As the days grow increasingly shorter and the nights longer now in the northern hemisphere, my mind often wanders back to the winter of 2001-02 when I lived in the wild heart of Yellowstone National Park. Nearly everything that season felt surreal at first, from riding a snowmobile and lugging my belongings to my winter home near the shore of Yellowstone Lake, to traveling over un-plowed roads over 50 miles to West Yellowstone, Montana every three weeks or so to restock on provisions. Cell phones didn’t work there, wi-fi access was sporadic and limited, and the snow piled up as winter progressed.
Ravens, bison and trumpeter swans easily and by far outnumbered my human neighbors, and a winter solstice encounter with a lone bull bison unexpectedly unleashed a floodgate of creativity, inspiration and appreciation that inexhaustibly fuels the nature connection work I continue enjoying today.
The bull bison had several battle scars on his face and flanks, revealing stories from competing with other bulls for breeding rights during the annual late summer rut, or perhaps from fending off hungry resident wolves. He seemed far more skilled than me at conserving his energy, and being fully present and patient. Perhaps this came from transforming past encounters, experiences and lessons into wisdom that helped him thrive in that moment. I thought long and hard about that as our twilight standstill continued-the bison refusing to yield his comfortable place standing in the middle of the snow-covered road, and me, fairly new to the workings of winter in Yellowstone, unsure whether or how to pass by him on snowmobile to return to my own winter home.
Nearly twelve years later, the bison’s scars, countenance and perseverance still motivate me to bring my full talents and nature to the table of life to share with others. Earlier this fall, the calling to serve, empower and inspire even larger numbers of people to connect with the natural world and their own nature was palpably triggered by something actor Wentworth Miller shared in an Out Magazine interview:
Twelve years since that pivotal winter in Yellowstone, I am deeply thankful to know more fully and deeply who I am and why I am here, and indeed I am stronger for it. I am grateful for the love I have given and received in my life so far, to be able to share and cultivate that love with Erik, our families, friends, neighbors, clients, customers, and everyone else we know and meet. I am thankful for everything at the table of life, and this Thanksgiving, may you also be grateful for everything as well.