Sunday, December 28, 2008


There’s a place that I like to go. It’s not a real place, although it started out that way. Years back I spent a week in Yellowstone, camped on Slough Creek, and I fell in love with that place.

It’s peaceful there. Even with dozens of people camped around me, it was peaceful. Birds, chipmunks, deer and bison, and the sound of the water trickling over rounded stones. Elk bugling in the twilight hour, and the scent of pine on the air.

I loved it. I was in Yellowstone with so much to see, so many places to explore, and I spent four days just sitting in my campsite watching the world go by.

I use that memory, when things get bad. I close my eyes, and take a deep breath, and put myself back there, in the opening of my tent. I guess it’s a form of meditation. It’s not exactly a “happy place,” more of a relaxing place. It doesn’t work as well as spending an hour in a pasture surrounded by my horses, but it does buy me time to get there, when everything is going to hell.

And, every once in a while, it just provides a few minutes of peace.

It’s changed. It used to be a straight up memory of the time I spent there. I’d pick a day, or a moment, and just bask in it. Now, when I go there, other things happen. I saw deer, when I was there. A bison crossed the creek and walked by not ten feet from me, as unconcerned as if I’d been a tree stump.

Now, if I think of the evening, I hear the elk, like I did, but I also hear the wolves. I never did hear Yellowstone’s wolves when I was there, although I listened every night. I hear the wolves singing to each other and it doesn’t make me afraid, it makes me feel even more peaceful. I think because that’s the way it should be. The wolves, they belong there. That place belongs to the animals, to nature, far more than it does to man, for all of our building roads and campsites and the thousands of people who go there every year.

With very few exceptions, we leave. The animals are always there. That’s how it should be.

Inside my head I watch a grizzly wander across the meadow across the creek, a cub gamboling around her feet. The sun shines down, the sky is so blue it hurts the eyes to look at it. The trees are a deep, deep green, and the grass is golden and waving in the slightest breeze.

I’m sitting on the ground with my feet in the crystal clear water, resting on a rock polished smooth by unknown decades of flow. My back leans against a fallen tree, bark gone and wood bleached white by the sun. My head tips back and I savor the sensations of the sun warming my body, and the breeze ruffling over my skin, through my hair.

Birds that I don’t know tweet, twitter, and sing in the trees surrounding me, while squirrels and chipmunks chatter back and forth. It smells of life, dirt and growth and animals mingling in my nose. I can’t hear an engine, I don’t smell gasoline, diesel, cleaning products. I can’t see a human being, and I know I won’t, as long as I stay here. I know that people have walked across this creek, crossed the meadow in front of me, but I might as well be the first person ever to see this, for all the impact they’ve left.

I lean back again and let the wild world wash over me, eyes closed. As the sun begins sinking behind the purple mountains, the wolves sing their evening song, lulling me into a deep, peaceful sleep.

I like it here.