Three Weeks Until Yellowstone

Can you believe it? I don’t know if I can.

Winter is slowly relenting to spring, putting the whole dang season behind us. We are organizing boxes. We are downsizing. We are daydreaming. We are heading back into the wilderness with so much less mystery. We are getting ready to go back home.

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Rafal is now officially a Utility Systems Operator. He will be running the water plant in Grant Village. He is a permanent (not a seasonal) National Park Service employee. It means better pay, excellent benefits, and a permanent residence in the Park. The Park Service is sending movers over to haul our things out to Wyoming. It’s totally surreal. Have we arrived, or what?

We will be returning to our same one-bedroom apartment with our same lovely little wood stove. Next winter, Rafal will get a 3-4 month furlough, so we’ll still get a break from the unfathomably brutal Yellowstone winter.

I am excited, thrilled even. I can’t wait to see those prehistoric pillars of steam rising rapidly from cracks in the earth. I can’t wait to see bison congregated in a vast meadow. I can’t wait to spend my days walking in the densest wilderness, free from pollution, free from distraction, free from noise.

I can’t wait to be the queen of my own castle: organizing my small, sweet residence in tidy patterns; planning my meals and grocery trips down to meticulous detail; just digging in and living my little frontier life again. I can’t wait to feel like I’m control.

More than anything, I can’t wait to see Yellowstone through Lydia’s eyes. She is bowled over by squirrels running through the yard. How will she react to an elk buck tapping on our bedroom window? To a geyser spraying hot water 30 feet into the air? How will she feel about the trees, the stars, the mountains and the lakes? What can she show me that I have missed? What can she teach me about what I think I already know? I can’t wait to be illuminated by her wisdom. I can’t wait to be nourished my her joy.

I’m nervous, too. I’m overwhelmed. I mean, we’re moving again. We’re packing boxes again. This time, we’ve got to detangle our belongings from those of my in-laws. It’s not easy. It’s tedious, and a little sad.

We’ve grown so much closer to our families this winter. We’ve all had a lot of fun watching Lydia grow. I’m not sure I can fill all of those shoes for her on my own. I can’t be a little kid for her, or a Grandma, or a friend. Mama, and Tata, and a beautiful expanse of wild landscape is all she will have. It is going to have to be enough.

This morning, I went to an amazing, soothing yoga class. Now I am at the local coffee shop enjoying espresso and writing, all alone. I am luxuriating in this experience. There will be no yoga classes in Yellowstone. There will be no coffee shops. There will be no “alone.”

I have a picture in my mind of where we’re going. I’ve drawn sketches of our apartment layout, deciding where to place the bookshelf and the play area. I’ve been looking at fireplace gates to buy. I know the store where we will buy our groceries. I know the 3-mile route I plan to walk each day. I know a handful of the people who will be waiting for us when we pull up.

But my goodness if this isn’t still an adventure. My goodness if I’m not proud of us for choosing it. My goodness if I’m not ready to dig in, to work hard, to seek beauty.

We’re coming for you Yellowstone. We will be reunited soon.

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