On Tuesday, I left the easel and headed deep into Yellowstone to see friends as they were traveling through. Heidi had traveled from Minnesota to shoot in the parks, while Claudia and PJ (aka the Dutch Duo from the Netherlands) were passing through after photographing auroras across the Northwest Territories. We had planned on enjoying a fall day chasing grizzlies as we had together over so many years.
Heidi and I looked for bears for a little while, then went to meet the Dutch Duo late in the evening to try for a shot of the aurora. Heidi is a renowned aurora photographer and was going to walk me (an aurora virgin) through the process. The Dutch Duo are amazing aurora chasers in their own right...so I'd be in good company all around. We wound our way to the top of the Chittenden Road only to be thwarted by a pummeling wind.
In the shelter of the PJ and Claudia’s big camper PJ started lobbying for a trip back into Canada to catch another solar event that was predicted (for today, actually). They pored over maps and searched for cell signals to check the weather. Heidi excitedly decided to join them in an impromptu convoy 700 miles North. They would leave in the morning for the border…aurora shooting lessons and bear chasing were called off.
As we loaded into our respective vehicles, though…I had my own change of heart. Rather than follow them to the campsite, I passed around “goodbye” hugs and turned my truck back to the South to chase bears as planned.
After our brief meeting, I headed to Hayden, where I stood at an overlook to make my first attempt at photographing the night sky. Wolves and coyotes lifted their voices to the stars in a wild chorus as I worked. Then I drove further South, to capture the big dipper reflected in the waters of Parkadise as the water birds flapped their wings and called softly in the night.
In the morning, while photographing a bear that we’d seen together countless times over the years, I got word that they were already in Canada. They must have decided to drive through much of the night. I smiled at the thought…and went back to the bear. Vicariously, they were here…and I was there.
My friends didn’t have to be with me, physically. They were here in spirit. They share my love of this wonderful place and the desire to share what we find beautiful about it. I am deeply grateful that my life is full of friends like these, people like me who follow their own star and try to live their dreams. Just knowing they are out there makes the world seem a better place.
Shortly after we had parted the night before, a meteor plummeted toward the planet. I started to make a wish, then paused: my home makes my heart sing...I love (and am loved by) family, friends and my quadrupeds…my life inspires the work I love to do…and I am in Yellowstone. What more could there be to wish for? So I watched the star fall in its own ephemeral beauty, unburdened by any want of mine.
“Be a spark and glow a while
You'll be dead a long, long time
Be a shooting star
And in one mad moment
Light the night
And make us stand in awe”