Encountering the Wild

The cottonwood leaves, like teenagers, can’t sleep. They rattle nervously and drop to the ground or simply hang in the breeze waiting for someone to blow through and lift them away.

Jupiter still lights the twilight with her constancy, bright against dark robed trees. The moon keeps low, almost hiding. I pause to take a photograph of the campfire. Behind me in the darkness, an elk skull sits in a tree, a memento mori placed by a previous visitor to this Forest Service cabin.
Continue reading Acceptable Blasphemies: Reflections on Opening Day

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Elk, Yellostone National Park

While Yellowstone is posting record numbers of visitors this year, National Parks as a whole have seen attendance slide in recent years.

In hopes of reversing the trend and re-introducing folks to our wonderful public lands heritage, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced back in June that the Department would waive entrance fees nationwide to all parks on three prime summer weekends. This is no small offer as park entrance fees have really climbed in past years. Nearby Yellowstone sits at $25 for entrance (that does give in and out privileges for 7 days).

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When we were kids growing up in the Bible Belt, my mother used to threaten to wash our mouths out with soap if we told dirty jokes. Like a lot of kids in that era, in that place, my older brother and I used to try and juke her out by using off-color biblical references that involved the hint of slightly naughty words.

my brother: “Hey punk, who was the the most flexible man in the Bible?”

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He wasn’t very large by bull moose standards, with a fairly small set of antlers. He didn’t look healthy in fact. He was standing ankle-deep in the river, watching us, not moving, almost unsteady on his legs. Something about the way he was standing didn’t seem “right.” Of all the animals I do not want to tangle with, a bull moose, particularly a sick one, ranks near the top.

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Last night, like many around the globe, we shut off our lights in solidarity with Earth Hour. Now, it’s easy for me to get really cynical about these kinds of things. The event is, after all, a symbolic and licensed subversion which rather than producing the effect it desires, produces only a spectacle of that effect without any meaningful change (which is a kind of fascism, but I digress!

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Stillwater River, inside the A-B boundary, on the trail to Sioux Charley

4:30 A.M. Pitch black. Deep winter. Nothing but darkness and cold. Jack Ballard and I are making time up the trail before first light for an end-of-the-season deer hunt. The light from my headlamp swings back and forth, making me dizzy. I turn it off and move silently up the canyon. We’re aiming for a spot about three miles up and across the river…Out of nowhere it hits us — a howl comes straight out of the darkness.

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17a, a pregnant Romney, ambles into the chute and stops. Her fleece corkscrews out from her body sending out shoots of thick wool in all directions. Grace, my ten-year old daughter, buries her hands deep into the wooly fleece and smiles. She runs off to find Anabel Lombard, the ewe’s owner, to have her to hold 17a’s fleece once it’s sheared. Grace has never chosen a fleece before. She goes with her intuition; with the way her hands feel buried into the ewe’s wool, with the way the ewe stops, tilts her head back, and looks up at this girl leaning over the railing, as though asking to be chosen.

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