Friday, December 17, 2010

A Pastoral Christmas

As young men roaming the weathered landscape of southeastern Utah, Barry, Craig and I were infinitely unaware of the larger world. At the time we were primarily interested in adventures among the rocks and washes within and immediately adjacent to the small community of Bluff. We explored every nook and cranny looking for treasure, scaled sandstone walls, dug fortifications in the soft earth of eternally dry drainages and, when the desert became superheated, splashed in the local swimming hole. At that point in our development, we were as independent and rebellious as the South during the Civil War.

Christmas at the Simpson home during this period was universally simple; a tree, colorful lights, clothing, carols, a few sweets and ongoing necessities. There was not a great deal of money for elaborate parties or gifts, but as many who lived through the Great Depression have said over the intervening years, “We did not know we were poor.” In fact, we universally believed we were kings; kings of the back country and kings of our individual destinies. What was happening in the rest of the world rarely, if ever, entered our consciousness. Cash dollars, since we never had any, were not a concern.

Likely the most memorable Christmas for me was the year I turned six years old. I vividly remember receiving several books from Santa. Although I do not remember their titles, I do recall being thrilled with the gift. Whatever else that had found its way under the tree has long since been forgotten. Why that memory has stuck with me so tenaciously I do not know; books were not luxuries in our house and played a prominent role in our daily lives. For some reason, however, that particularly year remains the highlight of my personal Christmas experience.

At Twin Rocks Trading Post the colorful lights have once again gone up in anticipation of another holiday season. In keeping with our early years, Barry and I have kept the decorations simple; a tree, a few colorful bows, four or five happily wrapped packages and holiday cards received from friends and acquaintances. Although the store is eminently empty as travelers head for more populous areas, there is a feeling of quiet peacefulness and restful satisfaction that permeates its interior.

When I am in the more metropolitan portions of these United States during this season, I am delighted by the abundance of decorations. Surely most people would not consider our barren cottonwood trees, sparse lighting, slow breeze nudging fallen leaves and lonely roads a match for such elaborate adornments. Recently, however, I stood on the porch watching Grange and Buffy meander back to the house above the trading post after feeding Jana’s diminishing equine herd. As they entered the gravel parking lot I was overcome with gratitude and a feeling of complete satisfaction. Even though there was no greenery to compliment all the scarlet, the redheaded boy wearing a crimson University of Utah sweatshirt, gentle red dog with her wispy tail merrily swishing from side to side and rosy red rock cliffs rising steeply from the valley floor all seem to speak of Christmas, goodwill.

While others may yearn for the show of the city, I am compelled to admit that the pastoral life in this tiny settlement on the banks of the San Juan River is fulfilling in many surprisingly unexpected ways. It seems the slowness of Bluff allows us to refocus our attention on the essential elements of life in general and the fundamental values of the season specifically.

As Christmas nears, we send out a simple, heartfelt wish: In the coming year may you find the peace, serenity and contentment we enjoy in our southeastern Utah sanctuary.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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