Two Roads and a Rocking Chair

There has been far more change going around the Heber Valley than the weather over the past few months. The Heber Valley has an identity of being a quiet, pastoral community. While our natural resources are undeniably our most glaringly apparent assets, the citizens define the true essence of this community. Frequently in the advertising world, we talk about ‘market differentiators.’ The root of a successful launch or campaign will characteristically involve identifying what makes your product different from the rest of the competition and promoting that virtue.

Have any of you ever considered why the Heber Valley is such a special place on a level that is a higher elevation from the talking points of ‘distance to a chairlift,’ ‘proximity to a major metropolitan market,’ or ‘the majestic views?’ If you have: you are searching for the ‘soul’ of the Heber Valley. Many places in the American West offer recreational opportunities and great views. Nearly every community in the West has a history of mining or cattlemen. Most of the West, Utah in particular, can claim a heritage of the sacrifice and bravery of early settlers. None of these are unique variables defining a modern small town in the Western United States.

I took the opportunity in my youth to travel and fly fish. I have driven across and overnighted in 42 of the 50 states; and brought a fly-caught gamefish to hand in the majority therein. My travels became more enlightening as I fixated less on the monuments, trophies, or destinations within the locale, and more on the citizens of the place I was trying to fish. There were times when I would pick the seediest dive I could find in Rural America, plop myself down on a stool and try to break the social barriers that the locals would put up to defend their way of life from outsiders (Clyde’s Billiards, the OE and Timp Tavern were not exempt from this excercise). As it turns out, many people like to catch fish, and I could always find a talker in the group regarding fishing stratagem. These experiences taught me quite a bit about respect, judgment, and earning diverse friendships. After all those travels, I landed and set root in the Heber Valley. While the Middle Provo River can produce some great trout, there is far more behind this outcome than the fishing.

The Heber Valley is remarkable because our residents still possess a GENUINE quality. Our citizenry’s down-to-earth attributes have survived the plasticine projections of consumerism, commodification, entitlement, and the corporate value structure that has assembly-line-packaged and shrink-wrapped this Nation over the past 40 years — making the Heber Valley a non-fictional, modern-day Shangri-La. We are an honest and hard-working population that has historically earned our daily bread by the sweat of our brows. The people that we see at work are the people we see at our grocery stores, softball games, and civic events. We keep our heads up in our struggles, look each other in the eye, and offer a helping hand when we see others in need. While we may not get along all the time, we each understand that we live in the same small pond and have a unifying love of where we live. I have been amazed for nearly 20 years by the caliber of individuals I have discovered within the confines of this Mountain Valley. Many long-standing residents have chosen this life while professionally qualified to engage the rat race head-on in larger markets. If you think that the Heber Valley is nothing more than a misfit bunch of Utah hillbillies — you have sorely misread the reality of where you stand.

The change that immediately concerns me in the Heber Valley is not what you might suspect. I am not afraid of growth or new people moving to the HV. I welcome those who wish to become invested citizens in our community. I believe this is a natural and necessary process that is healthy. A few antonyms of growth would be stagnation and decay. Life marches forward. Given a complete understanding of the implications: I think we would all prefer increase over decline. However, change without an intentional direction tends to invite chaos. The identity of the Heber Valley, unless referencing weather patterns, has nothing to do with chaotic living.

Most of my work commute is the distance between Heber City’s Mill Road and Center to Main and Center. After 20 years of running this ‘commute,’ I encountered a first that I need to share — as an example of new attitudes in conflict with what has made the Heber Valley the desirable location it is today. There was an instance where the 25 MPH speed limit in the residential zone of Center Street was agitating the driver behind me. They elected to pass by in the center turn lane and issued a tall-fingered salute they drove past. Without any change in my speed or intensity, we caught up with each other at the stop light at Center and Main, where I politely smiled and waved back. My gesture of friendliness incensed the driver further — they peeled out and went North to whatever invented crisis their end destination entailed. Entitled aggression is not our identity in the Heber Valley. If you moved here to get away from that sort of thing, leave it where it belongs — in the past. Adopt the culture that long-standing residents have embraced for generations and perpetuate the vibe you moved here to enjoy.

The pace of the world has been gaining intensity over the past several years. Professional and social stresses have followed the rising intensity levels. With the cooling temperatures of Autumn, I extend an invitation to cool our emotional states correspondingly. The rapid-fire assault of information, misinformation, and unveiled self-serving agendas at high levels has created systemic anger, breach of trust, indifference, and shortened attention spans at a National level. To make the case even more tenuous, it appears that there is another storm brewing on the horizon. Assume that we are humble and in tune enough to validate that this trend is accurate and that it may be affecting our general emotional condition. How do we course correct our emotional pathways?

We all have choices. There will come a moment when we each have to decide to take the Blue Pill or the Red. I find myself reflecting on the oft-quoted passages of naturalist and celebrated American poet Robert Lee Frost found in the poem “The Road Not Taken.”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Outside of the autumnal reference and natural allegory, I love this journey of thought because of the conceptual exploration that we all are accountable for our decision-making. None of us is unwillingly coerced towards a fate beyond our choosing. There will always be a choice and a corresponding consequence. Before you can change a core behavioral pattern, you have to validate that there is a problem and that you have the power to change.

Suppose you choose the Red Pill and want to explore the relationship between manipulated emotion and rational thought. In that case, I have three waypoints for your consideration that you may find helpful on your journey.

  1. The inventory of time is a construct of humankind. This construct is the heartbeat and lifeblood of the industrial complex of which you are a cog in the machine. If you want to forsake the machine creating your perceived stress, unplug it. Reconnect with the planet and the natural pace of celestial motion, tides, seasons, and storms. Abandon your devices; sever the digital umbilical cord to the machine; and explore the Heber Valley this fall. Take your shoes off and feel the Earth. Schedule an afternoon to sit under an aged tree (without a book or any other distraction). Watch the shadows, track the clouds, feel the breeze and listen to the leaves as it passes through them. Catalog the sounds of the creatures of the Earth and learn their meanings. When the sun sets, make it a priority to lie down flat on your back and stargaze. Educate yourself about our neighboring planets and constellations to appreciate our dark skies, and ponder size, scope, and futility. The pace you will find in exercises such as this is the rhythm of creation — of which you are a part. It will ground you to what is truly important, and you will find more patience and compassion for others through that change.
  1. An old-timey quote by the Internationally recognized New Zealander Cricket batsman, Glenn Turner, has been heavy on my mind as of late. He stated, “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” Don’t waste your precious time on this Earth fussing over variables outside your control. It is insane or illogical at best to give that thing, individual, or circumstance power over your overall emotional well-being if you cannot do anything about it.
  1.  The external circumstances around you are not causing your anxiety or frustration. Emotion generates within the self. None other than yourself is responsible for inventorying your feelings, and you can choose how you react to any situation. Let’s momentarily revisit my Center Street reckless driving encounter. I had a choice to allow the actions of the offending driver to wreck my emotional state that day. The best revenge in many cases is not to allow the offender to affect your mood and correspondingly become like them. Letting the event pass without escalating your emotional state is the road “less traveled by.” It is the high road and the path of leadership. Nobody can make you feel upset, angry, or inferior when you understand the simple truth that you have a choice. We must willfully comply with an external event for it to modify our internal condition. Dare to be non-compliant with the external stresses of your life.

I share these thoughts out of love for my fellow citizens and the Heber Valley. If you managed to read this far, you have a choice to make. Marcus Aurelius declared, “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” Please accept my thoughts in the spirit that they are delivered — as it is not my intent to preach, but to provide a helping hand and a positive path to pursue. We can individually protect ourselves, our hometown, and our civic identity by embracing attitudes of tolerance, positivity, and respect. In a world where outside messengers persuade us to believe we have no choice or influence, these are actions we can take as a collective to create the future we all want to see in the Heber Valley.

Thank you for supporting our positively focused, solution-based media voice in the Heber Valley. I hope you enjoy our 21st edition of Heber Valley Life.