Our family cat is a big white Persian named Leo. Like all cats I've ever known, Leo sleeps a lot, and his favorite sleeping place during the day is behind the computer printer. The table he sleeps on is hard oak; and in this "purrfurred" spot is a heavy duty stapler, a big black paper punch, a box of print paper and two cords with their sharp-edged adapters coming out of the back of the printer - all of which leaves no more than about a 10x14-inch space with the two cords going through the middle. One would think that these hard and sharp intrusions into this favored bed would be terribly uncomfortable. But, as near as I can tell, Leo doesn't seem to mind.

When we brought Leo home to live with us, we also brought with him a bed that was the latest in cat-designer wicker and mattress - he never uses it. Leo prefers the hard table with all of the lumps and bumps.I've tried to make some sense out of Leo's sleeping, and this has drawn me to a parallel that makes it clearer to understand. I want to discuss it with you.

I believe that like Leo, many of us spend much of our lives sleeping in hard, lumpy and sharp environments. Let me explain. Last week I was in Las Vegas on business and couldn't help but notice many of these obtrusions in their world. Of course, there are some pleasant oases on landscaped patches of green in the harsh desert environment, which for the most part is nothing but sand - dirty sand at that. It seems to me that many of the discarded objects of Las Vegas are blown up against backyard fences of dilapidated buildings, and there they sit year after year. I'm not picking on Las Vegas; I've been there numerous times and will be the first to admit that it has some nice environments and even architecture - but, I believe many of the people are sleeping on hard, sharp edges and don't know it or even care.

Utah has many of its own sharp edges.

As we left Nevada and drove north into Utah on I-15, I couldn't help but revel in the beautiful, natural landscaped edges and uncluttered vistas to the mountains and quaint cities that the new freeway system has left alone in time. As we drove closer to Salt Lake, I began to see a significant transition.

Yes, folks, it's the same old bandwagon that I've been on numerous times in the past. (Get used to it, because I'll be on it a few more times before I'm through.)

We brag about our "pretty, great state," and rightly so. We talk about our interest in continuing to capitalize on the big business of tourism; and right at the very heart, or main artery of this opportunity, is I-15, a visual cancerous growth. This is not an incurable disease like we seem to think. With a reasonable investment of money, effort and continued care, I-15 from Payson to Ogden could be turned into a verdant green belt that would be second to none.

We have been driving up and down this main corridor for years, spending considerable energy and money talking about our beautiful Utah; and like my cat, Leo, we passively sleep through the visual lumps and bumps of the environment that is most immediate - placidly failing to notice it. Like most of the ragged edges in our lives, we condition ourselves to sleep through them. We often ignore what we can do to improve our lives and our built environment. When are we going to say we are sick and tired of the I-15 cancer? Why can't we visually improve upon the sign blight and put up some large screens of conifers and deciduous trees to hide the back yards and construction equipment? Why can't we plant native grasses, flowers and shrubs with the required irrigation?

There is a price, but our big business of tourism, with its billions of dollars, warrants it. If our environment is our asset, then we should continue to capitalize on it. We should provide something better for the spenders who visit our state, even if we are willing to continue sleeping on the hard and jagged edges.

- On a lighter note, architect Kent Trollen of California is going to be at the South Towne Mall this week building a 12-foot-tall sand castle from 15 tons of sand. An architect who builds with sand? This I've got to see.