On the EDge: Reconnecting from out on the edge

“There’s this place in the middle of Snow Canyon State Park where a gentle red rock formation rises above a little valley where there’s a beautiful little tree with gnarly intertwined roots,” – Ed Kociela, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Oct. 4, 2012 | Photo by Ed Kociela, St. George News

OPINION – I stepped out on the edge the other day.

It had been awhile, but it was something I wanted, no, needed, to do.

After 18 months in Mexico, I returned to a country that is difficult to recognize.

I’m not sure if it’s a reflection of the economy, this vicious presidential election, or a deterioration of the American soul, but this place has changed. It seems as if everybody has turned on each other like rats in a cage and there is a heavy cloud overhead.

So, I stepped out on the edge, literally.

There’s this place in the middle of Snow Canyon State Park where a gentle red rock formation rises above a little valley and there stands a beautiful little tree with gnarly intertwined roots. I was first taken there four years ago.

It had been a particularly horrid day.

I had to make a trip to Mesquite that day and on the way down, encountered an automobile crash on Utah Hill where a small car had rolled into a ditch. On the way back, I came across a grisly motorcycle accident in The Gorge – a stretch of the Arizona Strip which links Utah to Nevada. After hitting town, I passed a wreck where a couple of kids had rolled a truck along the parkway.

My wife, Cara, and I were going to a friend’s house that night. I called her and asked if I could pick her up early, then explained my day. She said to come by any time.

As we got into the car, I wasn’t quite sure where we would go, what we would do, but I knew I could use a little comfort. Then, she began pointing directions.

We ended up in the park and stopped near one of the red rock slopes.

She led me up the gentle climb to the very top, where we watched the sun disappear behind the rocks to the west. It was quiet, beautiful. The view, the conversation, the company cleansed my mind, my soul. After we hiked down, we came across a beautiful tree with gnarled roots, tightly intertwined. It was a nice metaphor for what was happening to us at that time.

She knew exactly what I needed that day. Still does, as a matter of fact.

A few months later, we were married under that tree. After the ceremony, we climbed to the top of the rocks and looked out on a world that was filled with adventure and wonder. We toasted life and love from atop that rock.

We climbed back up there last week and, well, the world is still filled with adventure and wonder. Unfortunately, it’s also, at the moment, filled with anger and bitterness that is manifesting itself in many ways.

I’m not sure what happened here during the time we were in Mexico, I don’t know what raised all of these negative feelings, but the loss of civility, compassion, reason is remarkable. Perhaps it’s weariness from the longest war in our nation’s history. Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of an economy that has cost so many so much the last half-dozen years. What I do know is that these ill feelings are manifesting themselves in a number of ways, but particularly in the shoving match that has become this presidential campaign.

There is no dialogue, only shouting. There is little truth, honor, or dignity and I look forward to it ending.

Sadly, this malaise seems to have spread beyond the confines of this horrid election season and into day-to-day living. I mean, I was walking out of a store the other day and crossed paths with somebody by a good five feet. The guy looked at me angrily, as if I had invaded his personal space, and muttered, “Watch it … watch it … watch it.” Really?

That’s why I’m grateful to have a place that I can go to recharge, to refresh, to see the beauty of a world that is often obscured by a vile, ugly curtain hoisted by those who have lost touch with humanity and decency.

It’s a place where I have found much comfort and joy, where I joined hands with my wife and embarked on an amazing journey.

It’s a place where I find peace and refuge from a world I understand less with each passing day, and I can reconnect with the things that are really important.

The rest of it?

Let’s just say I’ve become pretty good at weeding the garden.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Murat October 11, 2012 at 7:32 am

    An astute observation about the rats, Kociela. Modern civilization is very much like a rat experiment, and the technocrats are tightening various parameters, loosening others and introducing several novel variables in a grand social experiment before the mass culling, which is scheduled to take place in the near future (beyond 2012). It will all make for rich and fascinating content in the history textbooks of the future. Guns and baked bean cans may help some, but you’d probably be better off just finding a sanctuary not unlike the one Ed described. Kick back with some BBQ and enjoy the view while it lasts, because you probably don’t have a multi-billion dollar bunker complex courtesy of the taxpayers complete with redundant life-support systems to see you safely through the approaching surface drama.

  • Mike H October 11, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Excellent and beautiful.
    You need to leave the area again man. I have visited the south and have a friend who frequently goes to Idaho to see her husband (they have 2 households at this point because her job is here and his is there) and both of us can tell stories of just how rude the people are in this area.
    I have re-entered retail service and I am shocked at just how rude and obstinate people in this area have become. People are no longer civil, they expect everything their way and right now. They don’t want to wait until other people have been helped, that will take too long.
    I never really thought about it much until She and I were talking and we compared our experiences outside of this area. In Georgia people hold doors for you, they don’t let them shut in your face. They let you in while passing in traffic, they don’t cut you off or speed up. They say hello or wave and smile, they don’t grimace and throw shade. The same is true of Idaho from what my friend tells me.
    I don’t know if this area just breeds people to feel like the world owes them a living. But we describe together an idea of entitlement. People here think that they deserve everything even if it costs someone else. You can see it at traffic lights. I used to live in Vegas and people there will always speed through a light with 3-4 cars going through on a red. I used to rejoice coming here because people didn’t seem to have that sense of rushing to get nowhere. Well that’s changed. Every day I watch people in this town run lights and cut people off. I could sort of understand it in Vegas, the lights there last for days. Here though, the lights may last for a minute or 1:30 tops. The people who run the light wind up stopped beside you at the next one. But gosh darn it they didn’t stop and they showed everyone that they are more important, even at the risk of hitting someone else.
    I love this area and I love the clear skies and nature all around us. It’s too bad that too experience it we also have to experience the populace.
    A Youtube partner I watch frequently said it best,
    “It’s soooo easy to be a nice person that I always get weirded [sic] out when people choose to be mean. It’s like, what are you doing? “– Tyler Oakley
    Like you I will be so happy when this election cycle is over, it has become so contentious. I have never seen such vitriol heaped on a sitting president, but maybe I’m just getting more sensitive in my old age. Even if Romney (gasp no!) manages to win this year I will respect him as the POTUS. It’s too bad other people can’t extend the same courtesy to our current one.
    I kind of point fingers at our present media- in all its forms, not just the official, but also the unofficial, the twitterers the facebookers etc. Everyone has a voice and everyone wants you to hear theirs. It is so easy now to say things you’d never say to another person’s face. The problem currently… Those things that people would never have thought to say before are now getting easier and easier to actually vocalize. We are become inured to this attitude. Write it enough and soon it becomes easy to just say.

    • Brett October 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      I agree with the statement in this particular column post that presidential politics can, most certainly, bring out the worst in Americans collectively and even individually. I remember the last time I let the “hate-mongers” get my blood up in an election year. It was 2004. Doesn’t matter who I was slathering at, it was just a very negative campaign. I decided back then, I was going to try and keep a more open mind. I kind of just got burnt out. However, I cannot remember a presidential campaign in my relatively short history where there was not a lot of contention between the sides (which is a shame because I truly believe that most Americans are moderate and not polarized this way or that.) This campaign doesn’t seem any different to me.

      I really do not believe that the elections are the largest contributing source of general negativity, nor incivility–I believe it’s a contributing source to some degree. But I do agree with you, Mike H, that the Internet and anonymity facilitates slander that would not otherwise be spoken in a public forum. It tends to make you cautious, if not callous, to cope. Either way, when I don’t smile or wave at complete strangers, it’s not that I don’t want to put on a cheery public face, I’m a little concerned about being ridiculed for being so positive. I’m a little timid.

      I grew up in a small town in Utah (where people still probably wave and smile.) I’ve been in other towns where (typically small) where people have done very kind things for complete strangers (beyond just saying hello.) It just seems like as a town grows, a more urban culture grows along with it. I’ve heard tons of old-timers in St George say that they miss a time when the city was smaller and there was a better cohesion of community. I suppose the masses polarizing behind ideals just creates more and more division. Perhaps we do have media and social media to blame to some degree.

      Funny to get a perspective from the service-side of the coin though. Just this morning, I was in Walmart. An overseer of the self-checkout was (playfully?) giving me a hardtime over how I was trying to pay for bananas. It became slightly uncomfortable. But I was (playfully?) offering my excuses and keeping a good face on. I guess I have to chalk that one up to people skills?

      At McDonalds I was ordering some quick breakfast before work. They usually hand me my drink cup. I have had to wait before, but I was in a hurry and so after waiting for approximately 60 seconds or so to give the cashier time to realize. Standing there staring at her (and not glaringly) I thought she’d have the presence of mind to at least ask, “Can I help you with something?” Finally, I just interrupted her conversation with a coworker and asked, “Could I please have my drink cup?” She didn’t even acknowledge me and grabbed my cup and pushed it across to me without even blinking. I said, “Thanks!” Nothing.

      I’ve noticed this trend more and more it seems. So perhaps the courtesy of service is also on the decline.


      • Murat October 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

        I refuse to patronize fast food establishments because the peasant-workers are generally incompetent at maintaining even a modicum of sanitation, the food resembles processed fecal matter, and the customer service is typically atrocious or nonexistent.

      • Mike H October 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

        Yeah, your point is well taken. I have experienced the same exact thing at a myriad of establishments in this town. One thing to keep in mind is that the same people who are customers in one place may be employees at another. Is it so unbelievable that they may be unpleasant wherever they are? lol
        I can make no excuses for other people, I just try to be me. I try to be kind and I try to be respectful even when people are less than that to me. It never fails to surprise me though, that some people seem to think that being a completely officious jerk is the way to get people to do things for them. I am a firm believer in the concept of getting more bees with honey. If someone is nice and polite I will bend over backward for them. If they are unpleasant and rude I will stand by the letter of the law and give them just the modicum of service I am required to. This is where the difference of someone being 3 or 4 days past their return/refund/exchange date is met with me either saying, “oh hey no problem, it happens”, or “sorry, you are beyond the policy timeline”.(btw, I do not work the service desk lol)
        I grew up in this area and I do recall the waves one would get frequently, and I still get them in the town I went to high school. But the point I was making is that in Atlanta, of all places, I get treated with more courtesy then I do in a town with 5.1 million fewer people. I hate to roll out the religion card, but I have noticed as a non-member, that people who do not share a ward are often treated less hospitably. (I make this assertion based on comments my member friends have made about their own experiences regarding their treatment within their own ward house with other non-ward members.) It would seem that although St. George has earned the appellation of “Dixie” that it has nothing to do with the famed southern hospitality and is only due to the geographic similarity.

        • Murat October 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

          The Mormons are a notoriously intolerant people.

        • urbandesert October 12, 2012 at 11:13 pm

          Very true. Infact all larger cities I’ve been to in SoCal, Vegas and the SLC, people are so much more outgoing and accepting of diverity and individuality of people. People in larger cities are so carefree and more comfortasble in their own skin. St George has grown, yes, but it has a long, long way to go to reach the point of respect and dignity to the other person regardless of religion, age, sexual preference…so on.

  • urbandesert October 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Wow, Ed, nice to see you tuned in with your emotions, must’ve been a weird day or a bittersweet one. Or maybe you’re just overly sensitive. Point being, it all depends on how tuned in one is to really feel these overwhelming emotions. Or maybe even, your testosterone levels are sinking lol. Either way, isn’t crazy how eventho there’s a general reality, even still each individual has his own perspective. And everything no matter what is perception of the mind…

  • Roy J October 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    @Ed: I don’t know, man! More like lots of bad days, but no bad people!
    @Murat: Keep fighting that darkness! One of these days the light will go one and you’ll stop punching yourself in the face!
    @MikeH: see Ed.
    @urbandesert: see Mike.

  • Roy J October 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    @murat: on …i mean the light will go on! woot!

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