It should be difficult for any of us to write about where we grew-up, to write about where we call
home, or where we once called home. There are the expected trappings of sentiment and the near
constant questioning of ourselves over how things really were. But then similar to telling a story, we
might go ahead anyway, accepting the risk.
I came to Moab as a young boy, not yet a teenager. I spent the remainder of my youth in the
town, and then spent another decade coming in and out of the first place I called home. The start
though was 30 years ago. My father was a Baptist preacher, so in theory my family could have ended
up any place. That’s in theory, however. In prayer there was no other place that my father or family
could have gone. So we came up from Texas, and for me, then, Moab was another world, and I do
not mean the town and surrounding desert were interesting or made for some kind of an
awakening—though perhaps these things were true—but I mean Moab at that time opened another
world. My understanding of worlds tells me that there are other worlds to claim, provided another
world is found, and Moab was such a world to be found and one that can no longer be claimed. The
valley I looked at those years ago is no longer possible to see. That is a plain fact. The valley, as it
was then, no longer exists.
And two days after my family arrived in Moab, I went on my first walk through the town.
There was one fast-food chain, one small grocery store, one drug store that I remember, a couple of
gas stations and a place called the Western Grill or The Westerner. I’m not sure which anymore. I
remember The Westerner because after I got lost the diner was the first place I noticed where maybe
I could’ve asked someone for directions. I looked in the front windows and determined this was not
a place for a child to ask for anything. Probably someone would have helped me, some cowboy,
some rancher, some hand could have given me an idea of where I was and where I was going, but
then I didn’t ask. I was, after all, a child. Although I didn’t go into the diner, I told myself that one
day I would eat eggs and drink coffee there, and I did, eventually. Otherwise, I went on my way.
Perhaps like everyone who comes to Moab, I was captured by the panoramic sweep of the
place. But what I think about now when I consider my beginnings in the town is how I began to look
close at things in a world. I noticed weeds growing from cracks in sidewalks. I noticed how few cars
were on Main Street. I noticed the waxy greens of cottonwood leaves, which I had never seen in
Texas. In part, the town invited this habit of looking, but maybe we all look more closely at those
beginnings and endings that shape us.
There are moments that trigger before and after into certain experiences and even entire
epochs of our lives. Moab, for me, was a place of beginnings and endings. It was a place of
actualities and things hoped for—some curious mixture of facts and what any of us might wish for
when looking back at our lives and where we lived, where we grew up, and where we became what
we did or did not become. Moab was that beginning for me, a start into a place now gone. That’s
not sentiment either. That’s what William Faulkner might have called “was.” And I like that notion.
Moab became my was.
Damon Falke’s most recent work, Now at the Uncertain Hour, received a grant from the New York
Council on the Humanities and subsequent performance in upstate New York. His work has appeared
on the Reflections West radio program and in numerous literary journals. His recent novella, By Way
of Passing, is published by Shechem Press. He lives abroad.
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