Some may take my attachment to the past as nostalgia for the way things used to be. It isn't that way at all. Though it could easily be mistaken as such. It's something I've thought a great deal about. Veloy says I think too much. Maybe so.

But I feel a lot too.I am always drawn back to Alpine, the place of my own beginning. There is something for me personally there that I can sink my soul into without losing the sense of where I am now - an important distinction.

I notice that when I meet people for the first time, I am curious to know where they are from - where did they grow up. Some people are very clear about it, and specific. Others are vague, almost as if they aren't sure, which is interesting.

Anna Quindlen, a syndicated writer, in her column in the Deseret News a few months ago, in which she referred to a spiritual crisis in America, quoted Hillary Clinton from a speech she gave earlier in the year. The first lady said that we suffer "from a sleeping sickness of the soul . . . that we lack at some core level, meaning in our individual lives, and meaning collectively, that sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another."

That connection with one another, I believe, begins with a connection to ourselves, one often difficult to find in contemporary life.

"In the old days" it was not as difficult to establish those connections. Most of our population lived in rural settings where ties to environment take earthy root.

But all that has changed. The expansion of suburbs, which spread over the rest of the country, is affecting us now, here in the last bastions of American open space.

The Rockies are big news, and the world is wiping its feet on our doorstep. We are torn by an anxiety to hold fast to a fading identity or to share it and grow.

I have seen it in Alpine. It is happening in Draper, too, and Oakley and Centerville.

Those of us who are rooted here are torn between open arms and trying to close the gate. We assume our options are physical enrichment or deprivation. But that is not the core issue.

The real issue is identity, and the positive evolution of identity.

Where do we find new meanings in fresh pavement and newly planted trees, in the plunking of Kmarts and gas marts on every third corner?

It isn't easy, but somehow we must create community in the process of clearing fields and planting developments. Otherwise, there are no roots. And then we wonder why the children are restless. We wonder why teenage gangs crop up. Down deep we know the answer. It has to do with a sense of belonging.

We each find meaning in the sense that we belong to something, as Hillary Clinton said, in "that sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another."That is why we go back after roots. It is to find our history, to graft it to our future in the fertile and fragile moment of now. There must be a place to go back to, to establish identity. There also must be a place now, for our children to come back to for that identity later on.

We all have a timeline of experience that is our personal self. It trails behind us like a jet stream map of passage, which, through memory, we can access at any time for perspective on the moment.

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We are constantly crossing paths, enhancing each other's passage, if we will, or cursing it. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, in the new movie "Grumpy Old Men," are a perfect example of the damage we often inflict on one another in the process.

But in those moments of destiny, when we are crossing each other's paths, we have the ever-constant opportunity to create community.

It is more than opportunity, really. The positive evolution of our culture depends on what we do with that moment of intersection, and how we integrate it with the places our hearts have chosen to define as home.

Dennis Smith is an artist and writer living in Highland, Utah County.

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