I moved last month. I've sort of put off writing about it because I didn't know what to say. I packed all my belongings into a trailer and the 400 square feet I called home became bare and impersonal. I turned in my bear spray, radio, keys, and cleaned out my desk. Only in Yellowstone is bear spray part of your work equipment. I sent my last e-mails and scrambled to finish the to do list at work. I tried not to think about leaving until the moment arrived to say goodbye. I have rarely felt so much love for the people around me or felt so much love from them. I think that's why I haven't written; I don't know how to ever explain the feelings that surrounded my decision to leave.
My last day was filled with goodbyes to friends that have been unlike any I've ever had. I'd like to be a friend more like them: I felt loved for exactly who I was without any stipulations of what I needed to become. That night I walked in the cold, biting wind past the high school and out the Old Road. I remembered summer morning walks by the river and seeing the bitterroot blossoms opening with the dawn. The lights of Gardiner were bright across the river and a myriad of stars glittered above my head. I saw my old favorite, Orion, as well as Taurus the Bull, the Pleiades, the Dippers, and the North Star hanging where it always does. Running over my head, right in line with my own footsteps, flowed the Milky Way. It looked like a great, white rainbow filled with stars. I stood there until I lost the feeling in my fingers and toes.
It was such a cold night I didn't sleep well. But perhaps it had nothing to do with the cold.
In the morning, Christmas Eve morning, I walked through the Roosevelt Arch and reached out to touch its cold basalt. I soaked up views of Electric Peak as I walked. I walked across the bridge as I did every day for the past year going to and from work. I remembered the owl I saw, the wolves I heard, and the changes each day in the Yellowstone River. I looked down and saw chunks of ice floating downstream. A doe with her fawn eyed me as their hooves clattered across the bridge.
I drove away from Gardiner a few hours later. I watched the Arch grow smaller and smaller in my review mirror until it disappeared entirely. That was almost a month ago and I've sorted through my feelings since then and am left with three thoughts, none of which are mine originally.
First, John Muir wrote, "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." That is exactly how I feel about my time in Yellowstone. The reasons I came were good reasons, but the lessons I learned and the people I came to know were much, much more than I could have dreamed. I count my time there as a great blessing in my life.
Second, this fall I gave a presentation about what it means to love a place. I have thought about that a lot. With those thoughts, I've remembered a poem by ee cummings.
love is a place
& through this place of
(with brightness of peace)
There are places I love and I see them wherever I go. All places are connected through my memory of them and I continue to see them wherever I go. I've learned that leaving a place doesn't mean I love it less.
Finally, Yellowstone has been like Narnia to me. I wrote about that when I arrived in Montana. I thought that I had come to the final book where the Pevensie children come to Narnia to stay. Instead, I learned that I was actually only at the beginning of the story. I came to Yellowstone, had great adventures, and met people that I hated to leave. Although I thought I'd stay in that magical world I was called back here as surely as if Aslan had come to fetch me himself. But, just like all who tangle with powerful magic, it has changed me. I see things differently now.