much to people. People look at places with greenery and trees and gorgeous glorious architecture and their breath gets taken away. They see photos of my European adventures and get excited for the culture. I talk about the desert and people get uninterested, or they get that look on their face like they want to go take a shower. I get it, maybe that salty lake up there isn't your idea of paradise.
But the truth is, it's mine. I used to be the same way; I'd see pictures of the desert or watch Westerns with my dad when I was a kid, and think "well, damn, that looks depressing and terrible." Only when you're physically in the desert can you appreciate just how much life thrives there. And it doesn't thrive there because it was meant to, but in spite of itself, because life is stubborn and will find a root and dig in anywhere it can, and adapt to the harshest of conditions, including a place where the rain literally has salt in it. I like to think that I'm like the desert, living and thriving in spite of the meager handful of a welcome into the world I was given for my first 18 years.
The desert is also big. It's huge, enormous. It will swallow you up whole. And the feeling of humility you get in the desert is one of my favorite experiences. Even flying for hours over an entire ocean doesn't really give you the same humbling emotions, the same smallness, as you get from standing in the desert.
One other reason why I love the desert....well, Salt Lake City really, is because it signifies freedom for me. I had nothing when I came here. I had no hopes of achieving anything, and was just a clueless 18 year old bony kid who had just left college on a whim. I never thought I would write again. I never thought I would paint again. I was just sick and tired of what life in Tennessee meant for me and I wanted something new. Utah was not part of the grand escape plan, it was just the opportunity that arose and I took it. I never expected to love this place. But Salt Lake City welcomed me with open arms back in 2006 and no matter what I've felt or needed or wanted, there has been someone or something here to support me.
When Brigham Young and his dysentery-ridden Mormon crew stepped into the Wasatch Foothills and the President of the Latter-Day Saints declared "This is the Place" I like to imagine two things: one that he was doubled over with stomach cramps due to some horrible pioneer disease (dysentery is funny) and that he felt some sort of divine peace wash over him because he knew that he was coming to a place where he would be free from persecution. Despite the fact that a Mormon leader and I have very different ideas of what we would do in our free time, the thirst for freedom and betterment of our lives is something we could probably relate to.
The point I'm trying to make is that when I flew into Salt Lake City, unsure and scared, I felt a kind of peacefulness that said, "don't worry now, everything will be alright." That was seven years ago, and I've flown back to Salt Lake more times than I can count, from various places. The feeling always occurs. And now, even coming back from my beloved Sweden, even leaving my awesome host family and my kids and my boyfriend 6 billion miles away on another planet, I still felt like I was heading in a direction that would be good for me. Because I will always have a home in Salt Lake City, and that's one of the things I'm most grateful for in my amazing life.