Joel and I have been in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for five days now. Every day, I think of things I want to blog about. We banter back in forth ideas for entries, although my initial impulse to pen a version of "Mein Kampf" and consider a final solution against vomit-soaked children on airplanes was summarily rejected by my own moral conscious and Political Correctness Meter. (imagine a blaring alarm and blinking sign) NOT FUNNY! NOT FUNNY!
Still, though, dude. If your child, bless him, vomits all over himself on the plane, not one time, but in a continuous pattern of FIVE wet, gargly heaving episodes of vomitlicious stench, is it not time for pediatric Dramamine? No? Well, do you have a spare t-shirt for him perhaps? Ah, maybe next time. Can I offer you a wet nap? Can the rest of the plane pass a hat and offer you our collective forty wet naps? Can you at least keep him from standing in his seat and leaning over the back of it to invade our minuscule personal space? No, no! Please don't misunderstand! I'm a jolly, experienced air traveler! I've played many a game of peekaboo with kids on planes! Silly Face-Offs! I ROCK at Silly Face-Offs! It's the flecks of vomit that are precariously close to dropping on to my snack tray I object to.
Ahem. After we landed, we learned that the south entrance to Yellowstone (the one that leads to Old Faithful and Other Highly Photogenic Geological Places) was still blocked by snow. Boo! Ironically, the snowfall here in Jackson has been at record lows, so all the dog sled tours and snowmobiling are finished! finito! caput! for the season. We DID check all this online, by the way, before we booked this trip. The National Parks website was all, "Come to Yellowstone! The South entrance is TOTALLY open and stuff!" While the winter sports companies' websites all said, "We have snow 'til JUNE! Whee!"
LIES. ALL LIES. We've been finding plenty of ways to entertain ourselves, however.
Me: Knock, knock.
Him: Who's there?
Me: A Moose that just doesn't seem give a shit about us standing here, 10 feet away.
Him: Knock, knock.
Me: Who's there?
Him: A moose that, all of a sudden, really does care that we're here. Quite a bit.
Me: Uh, yeah.
We've been driving around with Aaron Copland coming out of the iPod, and it just seems so fitting and right and beautiful here. There are herds of free-roaming buffalo and elk, and it makes me want to fight so hard for conservation and ecologic activism. If it's still this gorgeous, and wild, and clean, then all hope isn't all lost. We can still make it right. Make Al Gore proud!
We're passing all kinds of signs for landmarks I mostly know about thanks to a fourth-grade obsession with the old computer game
Oregon Trail, like Snake River, and it makes me want to "hire a Shoshone guide" instead of "caulking the wagon to float it across" and "stop to rest" because "Joel has cholera." (Joel doesn't really have cholera. There's always tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.)
Seriously, though... there are enough historical sites and landmarks that I can't help but think about the people who settled the West. The mountains are so imposing, the weather so unpredictable. We hike to crumbling barns, pass through turn-of-the-century ranches, take the mountain pass road with its "CAUTION: Drifting Show May Make Roads Unpassable" signs over to Idaho to go to a microbrewery, and I think of the pioneers and DAMN do they deserve our respect.
Of course, it doesn't take much to get my panties in a twist thinking about the mass genocide of indigenous people who lived and ruled this great land of ours long before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. My liberal, bleeding heart flinches at every cigar store Indian for sale here, all the "authentic" Indian souvenirs. A 360 degree turn in downtown Jackson Hole can boggles the mind with its carnival of stereotypes: the noble savage, the doe-eyed squaw, the bloodthirsty demon, the friendly native, hey! It's all here!
Oh, my politics never go on vacation, do they? The truth is, there is another kind of manifest destiny at work here. The bend-over-backwards pandering to the tremendously wealthy is kind of overwhelming. There are three Thai restaurants, at least four places to get sushi. The general store boasts a big sign "ESPRESSO" and the bulletin boards all encourage wealthy tourists to "Come to the Jackson Hole Athletic Club for Spinning Classes!" when there are hundreds of bike trails and at least seven places to rent bikes. There are three tanning salons, and the decidedly upscale shops downtown seem better suited in Stepford than in a place where the moose keep a wary eye on the outgoing flights.
And yet... overpowering all the analysis and over-thinking is peace.
Joel and I have been out shooting quite a few times, overwhelmed by thousands of migrating elk, an elusive beaver, all incredibly photogenic, if it weren't for decidedly sucky light, or too many miles between the herd and ourselves that even our most telephoto lenses can't compensate for it. And so we find ourselves unable to capture it in pictures. We pause and say: "This may be one of those moments we just have to enjoy for what it is."
I've been surprised, though. I want to share this one last photograph with you. I'd have to really blow up on my screen for you to appreciate the life teeming within it. I didn't see it all when I clicked the shutter. Yes, I saw a few of the cranes on the riverbanks, but it wasn't until I got back to the hotel that I saw all eight. I could see the elk moving swiftly along the horizon line, (those itty bitty brown dots,) but it wasn't until I got back to the hotel that I saw the miniscule wolf that was keeping them moving. (Actually if you click on the photo below, an enlargement will load on your screen. You can see the cranes and the elk, but you really have to strain to see the wolf. He's low to the ground, facing the elk, between the eighth and ninth elk from the left.)