By: Suzanne Eskenazi
I want to write about water, how I’ve always been drawn to it, and how my entire body longs to be near it about nine months out of the year. I grew up going to the Atlantic Ocean, one week every summer on a beach in southern New Jersey. I have fond memories of my dad holding me, a curly-headed toddler, in his arms as the waves crashed around us. I have all the photos of a 1980s childhood in the sand with my older sister, brightly colored buckets and shovels, and sandcastles surrounded by moats filled with salty seawater.
Then I grew up and moved away from the coast to the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada, and then to the sagebrush steppe of northern Utah. But the yearning for water remains. I spend almost every summer weekend on a paddleboard in a Utah mountain lake somewhere. My body is still my body. It wants what it wants.
This year, I fell in love with the Great Salt Lake. It’s a place I always took for granted, and I don’t think I was alone in that. The lake and her surroundings are the ancestral homelands of the Ute, the Goshute, and the Shoshone Bannock. She lets the coyote run across her frozen shores in winter, she allows us to witness glorious, silent, and abundant sunsets, she gives life to thousands of birds and is home to our state crustacean, the brine shrimp.
I remember a visit in the summer of 2017, which nearly broke our relationship for good. I was on my brand new Cannondale road bike, which I was still getting used to, and it was bug season. I also had insomnia which really means anxiety. Needless to say, I never made it out of the parking lot at the lake. But this winter, amidst a legislative session full of bills related to the Great Salt Lake and water use in general, I renewed my relationship with the incredible body of water that I’ve taken for granted, for what I wrongly accused of setting off my personal trauma.
I have become a proselytizer. I want to make sure everyone knows how important she is, and how she is a mirror to us of what a years-long drought in the west can do. Great Salt Lake’s shoreline is currently only a fraction of what it should be, and without her, we will be living in a toxic dustbowl, not what any of us envisioned for our future.
Let me start with my feet, let me walk amongst the frozen, salty shoreline, and let me use my voice to help sound the alarm. We are strong enough for this journey, we are knowledgeable enough to take action, and we are brave enough to face the anxiety of a new bike during bug season.
Do you have a special relationship with our Great Salt Lake? Do you want to be more engaged? Here are some ways you can get involved.
- Friends of Great Salt Lake: https://www.fogsl.org/
- Great Salt Lake Institute: https://westminstercollege.edu/student-life/great-salt-lake-institute/about-the-great-salt-lake-institute.html
- Save Our Great Salt Lake: https://www.saveourgreatsaltlake.org/
Suzy Eskenazi is a native Delawarean, an archaeologist, writer, outdoor lover, and Airedale terrier owner. She is passionate about preserving Utah’s cultural resources and she shares that passion in both her professional and personal endeavors. If she’s not on a paddleboard on a summer weekend, you’ll find her on a trail in the Wasatch Mountains, drinking tea in her garden, or planning her next adventure.