When I was a kid I coulda swore we went to Yellowstone National Park every year. At least, it feels that way. There are no words to express the sheer love in my heart for that part of the country.
We’d start packing a few days before. I’d get a suitcase, lay out different outfits with matching tube socks and underwear. I’d find my shirt/short combo’s and pile all the “stuff” I needed for the trip: colors, pens, books, stuffed animals. I honestly can’t remember hearing my mom ever say no to any of it. I’m sure she did, but somehow, even packing was magical.
Mom would get the ice-chest ready for all the times we didn’t get to stop and load up on junk food at each and every gas station. The night before, we’d start loading the Conversion Van we used from Dad’s company with pillows, blankets and 8 tracks of Neil Diamond and John Denver, because everyone knows you have to listen to “Rocky Mountain High” when you are actually driving through the Rockies. (Which reminds me, I must remember to download that song for our own trip next year to the Great Park.)
My parents always wanted to load the car and leave at the ungodly hour of like 4:00 am or something. Suited me. Dad would pack the car and gently lift my total of 60 pounds from my bed, carry me out, and place me into my chosen seat- the captain’s chair closest to the double doors. We were loaded and out of the driveway before the sun came up. I remember opening my eyes just a little bit when I could sense the sun was peeking over the horizon. The car was warm, my parents were in the front with their coffee steaming from their cups, and the world was perfect. Yellowstone was coming.
The drive took days. Who cares when your eight? It was a wonderland every time we got out of the car. Could have been Amarillo, but it was a new and exciting place to buy beef jerky! The landscape began to change more and more from what was normal to me, with flat lands and wide open fields, to hills that counted as mountains to my Oklahoma eyes. The air would begin to change. Cooler, harder to breathe. We were climbing. Yellowstone was closer.
The Rockies still take my breath away. One year, when I was much older, we actually camped outside, in the mountains. We were surrounded by hills and trees and there were no other humans. Antelope danced on the adjacent hillside. We froze our butts of, but hey, we were camping in the Rockies. And never mind the fact that we had to pull a Bear Grylls with Asp tree trunks to literally lift my dad’s Jeep out of a hole when we went “exploring.” Three women on the end of a tree trunk can most certainly get a Jeep out of any situation.
Back to when I was younger. Our conversion van was heaven itself. It had more buttons than the Space Shuttle for all I knew. The seats could swallow you whole and it had mini-blinds and curtains! Our home on wheels. I could stand up in and walk to the front for one more snack or to find my shoe before we stopped to go to the bathroom. We could plug in our massive Princess Leah hair-sized headphones and sing Sweet Caroline at the top of our lungs. We’d play the alphabet game until Dad finally let me win. We’d write down how many different state car tags we could find. Wyoming was become more prevalent. Oklahoma was no where to be found but on the tail end of that sweet van.
After hours of Neil and John, after hours of naps and laughter, long after the wonder of The Vacation had left in the driveway back in Oklahoma City, there it was…the East gate into Yellowstone. My secret love.
I looked at everything. I breathed in the pine. I gasped for breath. I loved the warm sun on my face in the brisk wind. It was so quiet.
There she was…Old Faithful. She was beautiful. The Lodge. I could have moved into the lodge. Thousands of geysers that were both stinky and fascinating drew us in as we walked the endless planks. I tried not to picture myself falling in.
Bison and black bears. Moose. Raccoons. Deer.
We walked on hiking trails that I just knew had never been walked on before. Never. I was the pioneer. No one had see what I just saw.
We “discovered” waterfalls and ice cold rivers. We walked under the protective arms of giant pine trees. It was so quiet in there. So safe. We found wildflowers that could decorate a Queen’s palace just fine.
And there was always the gift shop. The buildings were made of pine logs and decorated with heads of moose and bison. The floors were always wood so they had that sound that said, “You’re now in the wide open country where we all wear cowboy boots.” Tennis shoes didn’t sound near as cool as cowboy boots did in those places. My parents always let me get a sweatshirt. One year, I found a rare treasure– a braided copper bracelet. I wore until it broke in half. Sad day.
Yellowstone belonged to me. No one loved it as I did. No one thought it more beautiful. No one’s heart broke like mine did when I saw the footage of the great fire. I just knew Yellowstone would be gone. I knew it!
But it wasn’t. It isn’t. It’s designed to regenerate.
I recently saw a National Geographic story on Yellowstone. The commentator said that in 25 seconds of being in the flame, the resin on the pine melts, the cone expands, and seeds fall to the ground. No more than 25 seconds or the seeds burn. No less, or the resin won’t melt.
25 seconds is all the forest needs to regenerate. God designed it that way. Made me wonder, if God can be that faithful with fire in Yellowstone to produce new growth and new life, then when I’m in the fires of life, He knows just how long I’ll need to be in it to produce new growth. It might hurt, but there is new life after the flame.