Utah continues to boggle my mind. Back at home there are so few Latter-day Saints that most people have never heard of them. And yet here, in the first fifteen minutes of driving, we passed nine LDS chapels and two Temples.
Thursday began with us heading down to Springville to deliver another manuscript, this time to a new (for me) publisher, Cedar Fort. We eventually found it, I dropped off Christmas at Haven at the front desk, and we went to Provo to the home of John and Anne Chambers who were senior missionaries in our home ward until a year or so ago. They were cooking us a meal and, as it turned out, also had Anne's sister and her two children, and a friend, Don Wilson (for whom I had brought some packages he ordered via Amazon.co.uk) and his wife, plus a friend from our home ward, Holly Owens who had married her American husband, Chris, and now lives in Provo. Quite a crowd!
We had a lovely meal and a lot of laughs, and then went to see the Provo Temple. This Temple has a very modern, unusual design - apparently it was intended to look like a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke - and in pictures I'd always found in unappealing. Sister Chambers told me that this was a common perception, and the grounds had been relandscaped because many brides preferred to get married in a more traditional Temple. However, seeing it up close I thought it was stunning. In fact, I liked it so much that I have now replaced the wallpaper on my computer with a picture of the Provo Temple in the snow.
Elder and Sister Chambers then showed us round the BYU campus - passing the Missionary Training Centre and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's childhood home on the way. It was open and new and big and beautiful, but I half hope my children don't have ambitions to go there, because even without the air fares to factor in it is much more expensive than a British university.
We said Goodbye to Elder and Sister Chambers and headed back to Sandy, to a Prom and Bridal store. We had intended looking for a prom dress for Gwen, whose prom is next year, because we figured there would be more choice in America, she would be guaranteed to get one no one else had, it would be cheaper than at home, and we might even find one which was appropriately modest. Unfortunately several of these assumptions - mainly the one about price - were proved wrong, and we also realised that a flouncy prom dress is not something which can easily be packed into a suitcase and escape unscathed. So we will go to the dressmaker who made my wedding dress, with a sketch based on all the dresses Gwen liked, nearer the time.
We then went to Draper for a mini-mission reunion for Hubby Dearest, which would reunite him with three of his former favourite mission companions from St. Petersburg 17 years ago. Of all the Salt Lake Valley suburbs I have been to, I find I like Draper best. For one thing it has roundabouts. I hadn't thought I'd miss roundabouts, but four-way-stop intersections are a nightmare to traverse. For another, the location of Elder Smith's home (not to mention the home itself) was stunning. It was halfway up a mountain, with a view of the entire Salt Lake Valley from the back, and the Draper Temple (probably about a two minute walk away) from the front. At night particularly it was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. And just to add to the interest, some power gliders floated around the mountain as we watched from the balcony.
Hubby Dearest had a riotous time reminiscing about Russia, and his former companions were fun people, so it was a great evening all round. And Chad and Wendy Smith waved us off with an invitation to stay with them anytime we should find ourselves in Utah again.
When we got back to Gale's home in Sandy, however, Gwen discovered from the internet that a volcano in Iceland had sent a cloud of ash over Britain. and all flights were grounded.
We spent Friday morning - the day which should have been our last full day in Salt Lake - trying to find out what was going on with our flight home. It was cancelled, we quickly discovered, but Roderic was able to book us onto an alternative flight leaving the next Friday. Only problem was that it was leaving from San Francisco. Not the most direct route home, but the first available. Emails to several people, and a phone call to the car rental company, and we were all set to survive an extra six days in Zion. We also concluded that we couldn't impose on Gale and George for so much longer than originally planned, so we spoke to Chad Smith and took him up on that invitation to stay at his home in Draper.
At lunchtime we went to the Olive Garden restaurant for a long-anticipated lunch with some of my fellow authors whom I have known, via our email and blog group V-Formation, for many years. Not all of them could be there, but Michele Ashman Bell, Nancy Campbell Allen, Jeri Gilchtist, Cheri Crane and of course Gale Sears were all there, along with friends from Leatherwood Press (my publishers) Linda Prince and Amy Orton. Plus Roderic and the girls, Cheri's husband Kennon, and Gale's husband George. It was great fun, we laughed and chatted non-stop, and the food was great. It was a wonderful experience to meet so many friends I felt I'd known for years. Well, I had known them for years, but it was good to have faces to go with the names.
Finding that we were staying in Salt Lake City for a few more days meant that we cancelled our original plans to squeeze in all the sightseeing to Friday afternoon, and instead we went to Fashion Place Mall before going back to Gale's for a peaceful evening watching Stargate Universe and Merlin. Packing had been the original plan, but somehow a little volcano can make a big difference.
There are worse places to be stranded. Even if we are a little homesick, I do love it here.