I have a certain rock that I carry around with me, perhaps really more a piece of stone. It is a mottled mineral assemblage, mostly petrified wood I think, but there are some hints of chert, maybe obsidian, even some green oxidized mineral. I am only a geologist by enthusiasm so I cannot really say. I found it in my summer housing’s backyard, above the Yellowstone River. Sometimes I place it in my hand, close my eyes, and feel the power of this place. I feel the power I felt at thirteen driving through acres of forest that were younger than I, and at realizing that they would outlive me many times over. I feel the thud of my heart and tightening of my gut as a grizz comes close enough to smell out of the trees along the trail. I feel the warmth of my partner’s breath as she watches the wolves we hear howling, I remember the wonder in the faces of the folks in my tour as she tells them what the howling means. I catch my breath in ragged wonder as a geyser spouts into life, ahead of its predicted eruption, and like a jet engine shoots a stream of water over a hundred feet into the winter air. These moments have already passed, but as the rock lies in my palm my mind brings them back.
This year, I have shared this place with four million others. Some only want photos, some are just passing through, but many are also moved by this power. As an educator and guide in the Park, I have been told by several clients and students that they have never felt power like this before visiting Yellowstone. I hope that they can experience power like this in some form beyond the imaginary lines demarcating this place.