I get to Yellowstone late in the afternoon and see by the sign in front of me that nearly every campsite is “Full.” All except three, that is, that seem farthest from where I chose to enter the park. “I have to get a campsite,” I think to myself as I entertain the familiar feeling of rush. Can’t stop along the way – I tell myself – I’ll come back to see whatever everyone else is looking at, stopped along the side of the road. Yellowstone is a huge park, and I don’t realize how spread out it is until I am driving for some time and only cover one tiny part of the side road on the map. I push on to find a campsite before the car in front of me does.
Two hours into the drive, I am frustrated and angry with my fellow park-goers. Why did they choose this month to come to the park? Oh, yeah, they have kids and the kids are out of school. I cant stand kids, or people for that matter. And the traffic is awful – do THEY have to stop for every damn buffalo, moose and river? I watch them as they jump out of their cars wide-eyed and breathless with camera in hand. I plot how I might mow them down and still make the Mammoth Campground by dark. Still, I push on . . . must find camping.
My head continues it’s dialog: And Yellowstone sucks anyway, I don’t even want to stay here – I mean, it’s all tourists – and they suck, and . . . . . GET OUT OF MY WAY! . . . there are no spirits on this land – it’s not sacred – it’s just ugly, ugly, ugly. Yellowstone is more like an attraction, a natural Disney of sorts. That’s why I can’t stand it – and rightfully so, who would like this place? GET OUT OF MY WAY!
Two and a half hours into my mental tirade of a drive, it occurs to me that 1) I am making this situation far worse than it needs to be and 2) I am meant to be on a sight-seeing trip – tourists or no tourists. Then I do something miraculous: I stop my air-conditioned Jeep, get out, and walk 100 yards to an overlook: everything changes in that moment. I walk on and am slapped in the face by the beauty of Yellowstone. As I walk, I touch the trees, smell the air and feel the sun. I notice fascination and awe on the faces of the young and old explorers who walk next to me snapping pictures along the way. I watch swallows feast on bugs over a river than is 400 – 500 feet below.
I had been listening to . . . and believing . . . what my head was telling me. That non-stop narrative on everything. It’s like having a close friend with you 24 hours a day who won’t shut up, and then believing everything they say. The remedy, I find, is two fold: first to recognize that there is both the observer and the observed. When I can observe my thoughts, I am not as attached to them and I can actually be entertained by what’s thought. The second part of the remedy is to take action – stop the car, take a walk, change my physical environment. The bottom line for me is don’t believe everything my mind tells me. Much of it is wrong, some it is lies, and all of it will mess me up if I only see the world through that lens.
Although I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked in Yellowstone, I made a commitment to come back to the park another time (e.g., when the summer hoards have gone back to their homes, school and communities). And, I will plan better the next time I venture to Yellowstone.