With Regrets to Yeats, Cecil B. DeMille, and to a Lesser Degree, Charlton Heston
I live at the southern tail end of the Wasatch Front. Have planted myself here all my life. Was born here, actually, so it’s more fitting that I have grown here. From pretty deep roots. It is a pleasant place. Rural. Mostly. Good quality of life kind of place with Mormons waiting on the Millennium. I can’t say I really paid all that much attention to the air quality here all of my life. At the tail end of the Wasatch Front. Here at the end where it usually takes a little longer for the air quality to drift south and present itself clearly.
By that I mean hazy.
By that I mean I’ve been telecommuting my job for about four years now, and before that I used to drive north into the thick of it every day, spring summer fall. Winter.
There is that idea that a frog content in a pot of water with the heat on under it doesn’t know it’s going to get boiled. Commuting, at least for me, allowed me to consciously dip in and out of that pot mostly. But now, I sit here in my den that faces south, faces away from the central heat under the pot of the Salt Lake Valley and of its southern sister. Utah Valley. I sit here. In the place I was raised. In the place I live and raised five children who live in and on the edges of the pot. I sit here.
Cecil B. DeMille. Wikipedia attributes a quote to him. “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.” Commandments?
The law of the Wasatch Front is dirty air all winter long.
Google search: law definition, 2. “a statement of fact, deduced from observation, to the effect that a particular natural or scientific phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present.”
And so are the rest of us here in the winter along the Wasatch Front with all our families. With all our love. With all our . . . needs.
And our particulates. And our ozone. And our drive-up lines for our spiked sodas in our Escalades.
I sit here facing clear south mostly, but when I get up and walk up the little hill to the north of my house to scatter some feed to my chickens outside their coop and collect some eggs, I can see what’s coming over the rise.
I wanted to equate what’s coming, what’s always coming, to DeMille’s Ten Commandments. You all see. And you know. The Angel of Death gliding through the air over Charlton Heston in Egypt, some dirty cloud with fingers reaching for first born, for lungs unequal to the challenge if lamb’s blood is not spattered over doors.
No lambs on my property. Only chickens. And so maybe some Spiritus Mundi shall prevail in this musing and allow a chicken to stand in as falcon? Me? A deaf chickener who sees a shape that slowly builds north over the coop, dirty with slow thighs moving, as again darkness falls in December.
Well, then, with apologies to Yeats I’ll just get on with this century-old overbearing metaphor.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
We all know what it is, this beast and where it comes from. We’re all just too afraid to look it in the eye. Because it is us.
And we’re already born.
Larry Menlove lives in Spring Lake and is published widely in such venues as Weber, Drunken Boat, Sunstone, Corrium, Dialogue, and saltfront. He won first place in essay in the 2016 Utah Original Writing Competition. He has completed his first novel, set in Rush Valley, Utah, which features love and violence, beauty, betrayal, murder, and an armadillo.