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Once were cairns
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Re William P. Johnson's thoughtful letter about the cairns in the foothills ("Community cairns," Forum, Sept. 16), I'd like to add my own story.

Originally, Tibetan prayer flags were strung between the two massive piles of stone. People left offerings — amulets, beads, crosses — and this humble peak became a destination for self-reflection.

When the flags were first destroyed, someone rebuilt them. This happened again and again. Once, homemade flags made of satin appeared, with hand-painted prayers for peace, forgiveness and love. Torn down.

My daughter received prayer flags for her 16th birthday, so we made the trek up to "Prayer Flag Hill" to incorporate her flags into this auspicious spot as a blessing for her life. Three days later, gone.

Finally, the stone foundation disappeared, leaving no way to support the flags. Now people just bring stones. Each pile of stones I find brings me joy.

One day (as I was balancing my stones), I learned from a fellow hiker that the flags were first erected by his brother to honor a friend who had died.

Whoever destroys this memorial time after time is passionately dedicated to this work. I scratch my head at the reasoning behind it all, but would welcome hearing his or her thoughts.

Mary Johnston-Coursey

Salt Lake City

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