I recently returned from guiding a second group around Yellowstone National Park this winter, and it’s always inspiring to witness the personal transformation and growth everyone returns home with as a result of our collective adventures and shared experiences.We had amazingly mild, calm weather for mid-January, and saw a wide variety of Yellowstone’s winter wildlife, including wolves, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, trumpeter swans, a cow moose, a fox, and a pair of golden eagles. We were also blessed with good timing for eruptions of Castle, Grand, and Morning Geysers, and wonderful guest speakers with uncompromising passion, reverence and love for Yellowstone.
One magical moment in particular stands out, the morning when we traveled via snow coach from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful. It was a beautiful bluebird day as we traveled along Swan Lake Flats, with the snow-capped Gallatin Mountains shimmering to the west, It was still well below zero as we headed south past Obsidian Cliff, our visibility limited by tight formations of lodgepole pine trees guarding both sides of the road.
As we approached Roaring Mountain, the landscape became enveloped by slow drifting clouds of steam rising from nearby hot springs and fumaroles. Hidden in the ground-hugging clouds was a large group of bison. Encrusted with ice and snow, and ghostlike in their silence and stillness, the herd of juvenile bull bison loomed large in their capacity to inspire awe in a species that nearly wiped them out over a century ago. We watched and photographed them from a respectful distance, cognizant of their winter energy survival needs in an unforgiving yet harshly beautiful environment.
Nature has unsuspecting and subtle ways of revealing her wisdom, whether you’re in Yellowstone or in a large metropolitan area, ten miles from a paved road or ten feet inside your home. In that bison encounter, we viscerally remembered that nature doesn’t care who we are as individuals or a species, nor does she prefer one species over another. As individuals and as human beings, we have the opportunity to capitalize on our strengths, to dare to express our own unique voice, talents and gifts. By doing so, our individual and collective wisdom profoundly impacts not only the lives of those whom we share the planet with at this time, but also the lives of those who will surely follow us.
In the late 19th century, the voice and wisdom of Bison bison was nearly drowned out and extinguished, with the last few dozen wild animals finally being protected within Yellowstone’s boundaries. How much poorer we all might be in spirit and wisdom today had we not finally listened, heard, cared or taken action. The same goes for not listening to and expressing our own unique voice, and fearlessly bringing it forward into the arena of life.