Thursday, September 22, 2011

Love at First Sight.

The best part of my town is not living on the edge of the world's first national park with breathtaking scenery.  It is not going for morning walks and watching an osprey dive into the river and come back out clutching trout in its talons.  It's not having a staring contest with a pronghorn antelope or hearing the elk bugle.  The best part of my town is Derek.  I knew Derek would be "the one" when I first met him.  He handed my keys to me, our hands touched, and as our eyes locked he said with a quiet, confident smile, "Everything should be better now."  I knew, deep in my heart, that he was right.  And since that moment, some months ago, things have been magical and different.  I feel like I'm living in a fairy tale.

Derek takes care of my car.

My car has waited a long, long time to have a relationship like this.  This little Hyundai has traveled across the country and throughout the Rocky Mountains.  It's been tough at times, this search for "the one".  Time after time my car's been out of my care, but she always comes back unsatisfied after the first date.  It's probably partly my fault.  I do my best to take good care of her, but I'm afraid all too often she has received only barely competent care.  I pushed oil changes off as long as possible and when I couldn't wait anymore I drove straight to the cheapest, quickest place that I could find.  All of that changed when I came here.  Derek is the caretaker my little one has always hoped for.  He changes the oil, checks the battery (I don't ask him to and he doesn't charge), tightens loose bolts (no charge), reminds me to rotate and/or buy new tires (free of charge), selects the best tires for the car (also free of charge), and orders them because by now he knows me, my car, and my budget well enough to know what we both need.  He promises to call when they come and I know my Hyundai can't wait to spend another afternoon with him.  

For me, I appreciate that he keeps me in the loop in this relationship.  Derek often stops by my work, where he's also responsible for our fleet of vehicles.  Without fail, he pokes his head into my office with a smile and asks, "How's your car running?"  As if all of this wasn't enough to earn my undying loyalty and my car's affection, when there is work to be done on the car I park it behind the building and leave the keys inside.  He comes, picks it up, and drops it back off while I'm at work.  No more sitting in the Jiffy Lube waiting room eating stale popcorn (especially since the nearest Jiffy Lube is 80 miles away).  No more wondering if I really need a new air filter or if the company is looking to make an extra buck on my ignorance.  I don't even know Derek's last name, but if I did I'd send him flowers because my car has found true love.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Late Summer Love Song

In the past month I've spent more time away from town and up in the hills.  It's an incredible time of year here.  The plants, animals, and people seem to be soaking up all of this last warm weather.  Already, there is a chill in the night air.  Nests are empty, but the skies are full of the birds that once were eggs filling those nests.  Day after day the sky is blue.  I think if I could jump just a little higher I could grab a handful of that blue.  I would keep it safe, and when life and skies are grey, the handful of blue would remind me that summer always comes again.

Four Red Tailed Hawks soaring in the afternoon

The meadows that were green look as if King Midas had come for a visit.  The sun plays on the glacially-carved slopes creating folds in the golden grass.  When I look closely, I can see every plant an animal preparing for the winter ahead.  The elk are gathering and the bulls are bugling.  The flowers have turned to an endless array of seeds and fruits.  Other animals are hastily eating and storing what the plants are producing.  A few, late season flowers are still blossoming.

Obviously, Yellowstone isn't famous for its fall colors.  But that makes every plant I see losing its chlorophyll even more beautiful because its so rare.  I see them tucked in the shadows, under the fir trees, and I know that summer will soon be gone.  Nothing lasts forever, which is okay too.  I can feel change in the air.  I look around me at summer ending.  I see plants dying and becoming dormant.  The flowers have withered, but in their place seeds wait patiently for the wind to carry them away.  I'm reminded that every ending contains a new beginning.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fun With Mud Pots

I spent a few days shadowing instructors.  I came back impressed by their skill as educators and also grateful that in 1872 the United States had the foresight to set aside the land we call Yellowstone to be preserved.  It is an incredible place.  As I watched the instructors I saw them reach their young students--the youth connected with the place.  It's a beautiful thing to love a place.  Exupery in The Little Prince wrote about how loving and knowing a flower makes it different from all the other flowers.  Loving and knowing a place gives it a magical quality.  It stands out from other places because of what you saw, felt, thought, experienced, or became in that place.
View of Gallatin Mountains from Artist Paint Pots

Looking down from the top of the Artist walk
The days spent with instructors rekindled my love for the place.  It renewed my sense of awe for the literally thousands of varied thermal features in the park.  It reminded me that I get to do a work that is very important to me.
And, I finally got some great pictures of mudpots.  You don't know how hard it is to catch these at the right moment.  I must have a hundred pictures of blank pools of mud to get these three good shots.

This is bison scat with plants growing out of it.
Seed germination in poo in the middle of a geyser basin!
The green is photosynthetic algae living in the runoff channel of a hot spring. 
This girl is using a temperature gun, but wasn't such a fan of the rotten-egg smell.
The colors of Grand Prismatic are reflected into the steam
This is why I feel my work is important.
What is she thinking and what will  it mean when she gets home?