“Guatemala,” Ensign, May 1971, 66
This afternoon I fingered through a well-worn book with a dark blue cloth cover, lettered in gold. Its pages are about the size of a picture magazine’s. It is a postage stamp album that kept me happily busy when I was a boy of ten.
As I turned the pages today, I found colorful stamps of countries that do not now exist, such as Persia, Togo (in Africa), Ukrania, Serbia, Siam, Latvia, and Bavaria.
How I loved those stamps!
My eyes paused long on the page bearing my favorite boyhood stamp. Portrayed in rich green in a large oval on the stamp is a bird with heavy plumage, perched on a stone pillar. On the bird’s head is a wide crest of hairlike feathers. The oval is surrounded by ornate decorations like those on currency, in gold. The bird, with a tail some three feet long, is the quetzal, national bird of Guatemala.
Probably because of that favorite stamp, I have for years wanted to someday visit the land of eternal spring in Central America: Guatemala.
Our first plans to visit Guatemala were made almost twenty years ago. At that time our family planned to drive by car across Mexico and into Guatemala. To prepare for the trip, I bought the book Four Keys to Guatemala.1 In it I enjoyed reading not only about the quetzal bird, but also about the three species of wild turkey there. I learned about the large butterflies in Guatemala, about the huge sea cows in its picturesque lakes, and about the jaguars. I read of the country’s high, purple-hued mountains, some of them still volcanic, and about the dense jungles rich in chicle.
Our family began the drive across Mexico. We reached Mexico City, then pushed 330 miles southward to Oaxaca, an Indian city famed for its colorful market, earthenware crafts, and nearby ancient ruins and pyramids. From Oaxaca we rolled 160 miles further south to Tehauntepec, about two hundred miles from Guatemala. But we never crossed into that country. A small stretch of the road had not yet been completed.
Other trips to Guatemala have been contemplated. But each time something has come up to alter our plans.
We had looked forward to visiting Guatemala this year. We plan to accompany the Utah Symphony Orchestra on its Latin America tour, and we had hoped to include Guatemala. This week the schedule of concerts was charted with agents in Buenos Aires. There will be concerts across South America and in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, just to the south of Guatemala. Our symphony’s plane will fly over Guatemala, but our toes will not touch its warm mountain soil.
Once again I regret not making it to the land of my favorite postage stamp. But I am not sorry about dreaming of a visit to Guatemala.
My greater regret is that I have not had more aspirations like the one of reaching that Central American land.
I have been stirred by the lines of Joel: “… your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28), and the words of the Psalmist: “Oh that I had wings like a dove!” (Ps. 55:6).
Jesus seemed to invite us to let our thoughts soar about things and places yet beyond our reach. Remember how he taught the eleven on that night after the supper in which he had given the sop to Judas Iscariot? While Judas slunk out into the night to go about his dark mission, Jesus spoke to the remaining eleven. He talked of the many mansions in his Father’s house. He must have sent the eleven’s thoughts rising when he said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2.)
He must have lifted their dreams further when he added, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also. …” (John 14:12.)
Our fourteen-year-old son, Kay, just brought to me a paperback book, United States Stamps. “Look, Dad, at the picture of this Confederate stamp,” he said. “It’s worth one hundred and eighty dollars.”
I hope Kay is dreaming of more Guatemalas than I have. More important still, I hope that his thoughts leap heavenward toward those things Jesus talked about that night to his apostles. And I hope Kay will keep reaching for them, for the rest of his life.
If he does, how rich his days will be!