Saturday, August 30, 2008

When in Salt Lake....get in the salty lake.

Saturday morning dawn over Jeff's fence. We make plans.

We'll head north.

And we'll go visit....

An island in the middle of the Great Salt Sea.

It was a spur of the moment decision. We packed PB&J, some chips, oranges, a change of clothes.

Twenty minutes later on the road I remembered I had forgotten my swim suit.

Who cares? I still have my running bra on under my tee shirt; I'll go for my first swim in the Great Salt Lake in my yoga pants and a running bra.
It will work.
And it did.
A nice lady from Georgia offered to take our picture.
Everyone in the lake seemed united in the joy of experiencing the lake.

And we floated in the water just like they said we would.
19% salinity, baby!
(Some parts of the lake have 25% salinity. I want to try those waters too!)

Bobbing like corks in the deep.

Serious work at all, I can raise my arms and legs and I am still floating.

I can roll over on my stomach and lift my feet, and still hover just inches into the warm salty water surrounded by pastel colors.

Bernie is taking pictures, floating on his back in the water, one arm lifted with the camera.

I notice something: We both can't stop smiling.

We float together, touching feet.

It is SO good to see Bernie happy. It feels so good to feel connected in this new experience.

Tiny flies rest all over the surface of the lake; we later learn that they are called brine flies. They float on the water, alive for just a few days.

When they die, the brine shrimp eat them.
The bottom of the lake has filled with a black substance with the smooth texture of cold cream.
There is no outlet to the lake; centuries of sediment has covered the ground below.
Bernie suggests reaching down and getting a handful and using the mud to smear our bodies.
This is what he has seen European visitors do when visiting the world's other salt lake, the Dead Sea of Israel. They cover themselves in the black mud, then lounge on the shore until the mud has dried, then dip in the water again to wash themselves clean.
He swears it will be good for our skin.
I lift a handful of smells...but moments later the scent is gone.
I smear; dry; rinse.
My skin does feel smoother.
I guess this could be considered my very first mud bath.

We float in water the milky color of the sky above. Where does the water stop and the sky begin?

Clouds wisp in.

Feathers floating above in the sky.

Bernie is smiling like I have not seen him smile in a very long time.

It's good to have him back. His years of job related tension has melted away in the briny lake.

We are constantly feeling a soft tickle, as if champagne bubbles are running up our arms and legs.
It is the tiny brine shrimp, the little fluttering shrimps of the great salt lake ecosystem. They are everywhere in the water. Children around us squeal as they catch them. I find myself trying to catch them too.
Parents coach their reluctant teens to get into the water, noting that to have a similar floating experience would require a trip to Israel. The teens still decline the experience, scowling at their bobbing parents.
Younger children are coached to lay back in the water; they are fearful of drowning, of getting water in their eyes; at last they relent and trust-their high pitched voices gleefully calling out invitations to watch them float.

After the swim we hike back across the dried lake shore; the water level is down sixteen feet. The muted pastel colors match the water and the sky. The lake scent is not totally pleasant; a bit of a pond scent and fish and bird smells mix in the warm breezy air.
As we walk our skin begins to dry and show a dusting of salt; salt as fine as my childhood memory's popcorn salt. It itches slightly, and burns where my skin has been reddened by the sun.

Bernie points out that experiences are not always perfect: the sand is hot on the feet, the scent is not totally unpalatable, but not romantic floral or seashore fresh either.

It too is part of the experience.
The long walk through the soft grey sand is hot upon our feet. Bernie coaches me to walk in his foot prints; his steps compress the sand making it easier for me to climb from the lake bed and up the hillside to the showers.

The showers feel incredibly good.

Around the showers bloomed this flower.

And this flower as well, the brightest color in the area.
The second post I ever did was about Jeff's first camping trip to this Island.
Almost two and a half years ago that was.
A seven mile causeway connects the island to the main land.
As we drive back to the main land, we promise each other that swimming in the Salt Lake will be our Labor Day weekend tradition from now on.
It is fun to begin a new tradition!
Back home, Jeff has grilled up some mighty fine grub.

We dined in the patio, with storm clouds dark over head, and lightening flashing in the distance.
It is windy and warm, and we talk and enjoy being together for hours.
What a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Statues in the Square

(A short note before the pictures: I have been touched by the latest comments! Thank you for sharing that you are enjoying seeing my pictures from my adventures in my new town, and enjoying my writing as well. If I have brightened your day it was well worth the time it took to post because the comments in turned brightened my day tremendously as well!
And dear Marie...just remember to wear a really great hat while you walk with a sandwich board advising people to by my Houston house. I have been smiling like crazy every time I imagine how you would look doing this. Friends like you are the greatest!)

This post is part three of my walk through Temple Square on Thursday morning of this week. The first two parts: flowers and fountains are viewable after this post below.

Anyone out there remember this photo from my Christmas in Salt Lake posts?

The children danced in snowfall then, their rejoicing illuminated by the colorful lights in the trees.

Their joyous dance has continued!

Winter became spring, and spring became summer.

And their joyful laughter is now echoed in the exuberant flowers.

The young girl contemplating the family's baby....a moment captured and frozen both in bronze and snow.

The baby is as happy as ever, still so sweetly pulling himself up on his mother's shoulder.

The mother is listening...seeing something afar...unaware of her daughter behind her.

I just love this statue!

It tugs at my heart, and makes me smile, and get choked up a tiny bit too. The sweet face of the baby, the face of girl who yearns to one day be a mother too, and the mature knowing expression on the captures the significant transitions of a woman's life.

I find this statue less emotionally satisfying. While still artfully done, the woman's expression looks comedic, and the boy looks slightly crushed. While the mother is doing all she can to hold her son and to watch over him as he matures, his face is turned from her, looking afar for someone or something else. Her expression looks out of touch with what is going on in the young man's mind.

The placement of his hands speak a defiance, and he has one hand on his hip in a gesture that says "I would rather not be held."

When I see this sculpture, I feel as though he is looking for his father. The boy looks old enough to be by his father's side in daily life; yet he is still being held onto by his mother instead.

So often in industrious families the mother is charged with "holding the fort" and the dad works long hours away from home to provide the income needed in the home.

Sometimes it is understandable arrangement; often it is the only choice available to young families if they are to financially survive. It is a sad reality for some families, and we ourselves have been there.

But for other families dad's long hours away from home is merely a means of accumulating more status and things. Many working men (and now working women) confess that they felt easier at work than at home. Raising children is a messy business; at least at work life runs in a regular fashion without the trials and tribulations of childish squabbles and wails.

Whether dad is gone from the home from necessity or preference, or if the mother is a single mom, I know that every young boy would rather have time with his dad than anything else, and that is what I see when I look at this statue.

The first time I saw this statue years ago I rather liked it. The husband and wife seemed connected; the postures were drawn to each other as though they were leaning into each other in agreement about something.

I loved the details of her clothing and hairstyle; characteristic of the time circa 1840.

How well dressed he is too. Curiously he is holding her upturned hand and placing a coin into it.

The face is serious, determined, yet calmly kind.
(If you are having flashbacks to the Jane Austen movies, that is because the man's clothing is from the same clothing style era, even though the books were written in the first two decades of the 1800's...the man does look like he should be the lead in Sense and Sensibilities to me!)

A close up of the hands and the coin.

It is a beautiful statue.

It is also an excellent example why the Reformation was necessary.

You see, before the Reformation, Christians were dependent on priests to interpret scripture for them; they could not read it for themselves. Because many people were illiterate anyway, this wasn't an all together bad aspect of the time. To further aid the illiterate and to reinforce key points of church history and faith there were sculptures, tapestries, paintings and stained glass windows created.

Such art was, (and still is) quite beautiful.

The problem is how such art is interpreted.

The sculpture above is better understood once you read it's interpretive plaque: this is a statue of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and his wife Emma.
The concept of Joseph being supportive of the Women's relief society seems quite commendable.
The statue suggests a respectful interplay between Joseph and Emma.
However, at the time that Joseph would have been placing such a coin in Emma's hand, he was the husband of THIRTY THREE wives. (Click here to see official records of Smith's marriages from the LDS website. Click here to read more about this subject.)
Of those women, eleven were between the ages of 14 and 20 when he married them. And no, during the 1840's it wasn't considered the "norm" for old men to marry young teens. At the time, puberty was commonly occuring later in girl's lives; ages fourteen to sixteen was average, and most families that lived in well settled areas would not allow their daughters to wed until they were 17.
Joseph and Emma had been married twenty years when Joseph declared polygamy to be a "godly" life style.
Emma was devastated to find her husband holed up with other much younger women. Joseph was well aware of her anguish, writing letters to the younger wives explaining how he must be careful not to let Emma find him with together in their "secret" marriage trysts.
One of Joseph's wives named Prescendia testified later that she was unsure if one of her children was the child of her relationship with Joseph or with her husband. She was not the only woman to have a child with Joseph while legal wed to another.
The LDS today fervently disavow polygamy; but still state that in heaven there will be polygamy, mindful of the fact that for at least half a century there were polygamous marriages that were proclaimed to be "sealed in heaven for eternity" would be most distressing to the subsequent wives to find themselves merely toyed with by a bigamist once they got to heaven.
The LDS fervently disavow polyandry, yet there are multiple church records showing where a woman was "sealed for eternity" to more than one man, due to Brigham Young's ruling that a woman may divorce a man (even if she was "seal" to him) and then could marry yet another with the same ceremonial sealing.
I think there's gonna be a lot of explaining to do up there in Mormon heaven one day.
Of course Joseph only had 33 wives.
Brigham Young acquired 55 in his life time, including two of Joseph Smith's widows.
A few of his wives divorced him too...
Joseph Smith had many problematic lifestyle issues. That strongly charismatic men should also have some really odd episodes in the lives should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Today Smith's words concerning polygamy are disavowed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly known as Mormon, they prefer being called LDS)
Smith's words are still a snare in our world today: the Fundamentalist LDS of Texas are under investigation for child molestation; Warren Jeffs declares that Smith DID hear from God, and to not be polygamous is to risk damnation.
Tough call...abide by our laws and go to hell. or defy our laws and go to jail.
I'll be writing more about polygamy and our current times later.
But for now, I just wanted to be a true to both my Reformation traditions and Librarian calling, and provide the reading necessary to accurately interpret what is portrayed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fountains in the Square

I walked through Temple Square by myself on a Thursday morning.
It gave me the chance to take about 95 pictures without delaying anyone else's stroll.
I enjoyed being outside in the cool air under the clear blue sky of my new home town!

The Square has wonderful water features and fountains coursing through flowerbeds and spraying high into the sky.

Come take the walk with me, and enjoy seeing the artistic use of water.

The fountain that is at the head of a water course way. The other side of the walkway has an identical fountain.

The water course way. The shadows adds a lace overlay to the ever changing water design.

The twin fountains create the splashy sounds of falling water in stereo...hmmm...I'm beginning to wonder where the bathrooms might be.

More water falling from the edge of a flat water table top.
(Maybe I should ask someone where the bathrooms are around here...)
The flat table top erupts in to a geyser symphony.
(I wonder if this the real reason why the Mormons don't drink coffee...)

(Do you need to go find a bathroom now too?)

(I walk away from the fountain, looking for a woman to ask where the restrooms are. I'll be danged if I'll ask the old guys in navy suits and white shirts that seem to be everywhere on the square. They just don't look like the kind of guys who would even think about women needing to pee...)

I caught a rainbow below this fountain.
(And I found a restroom before I made a rainbow myself...)
Really they should post signs at the entrance warning small children and older women and men with prostate issues to locate the restrooms before proceeding any further into the Square.
Aren't the squiggly flowers and the squiggly water a good pairing?
And how about those mini falls from the square block?
(Aren't you glad you went before you saw this fountain?)

So how big was the big fountain in the middle of the square?
Check it out....see the man standing next to it?
Yeah, that big. Enormous, and the fountain stayed that high the whole time I was there once it went off.

As I leave the Square I looked down at the water spewing from the wall.
The bus stop is just a few feet away.
I wonder how many people have had to take a later bus because they just could wait any long....
(See my earlier post that I blogged this morning on "Flowers in the Square" to enjoy a different facet of my walk.)