As we prepare to move to Maryland, we’ve been trying to spend as much time with family and friends as possible. So a few weeks ago we went camping in Goblin Valley down in central Utah with my brothers, sister and their familes. Those who saw the film Galaxy Quest will remember Goblin Valley’s sandstone boulders and oddly shaped spires from the “berillum sphere” planet. The good news is that the only green monsters we encountered were the cousins we took with us… who also tried to hit us with rocks. Ah, life imitating art.
As a kid, we went camping in southern Utah about twice or even three times a year. It was my father’s favorite place to camp, and though now I appreciate some of the phenomenal beauty of the place, I grew to really hate the area. In fact, when I organized this trip, my mom commented to my sister, “Porter wants to go to Goblin Valley? But he hates Goblin Valley.” And she was right to say so. I did hate the area (know as the San Raphael Swell). Imagine if every time your parents took you to see a movie, they always took you to see the exact same one. Even if it was the best movie ever made, you would quickly resent the fact that you never got to see anything else. What’s more, it would become clear that the only reason you were seeing a movie in the first place was because your parents wanted to see this particular movie–your enjoyment was an afterthought. So go to the desert I did, again and again and again, bounding along in my father’s suburban, trying to lose myself in a book and ignore the dust and heat.
But the truth is that when I think of growing up, I think of the Utah desert; I think about Goblin Valley, or hiking down the Escalante river. I don’t particularly care for that fact, but it is what it is. Those areas served as a backdrop to my childhood. And the only poems of mine that I think are worth a damn are attempts to capture some of my memories of that place.
As I prepared to move across the country, to a place as defined by its greenery and lushness as Utah is by its chalky red-rocks and desiccation, I knew that I had to take Byron to visit Goblin Valley. Later on, when he asks about how I grew up and what I did as a kid, I want to be able to do more than give him some amateur poetry. I want him to have been to those places and experience some of the same things I did. So, some 20 years since my last trip down there, into the car we went and off to Goblin Valley. And you know what? If you visit once every twenty years, it’s a pretty cool place.
Well, gotta go. I’m making Byron watch Star Wars, episode IV with me. I swear, he just needs to see it a few more times before he understands just how good a movie it is!