One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

29 August 2012

The Ghosts and the Bears

The sagebrush seems empty, then it shimmers...a grizzly walks out, swings her mighty head toward the road and moves into the open with cubs tumbling behind her...I blink and the sagebrush is empty again.

The Teton/Yellowstone parks are inextricably woven into the tapestry of my life....and therefore, they are full of ghosts.

Some are ghosts of those gone...my Dad, my old dog, the magnificent bears "264", "Blaze", "760" and others.

Some are ghosts of moments that seem to echo year after year...and each year there are more of them.

For much of the time since my first visit, Teton/Yellowstone has been my refuge. Through all my travels, it was the one place I always returned to.

When I would leave the Tetons...it felt as if my heart was being torn out by the roots...rather significant for a girl with a tumbleweed soul who has never felt rooted anywhere.

Early on, Autumn was what I associated with the Parks...bugling elk, moose in the rut, pouncing coyotes, browsing black bears, fall arts festivals and golden aspens quaking under cerulean skies.

It was years before I saw my first grizzly...a distant bear roaming the slopes below Dunraven Pass. After the bear vanished into the trees, the guy standing next to me said "I feel like my heart just fell out of my chest". I had to agree and still feel that way every time I see a bear...

One spring when I needed to run away from the world, I wound up in the Tetons and worked my way north to Yellowstone... landing in the middle of my first serious bear jam.

Little did I know that the grizzlies I watched and the people I met that spring would change my life.

The bears, in particular, seem to be the common thread through the life lessons learned in the Parks.

Seeing, photographing and painting bears might have been my "goal"...but it has been the experiences along the way that have been of real value.

During my time among the grizzlies, I have met people briefly who touched my life deeply...and have forged extraordinary friendships that transcend the boundaries of the Park.

There are the ghosts of times when I escaped to the park to sort out the pieces after one sort of heartbreak or another...and exquisite moments of wonder that happily haunt me still.

Along my many miles and many years through the parks, I have been awestruck by things I've never seen before...and grief-stricken over those I will never see again.

I've tried to hold on and, finally, learned to let go.

Maybe it is the ambient heat of the geothermal features that throws fuel on the fire of my passion and melts the sometimes broken shards of my T2 soul, turning the pieces to quicksilver that pools together into something stronger (and hopefully wiser) each time.

There are ghost bears that walk through my dreams, play in my imagination and live in my heart. They wander out of the sagebrush of my soul and onto my canvases.

The ghosts and the bears keep the Parks alive in my heart...and, maybe just as importantly, keep my heart alive in the Parks.

Originally published June 15, 2007