Finding Meaning


Crossing the Bar

By Skip Hellewell

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Midway, Utah—the Beautiful Wife’s ancestral village high in the Rocky Mountains. Like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, the little town that time forgot, the folks live quietly here, rearing large families amidst modest prosperity and abiding spirituality. Midway is a postcard version of small towns across America. Here the women are strong, the kids all above average, the men wear big belt buckles and drive pickup trucks, and the dogs stay outdoors.

The calendar says autumn starts on Monday, but it’s already come to Midway. We had a big rainstorm with thunder and lighting, and when the clouds lifted, Mt. Timpanogos was capped with snow. The temperature is dropping into the high 30s at night, delighting the BW, who sleeps with the window open. Up on the hills, you can see the maples turning a rusty-red. Black Angus graze in the pasture across the street, and the Gertsch barn is stacked to the eaves with winter hay. Last night, driving home, we admired the harvest moon rising over the hills.

Though it’s a peaceful place, Midway does have it moments. Labor Day weekend features Swiss Days, once a typical harvest festival, but now a celebration of all things Swiss, drawing over 100,000 visitors to a village of several thousand. The lederhosen come out and what you knew as a Navajo taco reappears as a “Swiss taco,” served on a scone. I like the town parade, but my favorite event is when they bring out the long Alpenhorns and the yodelers get going. This weekend features a Plein Air art event sponsored by the Midway Art Association.

Next month is a big deal, the Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Cowboy poetry features irreverent observations about the foibles of cowboy life, such as the cowboy who prayed for world peace and his wife came down with laryngitis. There’ll be plenty of western music, including my favorite, “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” It’s the call, you know, for cowboys to reconsider their ways lest they wind up chasing the devil’s herd across the endless sky.

For better or worse, lovely Midway has been discovered. Folks want to move here and developers are offering big bucks for farmers’ pastures. Perhaps they can’t bear the changes, but the old-timers who made Midway what it is are passing on. The BW and I visited Wayne Probst last Sunday. Wayne, a descendant of the early Swiss families, was a rancher. Still is, I guess. He and wife Audrey personified that life of modest prosperity and abiding spirituality that characterized Midway. Audrey passed away a while back and Wayne has missed her dearly. Now he’s deathly ill and hospice has started. The view of his pastures and Snake Creek Reservoir, once enjoyed from horseback, is now from a hospital bed in the living room. His family has gathered.

Wayne’s been too weak to go to church, or even get dressed to leave his bed. But on this Sabbath, he asked to be dressed in his usual white shirt. Friends and neighbors are praying for Wayne Probst. Not to get better—he’s lived a good, long life—but that his passing over that bar to rejoin his beloved Audrey might be peaceful. I believe it will. In the well-lived life, death has no sting. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.



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