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June 16, 2015 – Community

June 17, 2015

Day 2, Community
I should be sleeping, getting ready for a hike in the morning with ‘Dan the Naturalist’. Everyone is very excited, for we all know how precious and rare it is to have an opportunity to spend time in the wild with someone who is extremely knowledgeable and is willing to share it. Or, I should be out by the fire built by our hosts at the Grizzly Lodge. The stars are phenomenal and the raging river nearby is making its presence known in the dark. Right there, next to the grass, is glacial melt flowing so hard I can only imagine how far and fast it would take you if you fell in!

I am contented, however, to share with you this amazing day. Words can not do justice, but I hope I share in a way that you can imagine what it is like to be on this adventure.

Our community of twelve teachers is led by 2 teacher naturalists, Megan and Melissa. These intrepid woman are so impressive that by day two they created traffic jams anywhere they stopped, as guests in the park quickly realized these two women leading our group were to be followed! We started a Coot jam for goodness sake (more on that later)! Melissa spotted a mama black bear with two cubs that were too far away for me to see with binoculars….while driving (safely)! Her eyes are so well trained and her desire to share these animals with us is pure. Out comes the spotting scope and that beautiful mama bear and her wily cubs were right in front of us! The teachers shared with the parents and children who gathered around us at lightening speed. Further down the Lamar Valley I spotted a snake going into the small pond, through reeds five feet high. ‘Snake’, I shouted and pointed. Off go Megan’s socks and shoes, seriously spiny weeds irrelevant! Into the water she stalked that snake, successfully bringing it out to us, sharing her admiration for this creature with us….a gorgeous Plains Garter Snake. These two smart, capable and earnest teacher leaders are creating an experience for us that will ripple through our lives and impact each of us in profound ways.

Meanwhile, the twelve teachers are exploring, learning, laughing and growing more familiar with each other. Deeper bonds are forming through the jokes, poems, the huffing and puffing up cliffs, the mutual purposeful desire to experience the life and land of this truly great place. The conversation flows easily between personal and professional, as we share curriculum ideas and life stories. Michelle shared a quote from da Vinci, “Study the science of art, study the art of science. Develop your senses – learn to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Coleen’s observation “we’re the only ones with rules here” stuck with me. It is true. We are the animal’s guests. I feel like a true visitor. Much like you might feel visiting the country of another people. Our eyes are open and expectant, not quite knowing our place or what will come next.

Today we began our day in the extraordinary, art-deco, dining room of the Mammoth hotel. Not bad, huh? The staff are from all over the world and the cultural interchange is constant. The smiles are easy and sincere. We met Ranger Trudy at 8 am (a late sleep today) and hiked up behind the Mammoth Terraces. She was very knowledgeable and clearly loved her job. We learned all about the history and nature of the Mammoth hot springs, how they move and change so quickly, how the reactions between the heat and rocks allows for an incredible emergence of microbial life and the birth of new rock and much, much more. And poor Truman Everett! Look him up if you don’t know his story, but for all his suffering, at least he got a mountain named after him! I don’t know if I should tell you all, but Ranger Trudy’s favorite places in the park are Shoshone Lake and the Bechler area. Shhhh!!!

talking with a ranger

Ranger Trudy explains the difference between the four main types of geothermal features in the park.

We saw and heard the Yellow Headed Blackbird. I could not get a picture of this shy bird, but he was truly stunning. We observed with great delight two Coots with four babies. The babies were tiny and had bald heads except for tall, bright orange feathers that spiked out of their head like those crazy ski hats kids wear on the slopes these days. I have never seen such a delightful baby animal. Mama would dive to pull weeds off the bottom of the pond, feed the weeds to the baby and then quickly clamp its beak down on the baby’s head! It did this over and over….how strange. I so wish I had a picture to show you! We observed a lone cinnamon black bear and a male pronghorn ran right in front of car! The bison were hunkered down in the fields for the rain today. In the forest we saw many mule deer and found a moose! She was eating a tree for a while and then just laid down in her spot, but she kept her ears peeled on us and we kept a very safe distance.

We all enjoyed a great dinner in Montana tonight in Cooke City. Many had grilled cheese and tomato soup…yum!…..or the fresh caught, locally smoked trout…triple yum! The waitress is a teacher in a one room school house! She can have students anywhere between pre-school and grade eight. She was bright and energetic and employed all the talent in the community to enrich her student’s lives. She connected with one of our teachers and they are arranging to have their students Skype each other.

At the end of the evening, Megan shared a poem called ‘The Summons’ by Robert Francis. It was about asking life to wake you up, to not let you miss it. It was a perfect end to a wonderful day. I will end with a poem written my Melissa that she shared yesterday. Although we are not camping, the words speak to what I think we are all feeling.
Why I like Camping

As I sit still and watch

Golden light fades on reflected branches

With a hat to warm my head

And a fire, my fingers

I’m good tired –

You know, the kind that comes

After a day if labor serving none

but myself and my companion,

The kind of tired that leads

to the soundest sleep.
My face is dry, my skin rough

My body smells like the days effort.
But my soul –

Ah, my soul

At peace in the simplicity of life

And the calm of life

And the calm of nature

As it is only

When home is only a small pile of belongings

That I can carry on my back

(Or maybe in my car)

As it is only

When I follow the calling

Of nature’s splendor

And my own heart

To the dark creek

With a setting sun

Where the world is upside down

Just beyond the edge of my notebook


Within and without

Stillness presides.

One Comment leave one →
  1. David Beadle permalink
    June 19, 2015 12:32 am

    I’m moved beyond words
    My heart is full
    Just reading these words of yours

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