Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And then...

Some moons ago at about this same time of year I made the trudgingly awful odyssey on a variety of public transportation to visit my folks. Braving shuttle busses and air travel with infected children and surly flight attendants, getting strange germs all over me. STANDING in LINES. I was a trooper.

But it was all worth it. Getting to spend quality moments with my mother so she could tell me my jeans were saggy and my hair dull, and watching my dad in the yard screaming throughout the neighborhood at the dogs to hurry and go potty, come on, go potty. GO POTTY!! ARGH!! Good times...good times.

But I actually did have a pretty good and rare experience that trip and one day in particular was very special. Well, it was that and a wee bit typically injurious because fuck if I can't move more than 2 feet in any direction at any time and not wrap a knuckle on a piece of furniture, brain myself with a shoe or zip my nip up in a sweatshirt.

For a little background, my parents live in Big Sky country with access to Yellowstone National Park mere yards away (which I will still drive to because this bitch, she don't hike.) Here's one memorable day with my dad. Enjoy the splendor with me...

I awoke to the morning sun peaking through the shades of my window. The snow that gently and relentlessly fell throughout the previous day had left our world blanketed in white. Which was in vivid contrast the clouded skies that had turned once again to bright blue. When I later ventured outside the temperature was a chilly 28 degrees but the brilliance of the early afternoon sun instantly warmed my face.

My dad suggested we go for a ride in the park to get out of the house and see what we could see. I gathered my things together and off we went in his beloved dirty pick-up truck with the broken radio and four inch layer of silt on the dashboard. We sat in comfortable silence. Just the hum of the tires against the road. No need for conversation, just me and my dad, together. Windows cracked a bit to breathe in the fresh, mountain air.

I was enjoying the scenery, watching tall pine trees dusted with yesterday's snow whiz by, the river moving gently down stream, and puffed-up geese floating effortlessly against the current. We stopped to see our first creature, a beautiful, healthy, sandy colored coyote who was cruising along the side of the road. I was excited to be this close and leapt out of the truck to snap a quick picture and was amazed to see that the coyote seemed calm amidst the cars pulling quickly over. As he fearlessly looked back at me I got my snapshot and jumped back in the truck.

And then I rolled my hair up in the window.

I turned my head my head to look up a hill and discovered that my skull was attached to the door. After I let out a hearty yelp, and when my eyes finally stopped watering from the shooting pains going directly into the depths of my brain, I released myself from my glass prison and we continued on down the road. More sparkling river to transfix my gaze, more fallen snow across the giant rocks that tumbled down the hillside however many years ago.

I then spotted a lone bull elk lounging in the golden grass, his body heat melting the frozen ground cover away. He was giant and magnificent. Unconcerned with his humanvoyeurss. His huge antlers a sovereign crown on top of his head. We decided to keep driving in hopes of seeing perhaps a group of animals to observe and marvel over.

At last we came upon a large herd of bison across a rolling meadow on the other side of a small vein of the river. There were animals of all sizes, enormous males with long bears, females with deadly horns and sharp eyes, but what caught my attention was a speck of light brown among the dark coats of the other animals. It was a rare late summer birth. It must have just been born, it was so tiny. I had to get closer. I got out of the truck and began quickly walking to a safe but nearer distance away.

And then I stepped in Bison crap.

After assessing thedamagee I spent a few quality minutes scraping my entire right foot against a small rock. Then I moved closer, armed with my binoculars and camera. Having the opportunity to experience a spectacular, wild animal in its natural habitat is a gift that I don't take for granted and seeing a newborn was a treat. The baby was walking on new, shaky legs, obviously tired from the day, and plunked down in the soft weeds for a nap.

The herd was completely uninterested in their human observers. Even as they gazed back at me I felt like I was the one being watched instead of the other way around. It was their territory, their land, their hood. I was merely a guest with limited permission. I felt respect and awe. I felt that I'd invaded their space long enough and carefully headed back to the truck and jumped back in.

And then I smashed my head against the doorframe.

After the the dizzyness subsided, I checked to make sure that all my teeth hadn't been rattled right out of my head and I was not bleeding profusely down my neck, we decided to head back home which is anything than a boring voyage. You never know what you might see when you reverse direction in this part of the country. The elk, bison, eagles and such can move from their previous hiding places, the sunlight changes position and everything seems to take on a new quality. You see everything with a fresh pair of eyes.

And this was such a serene time of year. Not many tourists, not much car or foot traffic. I watched the steam rising from the thermal pools letting them transport me to another time and another space. Imagining the landscape as unchanged for millions of years. I squinted into the sun as I looked at the tops of the mountains, beautiful in their majesty.

We pulled into town, back to civilization. My too-short journey coming to an end. I was calm and at peace, ready to relax for the remainder of the afternoon, spending some time alone with my thoughts of the previous few hours. I took a deep breath of contentment and smiled as we turned onto my parent's street into the driveway.

And then my dad hit the brake too hard, my body snapped forward against the seatbelt, and I swallowed my gum.

It was good to be home.

No comments: