I just had the most beautiful Utah getaway, in which I fell in love with mules,
mistook a claret cup cactus for a red T-shirt thrown over a shrub in the desert,
watched my mother out-putt her children (she is 93),
vibrated with the beauty of the entire state,
revisited Fish Lake—after 40 years—to be welcomed by a flock of sixty+ white pelicans,
What was my father telling me?
Let’s go back to that Utah thang . . . if I love Utah in my bones, enough to render her history as faithfully (or rather unfaithfully, as in non-devoutly) as I can, in a novel which honors the whole story of the people of Utah, that is Mugwumpishness. That's Tributary. When—on a high school field trip—I stood at the real This Is The Place spot, looking down on the smoggy Salt Lake Valley from where my ancestors first saw it and felt only agony, bone-piercing agony for those who died en route and those who died a little more after arriving, I was shocked and amazed; and that, too, is Mugwumpish. To see the whole story, embrace the whole state, exalt all of existence, not just the parts that will fit inside the ruling party’s word box—love the Shoshone, love the desert, love the dust in “Smoky Valley,” love the pioneers for lashing themselves to that polygamy wheel and persevering, love the wilds of Fish Lake and the snaky oxbows of the Sevier River, love the potash ponds in Canyonlands and the hidden cowboy hole-in-the-wall camp, tended lovingly for fifteen years by strangers who bring firewood and window screens and Boston baked beans and old novels for others to enjoy. I will not tell you where it is. I will tell you that I read the entries in the hideaway’s notebook there, starting in 1999, and I left loving humanity.