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A new state

August 5, 2013

I just moved again. It’s kind of wonderful– this picking up and finding a new place and not only learning its contours but its smelly bits and its faults. But also sort of terrible– leaving the people and the smells you have learned and loved. Still, my new place has a lot to love. I feel like I’m on vacation, partly because I’ve only been here for a few weeks and also because here is so beautiful.

Moonrise over West Thumb Geyser Basin

I’ve been here briefly before when Q and I took our cross-country trip four years ago. My new home is Cody, Wyoming. The town of approximately 10,000 is swollen now with summer visitors. Almost every evening a crowd gathers on the street outside our apartment building to watch a staged gun fight. Cowboy hats, spurs and dialogue gleaned from movies perpetuate the myths of the Wild West. Ranchers drive by in their trucks. Irrigation channels bring snow-melt water down from the mountains to nourish fields of wheat, barley, beans and sugar beets. Satellite pictures of the region show the stark contrast between the irrigated circular fields, watered lawns and the sage brush and mostly dry creek beds of this high intermountain basin. A gash in the neighboring Absaroka Range is the path that Buffalo Bill Cody took expeditions into Yellowstone. Also visible from town is the unusually shaped peak of Heart Mountain,  now managed by the Nature Conservancy, a sacred site for the displaced Crow Nation and the namesake mountain peak for the Heart Mountain Relocation War Relocation Center, one of ten internment camps used to hold Japanese Americans during World War II.

I’ve been into Yellowstone twice, scrambled over rocks and dipped in pools in a pristine-looking canyon in the Bighorns, attended a music festival thrown by a women’s workwear company and witnessed a ceremony to reconnect the Crow with Heart Mountain. I am a bit in awe of this place. The rocks are red and pink and even light green. Layers of time are visible in these mountain ranges. Dinosaurs are unearthed here. This land is home to wolves, bears, bison and the pronghorn, which is cited as the second fastest animal in the world (only the cheetah can beat it, but it can run faster for longer).

Just a small portion of a massive herd of bison in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley

Just a small portion of a massive herd of bison in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley

And this land is cracked. Steam and hot water, smelling of sulphur, gushes, boils and bubbles from underground. The crust here is thin. The Yellowstone hotspot is a plume of magma lurking just a few miles below the surface. In most places, the crust is tens of miles thick. The more than 10,000 hydrothermal features, incredible scenery and abundant wildlife draw in millions of tourists each year. During my most recent visit I saw more than a thousand bison grazing and rolling in the dirt, countless elk, a black bear, a grizzly, two coyotes, swans, pelicans, deer, pronghorn and a pine martin. I oogled the colors of thermophilic bacteria that live in the steamy waters of hot springs. I watch the stars turn above me, brighter against a darker sky than any I’ve seen before.

Thermophilic bacteria in Yellowstone's West Thumb Geyser Basin

Thermophilic bacteria in Yellowstone’s West Thumb Geyser Basin

I’m just getting started here. I miss my family and far-flung friends, but I hope that these wonders can entice them to visit.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. adklizzy permalink
    August 14, 2013 11:51 am

    Duly enticed!

    • Aunt Martha permalink
      January 19, 2014 1:00 pm

      “… but I hope that these wonders can entice them to visit.” yea … me too, but i know Liz and Ken are serious – they’ve picked dates and an itinerary. Hadn’t visited your blog in awhile Marissa; i like your writing and your drawings to accompany your observations. xxxx

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