A tour group I accompanied on a mid-winter trip to Yellowstone had been phenomenally blessed. We had seen bison, elk, moose, trumpeter swans, wolves, and many other wild creatures, and were treated to a major eruption of Grand Geyser, not too far from Old Faithful. It also snowed heavily for two of our six days there, turning the park into an even more deeply surreal winter wonderland.
As we departed the park for our final night together at a hot springs resort south of Livingston, Montana, one guest remarked aloud, “I wonder what’s happened in the world since we’ve been gone.”
“The world of Yellowstone?” I playfully answered.
She did not comment further until the farewell reception that evening, when recounting our exchange to the larger group and the other two guides. Receiving such an unexpected reply, she said, made her reflect upon her connection to wild places in a new and different way. The wild and the “civilized” worlds bring innumerable gifts to all of us, she added, but ultimately, their mutual survival is interdependent and intertwined, and far from guaranteed.
Later that night, she shared how much she already missed Yellowstone. I nodded and smiled and hugged her as she wiped the tears from her eyes, tears triggered by Yellowstone’s wild spirit, following and beckoning her home.