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geysers and bison in wyoming

approaching jackson hole wyoming from the air
out of the plane’s window land full with lakes and rivers
the teton mountains erect high into the sky
despite the hot summer of july
their tops decorated with snow and glaciers
continuously feeding the rivers and lakes
with cold fresh water

the first europeans to arrive in wyoming
were french explorers
when they noticed the tetons
they saw only three mountains
and named them trois teton – the three tits

walking down the stairs of the airplane
into jackson hole’s tiny airport
the gate leading into the terminal
has an arch made of elk antlers
fortunately no elk had to get killed for the antlers
which are also ground up for chinese aphrodisiacs

once a year the elk shed their gigantic antlers
and start growing new ones
no one is allowed to collect the elk antlers
except for the boys scouts
who then sell them in fundraising auctions

all four entrances to jackson hole’s main square
are through arches made of elk antlers
that look and feel like grey tree branches

these antlers are symbols of pride in this cowboy town

jackson hole is six thousand feet above sea level
surrounded by tall mountains and hence called hole
arriving jackson hole by land
requires crossing tall mountain passes

the wyoming summer lasts less than three months
with warm and dry sunny days
during the winter temperatures go far below freezing
feet of snow cover the earth making cross country skiing
good means for getting around

first stop after the airport is susan’s yurt
in the middle of wide open meadows
wild flowers of all colors
and large variety of herbal plants cover the land
in the distance mountains break the horizontal continuity
of the flat land

the yurt is a hybrid between house and tent
round from the outside
cozy and spacious inside
fireplace for the cold days and a comfortable bed
luxurious minimalism
just like susan

along the road to the yurt
herd of wild bison eating grass
the mature adults weigh over two thousand pounds
yet can make very athletic jumps over creeks
and sprint at 30 miles per hour
three times faster than any human can run
they appear tame but are wild, unpredictable, and dangerous
many people have been gored by buffalo
sometimes if feeling threatened they may walk on a car
redesigning the vehicle into a new shape

one buffalo from the herd is rolling in the sand
another big adult is keeping a watchful eye on us
in between delicious grazes

picnic with local organic veggies at snake river
named after its very long curvy trail
growing season is very short
yet the local produce is rich and tasty

standing inside one of the river’s shallow creeks
three garter snakes slither inside the water
right next to our feet
one snake has just caught a fish
keeping busy swallowing his sushi meal
dages squatting down putting her hand on the ground
one snake advancing toward her and winding up her palm
not minding being held by us
each time we put it back on the ground
the snake moves few feet away
then turning around sliding back to us

jumping into the snake river
allowing it to carry me for half a mile
strong currents pulling me down
swallowing a little water
noticing that the stiffer my body gets
the more it sinks
relaxing the mind
the body becoming looser
back into floating
riding on the stream
hugging knees to the chest
to avoid getting hit by the many hidden rocks

heading towards the yellowstone caldera
long before any recorded human history in yellowstone
a massive volcanic eruption spewed
an immense volume of ash
covering all of the western usa
much of the midwest
northern mexico
and some areas of the eastern pacific
the eruption dwarfed that of mount saint helens in 1980
and left a caldera 30 miles wide by 45 miles long

in 1988 lightning caused a fire
that burned 60 per cent of yellowstone
most of the burned trees fell down
becoming fertile food for the earth
the burning pines released their cones
generating a carpet of healthy young trees
today the land has recovered with green grass
bright green trees
and tall trunks that remained standing after the fire

the land is blessed with many lakes
rivers
mighty waterfalls
and deep canyons
full with rich colorful soils and yellow rocks
elk, bison, deer, wolves, black bears,
grizzly bears, moose, eagles,
and many other birds and critters call this place home

yellowstone sits above very active thermal activity
two thirds of the geysers in the world are in yellowstone
each geyser with its own personality
some geysers more predictable
others not at all
there are geysers that erupt
from the center of boiling pools
others erupt from dry holes in rocks

sitting next to a small pool of boiling water
water bubbling out of the earth
very acidic water that can damage the skin if touched
the pool filling up slowly
until it’s fully covered with water
then boiling steaming water erupts
from the center of the pool upwards
spitting water 30 feet high
waves forming inside the small pool
producing a local storm
pushing water from the center outward
forming a river
the forest all around us
turning into a long snake of steam
indicating the path of the water

the geyser has gone into rest
the pool is now empty of water
gradually the cycle begins again
with bubbling water filling up
until in few hours the pool will be full again
and the geyser will come back to life

in some areas there are clear blue deep pools
some small
others quite large
very tempting to go into these natural jacuzzis
but the water is so hot
that it would actually scald
only specific bacteria can survive living in this water
creating rings of colorful carpets around the pools
and on the sides of the little streams
yellow, red, brown, orange
rainbow made of bacteria

one buffalo laying next to one boiling pool
inhaling the thick cloud of steam
giving himself healing spa session
imitating him we move into a cloud of vapor
getting moist inside
allowing rich minerals to enter our lungs

approaching the beehive geyser
cone sticking out of a rock
being told beehive erupts once a day
which happens exactly when we reach it
beehive begins shooting up water
higher and higher
the entire area is covered with steam
the boiling water reaches 180 feet high into the sky
in an impressive show that lasts for several minutes

back in jackson hole
we’re invited by the small jewish congregation
for shabbat ceremony in nature
walking on boardwalk built above a swamp
green plants erect out of the water
gigantic healthy dandelion leaves find themselves picked
and delivered straight into my mouth

getting out of the swamp into open green meadow
surrounded by tall mountains spotted with snow
due to lack of budget the rabbi isn’t really a rabbi
though he’s running the show in pleasant manner
the cantor who isn’t really a cantor playing guitar
and group of young girls singing shabbat songs

strong wind appearing out of nowhere
bringing with it lightning storm
the sky instantly darkening
turning the blessings of the wine and bread
into a fast forward short ceremony

arriving back in new york
in time for beginning preparations
for big shabbat ceremony
with delicious vegetarian feast

© 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Zemach Zohar Wilson, Wyoming, July 2005

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