Of the three-hour shortened trip to the Yellowstone National Park, one and a half were spent stopped.
We waited for road work.
Thirty minutes sitting in the car, waiting.
And on two separate occasions waited 30 minutes each for a pair of buffalo to move from the roadway.
Today is Friday, September 14, 2018
This is my 157th consecutive daily posting.
Time is 5.11 am in Salt Lake City and the weather in St. George, UT where I’m heading later will be 97* and sunny.
Last night I enjoyed a wonderful Japanese dinner including a light beef broth with udon noodles and a spare rib.
Despite the terribly exhausting auto trip yesterday, arriving at my motel just before sundown, this morning, being just a mile from Yellowstone’s entrance, is a just reward.
Had a terrific full breakfast and bought a boxed lunch of smoked salmon and cheese.
Brought a bottle of water.
Visited the Yellowstone Visitor’s Center to confirm the rhythm.
Returned to the hotel and booked tonight’s room, also at West Yellowstone, planning on a second day of touring the park.
And worked on the blog.
Didn’t get started on the Yellowstone South loop until 11.20am
Expected to be gone from West Yellowstone for from 6 to 8 hours.
Things continued to go well even at the admissions gate. My senior national park pass bought years ago at Plum Island, forgives my entry fee.
Check again: water, lunch, gas tank full and bladder empty.
Five minutes later the line of traffic stops.
And stays stopped for 30 minutes.
Ever felt like you were in a New Yorker cartoon?
In the event, two buffalo were traveling on the highway with no other course for the visitors but to google and wait.
Where is Buffalo Bill when you need him?
But really, this 30 minute stop I was happy to accept as part of the greater experience.
Which has not yet happened.
The stop happened first.
The traffic starts up an in a few minutes is traveling at 45mph.
Comes the first geyser.
According to wiki:
A geyser is a spring characterized by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by steam. The formation of geysers is due to particular hydrogeological conditions, which exist in only a few places on Earth, so they are a fairly rare phenomenon. Generally all geyser field sites are located near active volcanic areas, and the geyser effect is due to the proximity of magma.
Problem here is Yellowstone offers little else to do but follow the markers.
There’s a marker indicating one or several geysers.
We follow the marker.
Hundreds of cars, disgorging perhaps thousands of people.
Walking shoulder to shoulder to the highlight which is not very much to see.
Photographs are great but what we saw was not worth a picture.
When traveling between markers, the views offered were not as wonderful as those presented yesterday at the Bridger-Tetons, for example, lacking the monumentality.
But both had lovely streams.
Bridger-Tetons did not have the people that distracted me and detracted from my enjoyment.
Nor did it have the roadwork or the buffalo that held me up for one and a half hours of my three hour visit.
Honestly, is it truly wonderful to see two buffalo up close?
Interesting, a bit.
Spend big bucks and big time for?
Old Faithful did live up to its name.
It was splendid.
If what we saw was not the finest example of its explosions, it certainly was worth seeing.
The visit should have taken six hours but after Old Faithful I decided to leave the park on this high note.
In sum, none of what i said hits the point.
Which is: we are each of us different creatures.
If I had researched geysers and become invested with knowledge of them, i might have been thrilled to Oooh! and Aaah! over the details of the geyser stops, opportunities Yellowstone does afford its visitors.
I like quiet.
I like to walk.
I like quiet walks in nature, observing, smiling, enjoying the weather, the vistas.
I don’t read plaques, except in Museums of Fine Art because I am interested in art in the way I am not interested in geysers or the other stops in Yellowstone, or most other things.
I like streams and waterfalls but I can find these along with the other aspects of enjoying nature that I do love.
Yellowstone has too much of the Disney park tensions.
And I’ve never been to Disney Lands or Worlds or Parks.
The drive through Bridger-Teton was thrilling.
No time to walk, unfortunately.
Dom’s rhapsody the other day about “nothing-to-do” and his words in today’s post, at the beginning, about that, hmmm, long line of cars at the access to Yellowstone Park (I am simply not going to say anything about the reverberant thoughts when pondering the concepts of National Park Service and stalled lines of vehicles burning fossil fuels while the occupants wait in line), with the attendant boredom – not to mention impatience, frustration, and ennui that can also accompany such an enforced captivity caused me to think about the subject more generally.
I will admit, to digress for just half a moment, that I did consider very very briefly and no doubt with gratuitous mischief and coyote-like playfulness – I mean, Dom is in that great area of the country where Coyote, the spirit animal, reigns, and all manner of unexplained mayhem is laid at the whimsey of the Aztec god, Huehuecóyotl (which means “coyote” in Nahuatl, the ancient language of certain Mexican cultures – and, in another probably unforgivable digression within a digression, I will point out that, if you page back to my short story of a few days ago about Guadalupe, you will see that Nahuatl has already influenced the proceedings here, in that Guadalupe is a corruption of the name of another Nahuatl goddess, who is associated with Mary, that is, the Virgin, and is the reason that even in Jerusalem, the Virgin may be referred to as Guadalupe, the name by which she is sometimes better known in the great Southwest) – anyway, I considered a different kind of long-winded detour by way of a contemplation of the philosophy of “the destination is the drive,” and the complications of finding oneself inside one’s vehicle in a long line of cars that are not moving. But I decided not to, as this would have been imprudent and cruel, and the dubious point to be made is easily countered by pointing out that idling on a byway at the entrance of a National Park is not driving. And of course, he did get in, and with a senior discount! Score! But back to business.
I am as capable of patience and frustration as the next person, I am sure. But in the fullness of my life thus far, I have learned somehow – sometimes with purposeful and conscious intent and strenuous mental exercise and great emotional constraint – to be patient, always, about some things. Like computers. Getting angry at a computer when it doesn’t do what you want it to, or, worse, it doesn’t do anything at all, is useless and unhealthy. Capriciously (it seems) and wantonly this infernal machine simply stops operating. For that, amazingly, I have infinite patience, as I slowly unravel the problem and straighten it out, usually on my own, but sometimes the more tangled conditions need assistance. Whatever. It may take long minutes. It may take an hour. In one marathon stubborn set of circumstances this summer, I had a problem while in France, and it took a day, and onscreen chatting with a tech at Apple, who was probably sitting at a workstation about 5,000 miles away, to get things right. Only to discover, simultaneous with clearing up the problem so it went away, that the cause was a simple small setting, which I myself had made, more or less unconsciously, to one somewhat fundamentally unnecessary application that I use because I am neurotic.
As most problems end up resolving to the cause of human intervention, sometimes intentional it’s true (and then it requires real strength to keep from letting anger get the best of you – too often in moments when it’s best to use all your strength to keep your hands, your fingers, and really any other accessible parts of your body, away from the horn of your car), and more often because of not paying sufficient attention, the argument for learning to keep certain feelings (anger, for sure, but a whole slew of others) tamped down.
I think it’s long since that the cheap common wisdom of bearing such advice in mind is most compelling when visiting a foreign country. It’s hard enough when they speak the same native language (more or less), as in England, but it does get more challenging when, for example, the lingua franca is foreign to us, as in, well, yeah, France. Where the lingua franca actually is freakin’ Franca... Well, French, but same thing. “Franca” in that expression means “Frankish tongue,” even though the expression is Italian basically. So go figure.
So when it comes to cultural difference, it’s best, I think, to be mindful not only of what may seem to be the sudden forceful need not just to “tamp it down,” but to keep from jumping up and down, gesticulating, and screaming, it’s best somehow to teach yourself the arts of boredom. Essentially they are these, and simple as it seems, it requires sometimes many years of mindful concentration and practice involving the hardest parts of oneself on which to impose new habits, the inner parts of the conscious mind.
What’s involved is first to get past the inevitable state of bemusement, that is of confusion and befuddlement—that “muse” in the middle of the word may make you think that the state of bemusement has something to do with amusement, but no, no. Amusement means getting outside yourself. Bemusement is discovering spontaneously you are stuck somewhere inside yourself, and it’s dark and scary deeper down, and being there makes you apprehensive, a little pissed maybe, and eager to get out again. So, realize you’re muddled, and begin to work on getting out of that condition.
What I like to do is distance myself. Sometimes literally, if possible, to, like, step away. But if you can’t, and mostly you can’t if you’re behind the wheel, say, of an idling vehicle, then get away inside your head. Just step away mentally. And begin to observe.
It’s almost impossible, unless you are in a truly dangerous set of circumstances, which is a different kind of problem altogether, but when merely trying to keep from succumbing to impatience and ennui, not to find something engaging, if not altogether amusing about the fellow creatures around you. It’s an old trick, but if nothing else, do what I guess little kids find it very easy to do, and that is, imagine the other people as animals. If that doesn’t get a little humorous, work a little harder; you’ll get the knack. If the animal thing doesn’t work, be mean about them, but only in hour head. If you’re not basically a mean person, it’s probably not possible. But most of us, I believe, can’t help but have the stray mean, if ultimately harmless, fleeting thought.
A lot of people complain about boredom. And there’s no doubt in my mind that sometimes the world out there (I mean outside myself) can be pretty predictable, monotonous, and as we liked to say when in a certain state of mind when I was in college, “boring and omnipresent.” So go away, that is, have somewhere to go, if only elsewhere in your head, which is where, I’d gently like to suggest, where most of that boredom is sitting and won’t move. So get away from that compartment in your brain. I’ve always felt, trying not to be self-righteous in thinking it, that if I am ever bored, I am not using my imagination. I can say, I am never bored.
These techniques of coping with the inescapable, and it does happen, are adaptable. For one thing, without too much preparation, you can anticipate circumstances that threaten to develop into a test of patience, tolerance or forbearance (or OK, any two or maybe all three at once). Find out what times and in what places the lines are shortest. I shop in my local supermarket very early in the day, and almost never, if I can help it, on a weekend. Just one example.
I’ll admit, as Dom found himself, having already traveled over 2000 miles deliberately just to find himself there, you sometimes end up in a set of circumstances where, although there are relatively safe methods to bail – I long since convinced myself that the u-turn was invented either by someone in a long line of automobiles, or someone, also in an automobile, who discovered that the road had physically ended and proceeding was impossible in the Newtonian universe – it’s actually better, on balance, not to bail. Sometimes, you can’t or won’t bail, because the objective is too valuable. Seeing unduplicable sights, for example. Old Faithful. Maybe bison, but the jury seems to be out. If it’s that important, you’ll learn to wait, while also keeping your blood pressure under control, and your bladder emptied, without embarrassing yourself or those around you.
In less existentially challenging circumstances, and for what can’t be avoided as part of one’s everyday life, there’s the philosophy of finding the humor in the human comedy (surely you’ve heard that expression before) and clinging to it, concentrating on it, embroidering it and embellishing it... I mean think of the stories you can tell your friends later.
Like what we’re doing here.
Anyway, I’ll close (oh Thank God!, he’s closing...) by quoting one of my favorite authors: myself. This is a passage, mildly doctored and with some emendations, from my book about day-to-day life for an American in a rural village in deeply rural France – the book that Dom recommended so generously earlier this summer. This passage is about buying fish, and the characteristic way in which the French, otherwise truly so civilized, deal with being in line.
The woman in front of me in line at the fish monger ordered something – I don’t know what because I hid my eyes – that cost 38,95 €/Kg [that would be more or less 23 bucks a pound at the prevailing bank rate of exchange today — and that was in 2008; certain species these days, like red snapper, are going for just shy of $30 a pound in the supermarket, first thing in the morning, or any other time of day]. By the way, beware the women in the fish monger, the customers that is, because men are clearly invisible and do not count – and old people always jump the queue, and no one says a damn thing – and you will lose your place in the queue (there really is no queue; it’s sort of generally disorganized milling in front of the fish counter – with no glass, no sneeze guards, anything to make it easier for these obnoxious old grannies to paw the glistening fillets while they mumble to themselves in tortured Provençal-accented French, about which don’t ask, let me just say it’s a far cry from that pristine academic Parisian French intoned so solemnly by Mme. Dowd in your eight-grade advanced French class, well, in my French class; suffice it to say, you’re gonna’ cook the goddam fish anyway, and you should be confident enough to realize there’s nothing wrong with your French because you can’t understand a thing that a 72-year old French housewife from the Midi, with half her teeth missing, cackles to her companions while lasciviously fingering the wolf fish fillets, at 24€ the Kilo).
But don’t just take my word for it. In an extraordinary feat of magical publishing, Peter Mayle’s newest book about Provence, the subject that made him famous and stupendously, mind-numbingly rich while he was alive, has just appeared, and is a retrospective look at his fulfilling and rewarding years in France. What makes it remarkable that this book appears now, with apparently significant new material, and from the perspective of looking backward from today, is that Mayle remains stubbornly and resistibly dead, as he has been now, sadly, since January of this year. One can hardly hold against him his tragic condition of non-existence, but one can hold his publisher accountable for not making the fact of his demise particularly apparent on first (or second, or even third) glance at this new book, which, given the vagaries of book publishing in the establishmentarian world, doubtlessly was planned and completed long before Peter Mayle departed, so that nonetheless he is not here to enjoy the fruits of sharing the wisdom of his experiences.
Neither here nor there, I suppose, as not particularly relevant to our contemplation of the even greater vagaries of waiting in line, of what to do when there is nothing to do but wait in line, and the shared and disparate cultural folkways of the citizens of arguably the three most advanced countries in the Western hemisphere when confronted with the unanticipated delays of ending up in a queue. Whatever Peter Mayle may have learned since departing his prior condition of consciousness, not to mention the state of being alive, in the living world, it does not alter the conditions of those of us still stuck in it when pondering how the French, for one, have evolved by way of coping with the opportunities for improvisation, sometimes whimsically if we can be detached enough and in the moment, in order to cope with what so many people experience as the frustration of delayed gratification:
“Having been impressed by the everyday politeness of the French, it’s only fair to mention an aspect of French life where good manners, patience, and civility take a very distant back seat: this is the ancient tradition, undoubtedly invented by the English, of the queue. The French are ingenious and persistent in their determination not to stand in an orderly line and wait their turn. They jostle, they creep, they sidle, or they pretend to be joining a dear friend who happens to be standing at the front of the crowd. I even know of a sprightly old lady who never goes to market without a crutch, otherwise never used, which she wields like a weapon to clear away anyone in her path to the front.
“...[there] is the abrupt personality change that takes place as soon as the French get into their cars, when consideration for others takes a back seat. Normally mild-mannered men and women become impatient, often aggressive, horn blowers and suicidal overtakers, given to yelling their disapproval at the driving ability of anyone in their way, anyone who has taken a precious parking space, and anyone who is driving too slowly. The best response to this is not to react, but to stare straight ahead. Infuriating, and effective. The second exception is the queue. I think the problem here is that the queue, in its very early days, was treated as a primitive contact sport without any rules, and nothing much has changed. Women are far better in queues than men. They are more cunning, more ruthless, and more determined, seeing opportunities for pushing in and queue jumping that most men wouldn’t dare attempt.”
Mayle, Peter. My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now (p. 32 & p.43). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
—© Howard Dinin, 2018.