This was not even MY my idea. My perfect days included quiet jogs through our farming community, searching for slugs in an effort to salvage my hosta, and kayaking with sea lions on the Puget Sound. It was our next chapter, where there would never again be an announcement of a military move. Remember that.
We were home.
When he wandered up behind me, I knew it wasn’t to help, because we have an understanding. He tends to the cars and the yard belongs to me. “Let’s go work at Yellowstone”, he announced. I smiled. Actually, I laughed, not quite sure whose mouth; “That sounds fun”, jumped out of. I tossed a slug in my bucket hoping this conversation was over. Pretty sure THIS girl was NOT going to be living in the woods. I love the outdoors, but in Yellowstone, so do bears, AND wolves, AND bison. Besides that….
We were home.
Out of fairness, we discuss pros and cons and like other “discussions”, it is actually four lists because he doesn’t see a coffee date as a priority, and I can’t understand why anyone would want to fall asleep under the stars, while food has to be hung in a tree. I cave, and agree to throw our names in the hat. We both enjoy adventure, and I was certain our applications would be filed under….shred.
I was wrong. They decided we were a perfect fit.
This time….the list of lists is not about what to pack for a move to a foreign country or change in climate. Instead we prioritize by what we can do without. Creature comforts seem nonexistent. Hiking boots, CamelBak’s™ and bear mace are necessities, and my favorite coffee cup that says, Some pursue happiness, others create it, makes the cut. My beautician, also my daughter, trims my hair one last time and hands me a pack of hair ties. Our youngest, a Social Media Program Manager, is horrified to think what life might look like without cell phones or the web, but creates a Page hoping we can find internet connection somewhere.
My piece of mind returns when the kayaks and bikes go on the Jeep; and the shoeboxes of every family photo I ever took (pre-computer days) find their place under the bed of the RV. Our 17 year old cat, Paco saunters onto the dashboard. He knows the drill. To him, home is where WE are.
Training taught us that the most dangerous animals in the park are the humans….and we cannot use bear mace on them.
I wrote that down.
If we plan to hike, the recommendation is to be sure to scuff our boots and shout, “Hey, Bear”, at turns in the trail, so we don’t startle them.
The sense of isolation leaves when I learn we will have a land line, TV and…..friends! Family doesn’t feel quite so far and it’s all….OK This is nature’s laboratory, where animals, geothermal features, canyons, rivers, lakes and forests tempt our curiosity. It is here where we are nature’s guest.
I am tasked with leading….. yes, I said leading, a grounds crew of seven. We have arrived to a winter wonderland; four feet of it. Clearly, the interview team put a gold star next to my name when I said I am not very good at sitting. Our priority is to make the arriving campers feel at home. They trickle in with smiles, questions and appreciation for our hospitality. We have become experts at shoveling pathways to clearings and at the end of the day I know someone must be looking at as through a snow globe. I chuckle to think I am supposed to be the fearless leader, especially when the bison herd decides F Loop is cozy enough for them to hunker down for the night.
The truth is, it isn’t long before I find myself sharing stories of the bison and counting how many new calves have been born since the day before. They wobble on new legs one day and within a week are being scolded for wandering too far. I cherish them; it is they who dictate my time….and often conversation over coffee.
We were introduced to Porcupine as if she was a local. I guess she is, and it is her story I tell and retell. She is a grizzly, who’s curiosity as a cub found herself with a face full of quills. She shouldn’t have survived Winter, but each Spring returns hunting for grubs, chasing ground squirrels and finding the tastiest wildflower meadows. She has stolen my heart and I look forward to the day that she might emerge from hibernation with a cub…or two.
The summer goes too fast. Co-workers become family and campfires become the living room, but it isn’t long before the weather changes again and mornings sprinkle us with an occasional flurry. The bucket list of waterfalls and hikes is documented through a camera lens, and I admit, I really did spin around and sing The Sound of Music on a mountain ridge. The mountain goats will never forget that day….neither will I.
My ponytail was much longer as we turned left out of the campground and followed the Madison River to the park boundary. The camera was in my lap in hopes of capturing one last bugling elk, or the human who thought it was ok to “pet” the bison. The last photo was of the park sign that said, Leaving Yellowstone National Park. Tears. The comfort of our woodsy home was now behind us.
Yes, this was home. It was a little different then learning to dance at La Feria in Spain, or using charades to communicate in the Czech Republic. It’s not Autumn in New England, Winter in California, or Summer in the Pacific Northwest. But, it was here I made sure there was always room at our fire for the campers who forgot marshmallows. It was here that I sent hikers to wildflower meadows, with a warning that Porcupine might be nearby. It was here where I told people where the brightest hot springs were, and what the colors meant. I laughed remembering the phone call inviting us to join the staff, because now…
THIS was home too.
Yes, “home is where you hang your heart”. Military families know that TOO well. Home is a presence, a time we embrace, a space we create….for us. Yes, we are leaving Yellowstone National Park, privileged that, it too, is…..
Well, you know.
I feel like I should be on the phone, making calls. Instead, I update Facebook and smile at the instantaneous “Likes” to my, “We are on our way”, status. My youngest daughter writes, “Hurry up”. My oldest already knows hair is a priority and that the hair ties are going in the trash. Maybe.
The house with the slugs has a for sale sign on it and we head south…for now. This time the motivation is a little different as we learn of a grand-baby on the way who also needs to know…..“home”.
The Daily Post: Create