Place Where You Live:

Salt Lake City, Utah

A bald eagle eyes the ducks at Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by Charlotte Brunvand, age 11.

Four blocks north of my house in Salt Lake City is Liberty Park, one of those great urban places where you might see any manner of strange and wonderful thing: a drum circle where people dance with hula hoops and fire; oddball sports like bicycle polo, sword fighting and Quidditch; a carousel with wooden horses; an Andean condor at the aviary who plays tug-of-war with the zookeeper.  Probably the strangest thing I saw at the park was the kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, veiled and submissive wading barefoot in a fountain.  Of course I didn’t recognize her until I saw on the news that she had been rescued, but I should have known.  My brother-in-law always thought she had been abducted by polygamists, not because he had inside information but just because Utah scandals so often veer towards the surreal.   The park also has a duck pond where hidden water resurges to daylight from beneath the city pavement.  Late one night in June 2010 a Chevron pipeline burst over Red Butte creek and the next morning the duck pond was covered with an oil slick and dying birds. This was not long after the BP oil spill, and the stab to the heart we felt at the injury to our neighborhood pond must have seemed small compared to the grief of people on the oil soaked Gulf coast.  Nonetheless, for the next year the pond was surrounded by blaze orange hazard fencing while they cleaned up the mess, and  I wanted to cry every time I passed it.  Eventually the birds came back, though.  This winter my eleven-year-old daughter and I went to take pictures of the usual California gulls, Mallards and Canada geese.  Then we looked up and there was a bald eagle perched in the tree above, eyeing the ducks.  Right in the middle of the city!  I told my daughter that when I was her age eagles were endangered because people used pesticides that made their eggshells too thin to hatch.  Of all the things I’ve seen in Liberty Park that eagle may have been the most wonderful.