Finally, a snowy Sunday morning with a book and a cup of coffee. I felt butterflies — or maybe snowflakes — fluttering in my stomach with every sip. Maybe winter wasn’t so bad.
It was difficult to read when all I could think about was the fact that days were getting longer and warmer, yet this was only the first real winter snow that I could appreciate. I began to understand seasonal depression on a new level. It had been a long and dark winter in the midst of a global pandemic; getting out of bed was something to be proud of.
As I took pictures of unique flakes on my black fleece jacket, my mind raced through thoughts about my mental health and the community — how I couldn’t possibly be the only one thinking this — and then it hit me. After a tiring dry winter in the desert, we must be in for an even longer, drier summer.
In a panic I began researching and Googling what it meant, looking for any sign of hope. I found that the local snowpacks that the state and greater community rely on were at about half the level they should be.
In the past, Utah experienced drought and water restrictions, but never seemed to have pressing concerns. I guess it’s not the first dry winter this desert has seen. I knew there had to be more to it, something bigger and more long term.
That’s when I decided to do what I do best and dig deeper and write a story. After all, I fell in love with journalism because of the investigation and learning it has to offer. I started with local resources like Weber Basin Water (Darren Hess) and some of the environmental professors at my university (Paul Brooks). I scored interviews with them and discussed much about what the drought means for us today. Brooks directed me to one of the best sources I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing — Jaimi Butler, a professor at Westminster College and an avid Great Salt Lake researcher.
Jaimi and I spoke over the phone while she picked up her kid from school, she told me stories of her personal experiences on the lake and what it means to her, and she gave me the concrete details I needed for my story. She taught me that the repeated seasons of drought combined with the way our irrigation and water storage works was having a lasting impact on the Great Salt Lake. She went on about the many ways it is important that we save the lake, and compared it with horror stories from California, how Los Angeles managed to drain a nearby salt lake for all it had and resulted in an inhabitable area surrounding the dry lake bed.
It goes without saying that this really made me sad. I wanted to raise awareness and be part of the change that could save the valuable Great Salt Lake. We discussed what I could do, what average citizens could do, and ultimately what needs to be done, as seen in the published story.
From there it all made sense and writing the story was a breeze. Each interviewee seemed so passionate about what they do. The way Brooks spoke of his childhood fascination with water, how it is essential to quite literally everything, really struck me. I found a new appreciation for the ones who make it all possible while Hess gave me an idea of just how much work goes into the water from our taps. And Butler inspired me with her vast range of expertise and knowledge and willingness to share it with me at any cost. It was clearly a very important issue to each of them.
I was able to do a lot with this story opportunity. I feel so lucky to be in this field; not everyone gets to learn from and talk to the incredible people I find out there. Stories like these just make me want to change the world, and I love that I can use my passion and profession to do my part.
Besides the story, I found my own new passion and even plan on going to some events concerning the Great Salt Lake in the near future! Jaimi connected me with some brilliant people across Utah who hold “salty seminar” conferences, educating the public and hosting educational activities in an effort to create a better future for the lake. I plan on attending some events with the Steampunk Academy, including movie screenings and hands-on experiences with the lake. I encourage readers to check out the Salty Seminars, the Salty Sirens on Facebook, and Steampunk Academy. It sounds like they have some pretty cool events and I already know their community is so welcoming.
I truly believe there is something extra in the ordinary.
Something crazy about this existence we are in is that we can never stop learning. There’s always something to notice or a different perspective to envision.
I’ve always felt like an outcast, but I realize that’s exactly what “normal” is. Everyone has unique experiences, thoughts, stories. And we have so much to learn from each other.
I want to introduce people to some of these extraordinary stories that are outside of the highlights that catch people’s attention. I want to bring to light the stories that no one hears about and find them the appreciation they deserve. I think as we learn about the secrets hidden in plain sight, we will have a better understanding of the way things are. Maybe one day being more aware of our surroundings on a deeper level just might change the world, or at least make someone’s day, which is good enough for me.