This week, through the Facebook posts of my little sister, Peggy– I’ve relived my solo journey to Wyoming in July of 2011. Peggy has shared pictures of her time with her husband and friends in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Some of her experience has been similar and some has been in sharp contrast to mine.
Yesterday, imagining Peggy on her trip, I returned to my draft of the sequel memoir– feeling guilty for not picking it up in weeks. It starts off with that Wyoming chapter, “Wider Spaces in Wyoming.” I’d decided to go to that destination because a dream of going there had been planted inside of me as a girl. When I was 10-years-old and in fifth grade, my Aunt Polly, Daddy’s older sister, moved back East from Denver. She lived with us in the Rosser homeplace on the hundred-acre farm where she and Daddy and their six siblings grew up.
Aunt Polly would talk with me about the beauty of the West–which I knew only from watching those popular westerns when we were children. Those shows were all about cowboys on horses– riding through a meadow with snow-capped mountains in the background. I used to dream of being out there– because I loved horses, and wanted to love a cowboy!
Back in 2011, I needed open space because my life felt constrained by all my caretaking; I was a middle school nurse for seven hundred needy adolescents and Mama, at 88-years-old was needing more help because of her dementia. In the gray days of February, when I typically planned my journeys to brighten that long stretch between the MLK Holiday and Spring break, I knew I needed wide-open space. That urge formed into my plan to fly into Jackson, Wyoming the following summer. I’d start in the Tetons and then travel the short distance to Yellowstone.
Now, I imagined Peggy riding down the same two-lane road, winding through the rolling valley with hills dappled with sagebrush that had a sweet, pleasing aroma when heated by the afternoon sun. She would be enjoying the cooler days compared to the record-high heat we’ve had, especially the hundred-degree day. I remembered that when I was driving around Jackson Hole, I had taken my Michael McDonald Motown CD–one of my companions for the trip. It’s ironic to think of the main song I loved on that album, “All In Love Is Fair.” I sang along while driving through that beautiful countryside. I’d change the words, “the writer takes his pen and writes the words again” to “the writer takes her pen and writes . . .” and never knew what I would be writing about love all these years later. I didn’t anticipate how things would turn out.
My reaction to the Tetons and Yellowstone were very different; I wrote this in that chapter draft for the sequel memoir:
“While the Tetons gave me a feeling of being cradled in a mother’s arms, Yellowstone gave me the sense of being released– like a bird tossed up and expected to take flight. As far as I could see was a grayish-brown burned lumber pole pine forest and snowcapped mountains in the distance that would eventually melt into the glacier lake below. I’d felt the need to go out West to find that open vista to counter the constraints of caregiving. Looking out as far as I could see with no houses, no buildings of any kind, felt like the world was opening up. I’d read in Wayne Dyer’s book, Wishes Fulfilled, “the ideal of the soul is space, expansion, and immensity of the one thing it needs more than anything else is to be free to expand, to reach out and embrace the infinite. (p. 27)
I spent several days in Yellowstone and was amazed by its vastness, the other-worldly feeling of the landscape. One of the standard stops is to see the geyser called Old Faithful. Near the geyser was the Old Faithful Inn, the largest log hotel in the world that was built in 1904. I walked around the massive building with honey-colored logs, exposed stairway and railing that went up the four stories–each with balconies. I’d walked out to the geyser area before entering the Inn and there was little activity–so I thought I’d go inside and find some lunch to take out on the porch. I would watch and wait from a distance for the next eruption of Old Faithful.
I’m not sure if I was tired, had too many stops before Old Faithful, or was distracted by the amazing architecture of the Old Faithful Inn, but I was disappointed when the eruption finally happened.
This is what I wrote in that chapter draft:
“The eruption from that icon was about as impressive as your everyday landscape fountain at a shopping mall, I thought, disappointed and wondering if I had mistimed my visit, never looking to see the schedule of eruptions when I planned out my trip.”
When I made my journey in 2011, I don’t know how much time I took to research things ahead of the trip. Knowing me, I probably planned it very quickly and allowing time to see the eruption escaped me. Now, I see on Wikipedia that the eruptions occur regularly– every 44 minutes to 2 hours.
My sister’s experience of the Old Faithful geyser was much different from mine. It was as if we’d viewed two different things.
This is what Peggy wrote:
“As I watched Old Faithful erupt after we had been in anticipation for about 20 mins it reminded me of God’s spirit within us. He is always there, sometimes moving ‘beneath the surface’ but still there, present in our lives. However other times He erupts with his incredible presence and we can’t contain it. He is definitely Faithful in my life and today He spoke through His creation to remind me!”
Peggy Rosser Mann
My little sister reminded me that sometimes you have to get up closer and wait. Things don’t just happen when you need them to, the powerful push from within is not something you control.
While our experience of Old Faithful was different, we shared the experience of feeling God’s faithfulness in life which was manifested through being in His creation. Time spent in the national parks, wherever they are in our country, is a reminder of the great gift of life on our incredibly beautiful planet. Right now, in our world that’s impacted by the concerning news of Covid variants, raging wildfires, countries with political unrest etc. there can be solace in surrounding ourselves in nature. Whether it’s looking into the bloom of a summer flower, feeling the cool air of a snow-capped mountain, or tasting the salt water of the ocean surf– God has created all things for us to enjoy.
Great is Thy Faithfulness.