Your Life Nature

Connecting You With Nature, No Matter Where Your Feet Are

Call of the Wild

Three months after a wounded nation plodded toward war and exacting revenge, I plunged into a long winter of  self-imposed isolation and reflection in the heart of Yellowstone. Feeling way out of my comfort zone, unnerved, and afraid, I initially resisted embracing the commitment I had made, and constantly wondered what the hell I had just gotten myself into.

The closest unplowed road was over 50 miles away, via a round-trip four-hour snowmobile ride. Everything I brought in had to be carried by snowmobile or sled, and that’s how I also got groceries twice a month on scenic and occasionally scary jaunts from Fishing Bridge to West Yellowstone. Lettuce, bananas and eggs required particular attention when packing for the return home, as I found out the hard way on my first grocery shopping mission, with none of the above among the survivors.

Once on the way home, I got stuck in deep snow during whiteout conditions in the Hayden Valley, then waited over an hour in fading late January daylight for help to arrive. Chocolate, a cool attitude, and singing and dancing to stay warm were part of my survival tool kit that afternoon, as was having a radio link to the Comm Center, and more standard emergency gear.

Bison on the road, along with occasionally unruly, unskilled or unprepared winter visitors, also made travel and work on this high plateau atop a dormant volcano extra exciting and unpredictable. I settled slowly and more confidently into days spent starting and maintaining wood stove fires in the warming hut, reporting weather and road conditions, “roving”  nearby areas to meet and assist visitors, and staffing, subbing and giving slideshow presentations, with a four-stroke National Park Service snowmobile as my winter steed.

Compared to many other winter park rangers, I was pretty much on my own at Yellowstone Lake, free to be myself, free to make mistakes, and hopefully wise enough to survive and learn from making them. That relatively TV, internet, and cell-phone free winter provided time and space to reconnect and rediscover my passion for writing and photography. It also reawakened other long-ignored and neglected desires that I didn’t have the courage to begin fully exploring until three years later, when I left the park.

In hindsight, a clear pattern emerges as to how much five years living and working in Yellowstone continues to guide who and where I am today, and to where I may be heading. Nature is where I have consistently retreated to get clearer, to immerse myself in and be o.k. with the unknown, and often, the unknowable.

Nature is also where I’ve felt most comfortable not knowing it all. None of us ever will, in the natural or the “real” world for that matter, and that’s o.k. It’s all pretty much beyond our control. The one thing I have free will and control over is whether and how much I choose to fully explore and bring forth my own true nature, and to share that freely and fearlessly with others.

That magical Yellowstone winter of 2001-02 continues to bear amazing gifts, such as greater trust, wisdom and confidence in a rapidly changing world. A steady knowing that by moving through fears and challenges, in natural as well as human communities, amazing opportunities to grow and change and thrive arise. That through discovering and developing my  talents and abilities, the better I can contribute to my own life and livelihood, and to those of all others on the planet.

I’m not without fear. I embrace and engage it every day. It has become a most unlikely friend, often revealing a higher and unexpected way through perceived problems beyond the more limiting solutions society, others or my ego might come up with. As a result, I am better at surrendering and allowing  things to happen, being less attached to outcomes, and visualizing positive results for my six billion or so other fellow human beings to also discover their own true nature, and share their talents in the highest way.

Six years ago in early May, I accidentally came within six feet of a Yellowstone grizzly and her two cubs, while responding to a “bear jam” between Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs. Managing a “bear jam” actually involves skillfully managing the unpredictable nature of humans, and there were plenty of them emerging from cars parked all over the road, doing their best to circumvent my and another ranger’s orders to remain in their vehicles, as three bears navigated a human labyrinth in search of peace and a calmer place.

I had turned around to stop a family from approaching any closer, and in that moment, I felt the hackles on the back of my neck stand up. On the far side of the car closest to where I was standing, radio-collared grizzly bear number 264 and her cubs zoomed by, ears down, eyes averted, panting hard, fearful perhaps. They ditched the road, meandered along the far side of a mucky meadow, then vanished into a jumbled, regenerating lodgepole pine forest. Bear jam over. I was emotionally spent once the adrenaline fled.

I still get chills when recounting that experience. That same night a crazed grizzly bear came to me in a fearful dream, peeling my scalp and crushing my skull before consuming me alive. I’d like to think that my worst nightmare was only that, and quite different from what my highest hopes and dreams may ever bring.

It’s hard to say whether grizzly bears dream, what they may dream about, or whether their nature is much different from ours. One thing I can say with conviction is that I have tremendous personal power to change my reality. We all do. It depends upon embracing our true selves, as well as befriending and learning from our fears.

Perhaps grizzlies and other wild beings spend less energy being afraid of how things are or look in favor of more fully being themselves, making the most of opportunities inherent in the now. I’m glad places wild and large enough for grizzlies still exist, for if we ever lose such places, we’ll also lose a wilder and wiser part of our own nature. When I really listen and slow down, I hear Yellowstone’s wild heart beating fiercely in mine.

13 Comments

  1. Your tremendous personal power is clearly evident as is your creative genius, divine wisdom and your heart of gold.
    Thank you Hobie!

  2. Hi Hobie,
    What a magnificent writer you are! I’m so glad I came by here to read your post – I totally got entranced in it. Thanks for posting the link at EnergyRich :).

    I go into nature every day. Seems like so many of us are so far removed and disconnected from its beauty – on laptops and cell phones (I envy that winter where you had none of these!) and not connecting with that which calls more to our soul than these man-made devices. I know they serve their purpose as well, but when we are over consumed by them, that’s when trouble may arise.

    That grizzly encounter, both in real life and dreamland, sounds pretty wild – nothing like a grizzly to catapult you into the present moment!

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    peace,
    Gina

    • Thank you Gina. I am glad you came by to read it as well and that you were moved to respond. Those days when I don’t get out into or reconnect with nature are the ones where I feel most out of sorts. Was actually feeling that way a little this morning, but all is good in this moment, as I hope is true for you.

      Thanks again, and “see” you soon!

      Hobie

  3. I love this essay Hobie. I now feel I understand you better, too.

    • Thanks!

      It felt really cathartic to write, Carmen, sort of like the e.e. cummings quote about traveling all around the world and through life to finally arrive ready to rediscover who I truly am.

      There’s plenty more to come in that regard. I hope that your blog radio show is also creating a new community where listeners can grow and learn from fearlessly and honestly engaging each other on racial matters.

      Keep on keeping on, Carm!

      Hobie
      xxoo

  4. Hobie – Great article. I love how your passion shines through when you describe meaningful experiences. Your description was so perfect I was visualizing every step of the way. The grizzly bear nightmare is one visual I’d like to forget, but still very vivid.

  5. Hobie! So powerful! This brought me back to my childhood in Alaska when the snow was so deep I could only walk behind my parents. I was so little I could not see anything around me but snow and their legs ahead of me. So much of how strong I am now comes from those times.

    I now feel similarly about the desert landscape of southern and northern Nevada as you relate in this post. Even though the desert blasts heat in the summer (unbearable at times) it is all part of the cycle and the animals that live here know how to deal with it better than we ever could!

    And of course your posts get more and more EnergyRich all the time and it is such a powerful experience for me to identify with that as well. Can’t wait for the next post!

    • Hi Stef,

      It’s not every day that you meet someone born in interior Alaska who also feels quite at home in the Nevada desert. You are such a good writer-I hope that at times you will be inspired to share your stories of the power of wild places that have shaped your life, and about your amazing triathlon experiences, too.

      Looking forward to connecting with you soon, and thanks for visiting!

      Hobie

  6. Thanks Hobie! I have a triathlon blog that I started about two years ago and have built a very powerful and supportive network of friends with it. You can click on my name to have a look see.

    I may write something about Alaska at some point too — when I do I will share that with you. 🙂

    • Thanks for letting me know that, Stef. I will be sure to check that out. Keep on creating and living that amazingly and considerably new, huge story, and talk with you soon!

      Hobie

      P.S. I get this great image in my mind of you walking in deep snow following your parents’ footsteps. What a great impressionable childhood that must have been.

  7. Hi Hobie, That was a really nice post. I just was in Billings and Cody for 2 days and you are so right about what happens to the soul in those human landscapes vs. the deepening that occurs in the wilderness. Grizzlies and wolves are good things to have around. They keep us awake in the woods which is how we’re all meant to be. Keep up the good work writing and posting. Leslie

    • Hi Leslie,

      Thanks for your comments, as always. It is a good thing to be awake in the woods, especially when the bears are out and about, as well as wherever else we may be, especially in conversation and connection with others with whom we might see the world differently.

      I read your 5/14 and 5/16 posts, so it is good to see you’re engaging folks who live close to and love the land that they call home. Sometimes it’s hard for long-term residents to let a newcomer, like someone moving to Wyoming or Montana, or a returnee for that matter,as the wolves just may be called, be given equal standing on the landscape, so here’s hoping we can continue this dialogue in a peaceful way and allow all beings space and room to live in a harmonious way on the land, while respecting our natural commons and our responsibility as stewards to hand these wild places and their inhabitants off to future generations.

      Time will tell, but as long as I am alive I will do my part.
      Thanks for doing what you can, too.

      Happy spring,

      Hobie

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