Notes from Yellowstone #14

Tuesday. Unsettled. The feeling has dominated the day. Tomorrow is my last day of the work week. I’m glad for that, but melancholic over the passage of time and the distance between me and the people I love the most. There is a storm building here. The lake is choppy with white caps, and I could hear the waves hitting the shore below the helipad. I don’t remember hearing that sound before, in all my walks down here — and the dogs and I do a lot of walks. There is smoke on the water from the fires in Idaho and other western states. The haze is  heavy along the shoreline, and the Absarokas are completely hidden from view. 

Geese are beginning to gather for the journey south.  The grasses are turning brown, the green disappearing as the color of the wildflowers has also faded. The summer is more than halfway over. I want it all back. I want a do-over. 

Tonight I am unsettled because I can’t control space and time. You’d have thought I would have gotten over that sort of irrationality at my age, but I’m not feeling at all rational right now. I’m feeling strangely weepy and sad. And unsettled.

Thursday. Have you ever met one of those big old unpeturbable dogs that tolerates all manner of abuse from children riding him, using him for a pillow, pulling his hair? One of those dogs that never gets grouchy about it, unless the kid is the jerk from down the street who just doesn’t know when to quit and keeps poking and pushing and pulling. Then he might bark or growl a bit. It’s the kind of dog that takes a lot to piss off — like a real threat. Some danger to himself or his family. Only then are the teeth bared and the old dog barks and growls. I’ve met only a few of these dogs, and they were real treasures that I remember decades later.

I’m losing two of my friends/neighbors/coworkers from Workcamp Yellowstone today. Dennis (not his real name) worked with me on many shifts these past few weeks. He was one of those folks who was always a pleasure to work with. He knew what had to be done and did it with no complaints and very little ceremony, beyond letting a co-worker know where he’d be and what he would be doing if needed. He was crazy reliable. You knew you didn’t have to check supply levels of anything when Dennis was working. He had it covered. 

Dennis is one of us over 60-types who came to Yellowstone to work for the summer and live in the campground. He is a giant of a man, well over 6 feet tall and not willowy. He is gentle and kind and considerate to a fault. He and his wife, Julie (also not her real name) had found the Yellowstone work experience to be a little different than what they had imagined, but they were willing to stick it out to the end. And then…

One day last week, a customer came in and demanded a service. It was not an unreasonable demand, and it is a service we provide, but most customers ask nicely and are quite courteous about it. This one chose to be not so much. As Dennis complied with the demand, the customer became increasingly demanding and asked for other services and Dennis questioned the appropriateness of one of these demands. The customer became threatening as well as demanding and in the process violated Dennis’ personal space.

Dennis barked. 

After a week of investigation by the company and the park service authorities, Dennis was offered a demotion and a pay cut and a job with no customer contact of any kind. It was one indignity too many. Dennis and Julie are packing up and leaving today. This is not a memory of Yellowstone that I will treasure.

The smoke from the western fires is so thick here now that you can smell it and feel it in your throat. I can’t even see the other side of West Thumb this morning, and we haven’t seen the Absaroka Mountains in days. I guess I’ll skip the hike today for my lungs’ sake. 

It may be time to level the Hovel.


About Sharon

Like anyone who lives long enough, I have experienced great loss and survived. I am convinced that my survival depends on my own participation in creating the reality I am living in, and I am determined to be a thoughtful and active participant/creator. These writings are my way of documenting that creation. As the song goes, "I will survive!" I chose the title Staying Vertical because I find that surviving isn't just staying on my feet physically. Keeping my thoughts and emotions on the vertical plane keeps me alive and moving forward. Thanks for joining me!
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4 Responses to Notes from Yellowstone #14

  1. Mary Lou Hymel says:

    Way to support your employees. Not cool!

    Fall comes early there, I guess. It doesn’t get here until November. I don’t envy you all the experiences you’ve had at Yellowstone this summer, but I do envy the time you’ve spent wallowing in the beauty of nature. My question….is there another summer there in your future?

    Still hoping to see you later this year! Love ya!

    • Sharon says:

      I am mulling over the idea of a second summer. I do love it here, and I can detach somewhat from the work drama. This one was just too much this week.

  2. I do understand the unsettled life, the feeling of seasonal change, of life’s wheel turning and the shadow of death, of renewal, of nature and her way. There are storms and storms both natural and not, seasonal shifts and decay. All around you were feeling the vibrations coming at you from all quarters. I think when you are actually “in” nature you feel it more than when buffeted by concrete and people.

    Be well, my friend. Absorb and live. Let dreams fly and be one with the Great Mother. All shall pass and time most of all. Be now. Be still. Be.

  3. Frank Knowles says:

    Sorry your week wasn’t very pleasant, my friend. I can sympathize with “Dennis”, I think. I tried to be that type of guy in my job, and had a similar “rep” with management. But every now and then, some really annoying “chihuahua” type would press the limits of my Labrador personal and………All I can say, Sharon, is that I hope Dennis bit the guy’s face off……
    Hang in there, and make the most of your adventure.

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