Thursday, September 24, 2009

Journey to Yellowstone

This has been not only a physical journey in my moho but also a spiritual and emotional one.  The last 48 hours have been emotionally exhausting in the extreme.   Never in my life have I felt so completely disconnected and irrational. 

I have found many reasons to delay my arrival at Yellowstone;  I suppose on some level I was aware that this was going to be a life-changing visit.   But, I had no idea what I was in for.  This has been harder on me than the day Frank died.  I have not eaten in 2 days.  Even Cassie is "off her feed" and we are both having GI troubles.  She senses that her leader ain't right in the head.  I had a minor meltdown 2 nights ago and Theresa called and talked me off the ledge.

I finally left the state park around 1pm (more delay as checkout was noon).  Enroute to the Madison CG where I had reservations for 2 nights.  I saw no bison, no elk, no coyotes, wolves or bears.   I saw one  bald eagle. 

So, I bagged my bald eagle, which are really hard to get and at least equal to a wolf photo.  I spent about 30 minutes waiting for the mighty bird to turn his head to a profile AND have an opening in the tree that would not obstruct the shot.

Checked into the campground and was immediately overcome with bone-deep fatigue.  I could hardly move and even though the day was glorious and warm, I went to bed.  I decided to postpone the task of locating  the place where I wanted to spread Frank's remains until the next day.

By 4pm I was distressed by my self-imposed delays and retrieved the box containing the cremated remains.  I had not yet opened it at all so did not expect to see some of the contents which mainly had to do with ID.  I removed a metal ID tag and attached it to my key chain.  Tearfully, I placed the contents in an inconspicuous container so as not to arouse any questions by park staff and began the hike to find Frank's place.  It took him a lot of effort to walk here in the morning with his coffee and I knew he loved it.

Along the way, I stopped in the Park Bookstore and they had a CD Listening Station with headsets where you could listen to samples of music before buying (another delay!)  Naturally, I found one I LOVED called Journey to Yellowstone and began to cry buckets.  I left quickly to continue my hike for a spot that I thought suitable for Frank.

Hiking along the river, I spotted a small herd of elk!   I planted myself down on the bank of a river 20 feet from the herd and talked to them for a while, explaining that I was looking for a place where Frank could view the wildlife that came to the valley river to drink.  They listened politely but seemed more interested in chewing their cud and protecting their yearlings from the sudden appearance of a rutting Bull Elk.

I took several photos of spots but could not make myself release Frank's  remains.  I think this is the log he  sat on to drink his coffee from a slightly different angle.

All the spots were beautiful and these photos capture the Madison River valley where Frank found such peace.

Finally, I found Frank's final resting place where I thought he would be content.  Frank was a Buddist and believed that the mindstream continues after a person dies and that he would "be back" in the Beast Realm.   This is a place where wildlife hung out, the campground is off to the left so he can watch the RV'ers and even had a good shot of a satellite TV signal should he ever have the opportunity.    I took a very deep breath, imagined my own primal scream and scattered Frank's remains down the hillside.

Here is a statement that reflects what Buddists believe about life and death: 

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.

Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp - a phantom - and a dream.

I could not stop crying afterwards and made myself nauseous.  I forced myself to go up for the Ranger Night Chat at the amphitheater and cried all through the presentation, which was about what the wildlife does to get ready for winter.  I found it a strange parallel to my own life where I feel like my dangerous, empty season is approaching and I had not prepared for the perils of winter life. 

Interestingly, it also explained why there were no animals around.  The climate change had caused high summer temperatures to be extended by two weeks and the animals had already migrated to higher, cooler elevations to eat their preferred high-fat/calorie diet to prepare for winter.  I forgot to take a flashlight and got lost in the dark campground on the way back but finally found my moho spot.

I had a ton of wood that I had transported from Lake Tahoe, so I decided to make a campfire.  It was a truly masterful campfire!  I burned the cremation storage box and bag.  I cried all the while and looked up at the inky velvet nightime sky where it seemed the brightness of the stars equaled the blackness of the sky.  A rutting bull elk bugelled somewhere in the distance.  It was peaceful.

Early this morning around 5:30am, I decided to leave Yellowstone--vowing never to return.  I drove in the dark to a nearby turnout to go back to sleep until daylight.   The thrifty side of me returned back to the campground to get my night's prepaid reservation fee refunded. 

On the way out, I bagged my mighty Bull Elk!  Cars were stopped along the roadway and the photogs were out in force and it was only 8:30am!  I parked in the turnout and saw the big bull elk and was pleased that he had such a fine rack!    This is the only animal I really wanted to see during this visit to Yellowstone; the Bull Elk rarely makes an appearance until rutting season where their hyped-up testosterone makes them do all kinds of stupids things ( there a cross-species similarity here?)

Suddenly, the elk began to travel in a straight line directly toward me.  He was moving at an uncharacteristically fast pace, as though he had purpose.  I brought the window down and Cassie and I both watched as the elk came directly toward us and passed by within 10 ft.  Naturally, I got the photo and toyed with the thought that perhaps Frank had already come back in the Buddist/Hinduism Beast Realm...

As I write, I realize that it is therapeutic for me to recall my journey and say a private and meaningful final goodbye to Frank.  I know the tears are not over yet, but something in my life is complete now although  I still feel like crap.

Tomorrow, I begin travelling south toward Albuquerque, my final destination stop of my trip before returning to Cape Coma.

No comments:

Post a Comment