Archive for July, 2016

My Yellowstone Summer

July 20, 2016

’A Yellowstone double-rainbow


With two months behind me at the park, I’m beginning to sound as if I know something about this place.  I still regularly “beg for mercy,” as my yoga teacher taught me to do, but I’m growing confident enough to use the park-wide radio and to issue the Junior Ranger’s pledge without cribbing it from the booklet.

Ahead is the bison rut.  Already the herds are heading toward Hayden Valley like frat boys flooding into the streets of university towns after football games, and cars are backed up for miles as the occupants in the first vehicle aim their multiple picture-taking devices to get their 1000th picture.  Just in case the first 999 don’t turn out.

It’s easy to get jaded when the largest percentage of questions include “What is there to do here?” and “Where can we see bears?”  People have to drive hundreds if not thousands of miles to get to this out-of-the way spot, but it’s still not a long enough journey to drop their consumer orientation.

Not that they’re solely to blame.  The parks want to suck every last dollar from your wallet; even our interpretation guidelines counsel the same techniques as Superbowl ads:  hook ’em in emotionally and then they’ll care about your product, regardless of what you’re selling.  As a culture, we’re becoming so used to being emotionally pushed and pulled that we’re growing shell-shocked.  Maybe that’s why people come out here to this extreme environment:  to press themselves against something so unlike their everyday existence that they can find the reset button and erase what is inessential.

I guess I’ll just decide to believe this is true.  Because there’s no absolute truth out there, just individual convictions that, if you’ve made the choice to live consciously, you must be forever re-calibrating, ensuring your ideals are doing the least amount of harm to all we share this blue planet with.  It’s exhausting and rarely gains you any peace of mind, fame, or financial stability, but when you’re in a place like Yellowstone National Park, watching the bison herds migrate as they have for millennia and the cutthroat trout leap the rapids to spawn and the elk cows struggling to protect their calves, you know it’s what you’ve signed on to do.