Opinion: Finding Meaning 


A Visit to Midway: What Really Matters 

By Skip Hellewell

The Beautiful Wife and I are in bucolic Midway, Utah, high in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. Midway was settled by Swiss immigrants back in the 1860s, including the BW’s great-grandparents Johannes and Marguerita Huber. Johannes was a Renaissance man who wrote poetry and hymns and became the Johnny Appleseed of the town. This is my report. 

We started with a problem. Our neighbor, like much of the town, some kind of cousin to the BW, had reported a marmot living under our 130-year-old stone house. The neighbor was kind enough to set out a live-catch trap, but trapping marmots turns out to be an art. Our son-in-law, who knows about these things, said the trick was to put a variety of foods by the marmot’s entrance to find what he likes. Then place the favored food closer and closer to the trap, finally putting it in the trap. So far, we know he doesn’t like apricots or strawberries. He’s a picky eater. We’re trying apples next.  

Midway had a long winter with record snowfall, which took a toll on the old barns and sheds. Because of the snow, we came later than usual, but it turned out to be too late, by about a month. We missed the blooming of the daffodils, though the lilac trees are fragrantly blossoming, and the peonies are budding. The problem was the dandelions had already launched their seeds—by the thousands. If you’re concerned about the risk of lost species, don’t worry about the dandelions, they’re definitely survivors. Of the dozen or so varieties of weeds in our yard that I’ve worked hard to eliminate, they’re all doing quite well.  

Midway was an out-of-the-way place just over the hill from better-known Park City for years. But Midway has been discovered, and so many people have moved here that there are now more live people than bodies in the cemetery. Last summer, we heard they would raise the price of cemetery plots, so we bought a few, just in case we’re not immortal. Because of a granddaughter’s wedding reception, we had a lot of family in town. We invited the kids and grandkids to see our cemetery plots so that they’d know where to bring flowers after we moved on to whatever’s next. The grandkids were concerned their biggest fans might be leaving but also intrigued when we explained they were related to most of the folks buried here. Kids understand family, maybe better than us adults.  

The house is quiet now. Yesterday it was rocking with the shouts of children, but they’re gone. I’ve finished my weeding of the yard, repaired the trees damaged by the winter snow, and we’ve swept the sidewalks. We leave in the morning. We wanted to stay longer, but I’ve an appointment with the doctor. I’m sitting at my writing table in the old parlor under portraits of the BW’s grandparents. He was a farmer and dairyman; she ran the house and mothered the many children. Besides kids, they raised onions, potatoes, oats, and wheat, crops that can grow in the short summers. They also kept cows, milking them twice a day, every day of the year. It was a simple life, though one filled with labor. We honor them by keeping this old house and fighting the timeless onslaught of the weeds. And when I have my hands in the soil, my perspective changes. I feel closer to nature, to family, and to what really matters in life. 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]. 

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