Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pioneer Day

July 24th passes like any other summer day in most of the United States. However, in Utah, it is a state holiday celebrating when Brigham Young and the first pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley on July 24th 1847. Yesterday while driving home from work I saw people setting up tents and pavilions along the street, getting ready to camp out in order to have front row seats for the parade today. I walked over to see what sort of parade the city of Salt Lake puts on. People lined the street. Individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit pushed carts full of balloons, hats, and umbrellas. Others pulled red flyer wagons packed with coolers advertising water and Gatorade for a dollar. The Salt Lake City police department entertained the crowds zooming by on their motorcycles and high fiving the front row. The Utah Military reserves marched pass followed by vehicles carrying soldiers and children with Make a Wish Foundation.
All good parades have floats and this one was no exception. In front of the floats that won awards, marched men and women dressed in pioneer outfits holding the sign proclaiming the honor accorded. A large float featured a blimp with a Mormon hand cart suspended underneath. Inside the carts several people waved to the crowd in period costumes and several people peeped out on top of the blimp. The blimp declared Flying to Zion. Behind the float people pulled several hand carts loaded with goods, carrying a sign proclaiming, Walking to Zion. Another float celebrated bringing the LDS faith to the Hawaiian Islands. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University also presented a float in the parade. Several marching bands represented the local high schools. Davis High school from Kaysville proudly marched wearing t-shirts proclaiming their upcoming appearance at the 2013 Rose Parade. In between the floats and bands, clowns on double decker bicycles and  a man on a unicycle with a parrot on his shoulder awed the crowd.
Pairs of LDS missionaries wandered along the sidewalk talking to anyone interested in asking question. A woman handed out coupons for her beauty salon and an on duty police officer stood at the intersection telling people to keep the street open in case the fire truck needed to come through. Five minutes later the officer would have to clear the street again as new people crowded up, seeing a prime location for watching the parade. Women pushing strollers  and a man with his head shaved except for two rows of gelled spiky hair walked towards the park where the parade ended.
The rest of the day will be commemorated with barbeque's, snow cones, rodeos, and fireworks at the end of the day. July 24th is celebrated as big or bigger than the 4th of July. It still seems strange to me even after living in Utah for six years that the 24th is such a big holiday. On the other hand, the 4th of July celebrates our countries independence. For the LDS the 24th represents their own independence. After being persecuted and kicked out of New York and later Indiana, the Salt Lake Valley represented for them a chance to build their own community and live their faith free from the strictures imposed in other locations. That is one of the reasons our forefathers left England, to practice their faith in the way they felt was right. Maybe it isn't so strange after all. People in Utah get to celebrate independence twice in a couple of weeks, it makes for a festive month of July.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

20 Minutes to Pack

There are currently 8 uncontrolled wildfires in Utah. Utah Fire Info provides information on the active fires, how to protect your home if it is in danger from the fire, resources, and fire safety. Many people have had to evacuate their homes, often with short periods of time to gather their belongings. One of my classmates had to leave class early to check on her home. I heard on the radio that some victims of the fire were forced to gather their beloved possessions and evacuate in 20 minutes.
I stated thinking about what I would take with me if I were given 20 minutes to evacuate. My heart and my brain had very different ideas of what is important to me. My heart began weighing the value of my possessions depending on their sentimental value. Memorabilia such as pictures, old journals, the quilts my aunt and my mom made me, the afghan that my grandmother crocheted make the top of the list. I enjoy traveling and I would want to save the souvenirs I brought home with me. From Swaziland I have a piece of material with the Swazi flag, and a soap stone candle stick. From South Africa I have four picture created from banana leaf: an elephant, a lion, and a village. I brought back two small framed feathers from Costa Rica. Each one has a tiny painting, one of a toucan and the other of a monkey. From my trip to Vietnam I would pack the silk blouses I had made for me and my collection of recipes that I received from taking a cooking class. I did a study abroad in Fiji. I would take my sulus, long colorful wrap-around skirts. From Mexico I would pack my calendar and pictures painted on bark. My heart also wants to take items that my family has given me. I have paintings that my mom and my sister painted for me. My dad made me some earrings with my birthstone and some books that my other sister gave me. I would have to pack my books. The list can go on and on when dealing with the heart.
My head is much more practical. First I think about survival. I would pack my hiking backpack with a sleeping bag, a tarp, several knives, lots of rope of varying widths, my fire kit, a lighter, my head lamp. I would pack functional clothes for whatever circumstance I might come across. I would pack bottles of water and non perishable food. Second, my head insists on packing items that would be expensive to replace and that I would have difficulty living without. Items in this category include my computer, camera, and digital recorder. I might need some dress clothes and make up. Toiletries and eating utensils could be useful.
It is possible that I might be able to gather all of the above in 20 minutes plus whatever else might occur to me. If I had to choose from the above lists I would start with what my head says I should take. However, I think that being placed in such a situation I would sweep everything off of my dresser and into a box. I would quickly fill boxes and bags with everything I can grab. I think I could fill my car with most of my possessions in twenty minutes. I feel fortunate that I have minimal material possessions.
It is an interesting exercise to think about what is important to me. I also like the challenge of thinking how I would react in an emergency situation. If you had twenty minutes to pack what would you take?