Driving along the road this morning toward Manti and my day's labor, I was joined by John Denver.
There are many who think that J.D. was a sap, writing sentimental lyrics and maudlin music. I am not one of those people. I miss the man greatly, I miss his influence in the world and his mixture of idealism and feeble humanity.
I know that he was just a man, but his talent was to speak the hearts of those who hope for something better from ourselves. He was very human and full of foibles and weakness, including an apparent lack of foresight in not checking the fuel level in his airplane, but he had an ability to sing about things that matter; love, wilderness, relationships, yearning and hope.
The sun came up brightly this morning, illuminating the cold mountains in gold. As the music played, I glanced at my little thermometer with a trailing outside probe; it read 18.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The solution of alcohol and other distillates did very little to melt the frost from the windshield, but I had the hope of gasoline fire derived heat in the next few minutes.
As my mind played on the mountains and hills to each side of our valley, I couldn't help but notice the people whizzing past me in their shiny new cars, many with pristine and untried fourwheelers and other toys strapped to trailers or beds. They wore expressions fairly identical to those without accoutrements of recreation, hurriedly passing me as I struggled to keep advancing southward toward my job. There were also farmers and their helpers in their fields on either side of the road, continuing their preparation for the next season, thinking their thoughts and getting things done.
As John Denver sang Sweet Surrender, I drove through Ephraim. Cars were more numerous and darting, though the people outside of those cars seemed less numerous than in the fields. A frantic sense of purpose runs deep in the human race, whether real or imagined, wholesome or entirely frivolous, and the cars with blank faces attest to that. These days, most of our purpose leans toward money and its acquisition.
In Ephraim, that is obvious. I am involved in education and have many friends who teach at Snow College in Ephraim. In our collective experience, most of those who go to school these days pay exorbitant amounts of the stuff into the coffers at the promise that even more exhorbitant amounts of money will be their eventual award at the end of their "education." Few hope or work for anything else but money, any more. Well, other than the hope of some sort of fame, which is even more fleeting.
The road between Ephraim and Manti was long, if only because my foot lacked initiative to push my little Toyota past 45 mph. The light streamed into the valley through canyons in great amber gushes as steam rose from ditches and streams wending their way toward the Sanpitch River to the west. The Mighty Tushars rose from their base next to the Sevier to the south and I fought temptation as mighty as those moutains to drive past the right-hand turn that would take me to the girl's residential treatment center where I endeavor to teach English and Arts and Humanities among other struggles.
My foot found its way to the brake as my hands worked other contraptions that guided me toward work nevertheless. At work, I cannot see the light shining on the valleys or the mountains anymore, only that which seeps through the shades on the windows that look out to the city's dump to the north.
With or without all of his flaws, John Denver is not appreciated here and nor are most of my odd ideas of beauty, love or hope. I keep on trying in my own imperfect way, though.