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Westward Ho

Paige Bowers
Paige Bowers
4 min read

Greetings from Utah, where I arrived yesterday to surprise my mother, who is having one of those milestone birthdays like 18, 21, 50, and the one she's actually having today. I got to the house at around a little after 1 p.m. mountain time, which is apparently Mom's "tend to my bonsai forest" hour. You should have seen her face when she looked up from one of her wee shrubs and realized it was me, and not my sister. Surprises are so much fun, especially when they don't lead to the sort of shock that requires medical assistance.

So I'm in Utah for the very first time and it's as mountainous as you'd imagine. My sister has gotten terrifyingly good at identifying actual peaks that the casual observer (me) might write off as being mere unnamed rock. Yesterday we were in the car when she pointed in the distance and said "You see that peak on the far right up ahead?" I replied "Which one?" She said "The big one." Being an Atlanta resident, it was all looking a bit grand to me, so I said "Yes?" Said peak was apparently Ben Lomond Mountain and her friend lives at the bottom of it, she said.

If you're anything like me, your next instinct would be to ask, "Who is Ben Lomond and what is his story? Did he come west back in the times of yore because he killed a man back east and needed to hide in them thar hills?"

In my mind, Ben Lomond was becoming a bit of an outlaw.

My sister brought an end to my reverie. She said: "Now, some people might wonder who Ben Lomond is..." (the implication being, "I know where your brain is going and I am steps ahead of you.") "...and the thing is, Ben is not a person, but a Scottish prefix that means 'mountain.'"

Though some refer to it as Ben Lomond Peak, or Mt. Ben Lomond, or Ben Lomond Mountain (or in my case "that very large piece of stone"), technically those who use "Ben" and "Mountain" when referring to it are being redundant.

There you have it. A landmark and a grammar lesson, all in one fell swoop.

Now, all of this is fine and good, but I still have other questions ( you didn't anticipate THAT, Katherine). Why are we using Scottish prefixes out here? What sort of Scottish history is going on in Utah? And why did someone name this Ben Lomond, after another mount that is so named in Scotland? Is the peak in Scotland as majestic? Or, is this one better? (As a Capricorn, I always need to know who wins...) Do they have rabbit holes in Utah, and can I fall into one? Or, have I already begun my descent?

Stay tuned.

At any rate, I'm grateful to spend a few days here with my mother (who you can thank or blame for these weekly inbox invasions) and my sister (who is going through treatment for stage 3 breast cancer like a total warrior). The west suits them both, although maybe Mom has begun to take on a bit of my imagined Ben Lomond character. Last night at dinner, the waitress said "I hear it's your birthday tomorrow! It's so good that you've been able to live this long!" And my mother said: "And I haven't even killed anybody...yet."

And that's why I'll be sleeping with one eye open for the next few days.

Writing prompt: Today I want you to write the Western that only you can write. Maybe it involves gambling. Maybe it involves a high-noon showdown. Maybe it involves something that no one has ever tried before. Try it. See where it leads. Whatever you come up with, I tip my ten-gallon hat to you.


What I'm looking forward to: Two very cool exhibits open in Atlanta today. "Entering Modernity: 1920s Fashion from the Parodi Collection" opens at SCAD FASH, and I can't wait to feast my eyes on those flapper-y cocktail dresses by the likes of Jeanne Lanvin and Jean Patou. At The High Museum of Art, there's "Tyler Mitchell: Idyllic Space," featuring the photography of the talented young man who photographed Beyonce for the cover of Vogue's September, 2018 issue. I'll probably have more to say about both once I'm able to check them out in person, so stay tuned for that.

What I'm also looking forward to: The 2024 Georgia Author of the Year Awards will be announced today and there are some incredible books on this list. I don't envy the category judges who have to pick this year's winners, because, man oh man...

Where I hope you'll donate this week: If you follow me on Instagram, you know I'm often sharing information about flamenco in my stories. I do it because one of my oldest dearest friends is a flamenco performer, instructor, and impresario (seriously, go look into what she does here) and I'm insanely proud of her and what she does. What I would like you to do, if you're so inclined, is go here and tip the artists that she has working with her around Atlanta and the United States. All of them work so hard to put on these amazing performances, so I'm hoping you can show them a little love. If you're in Atlanta, you can find Julie and her crew at Madrid Spanish Taverna in Roswell on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. Good food. Good performances. Good times. Be sure to check it out!

Paige Bowers

Paige Bowers is a journalist and the author of two biographies about bold, barrier-breaking women in history.