One might stand here listening to Alum Creek join the Yellowstone and think the confluence complete. Somewhere else that might be true, but not in Hayden Valley and not this morning. My mind and early fog work with the water awaiting the final piece, the morning sun. Still hidden by the hills of Hayden, it has not yet arrived.
Mist hangs over the river, the mantle clinging to remnants of night, slowing sunrise, forcing my eyes to absorb predawn light. She is holding me close; she wants me to understand her by movement, mood, sound and scent. This will be but one morning in her life, a brief exposure to her character. It must be coupled with other visits, other experiences. If one does not understand Yellowstone, she can seem harsh, even unforgiving, but this day is starting slow, she is gentle, she is teasing. In her own time, she will reveal the uniqueness that will be today.
It will be a day I am not qualified to judge. I prefer to accept each minute as it arrives, each hour for what it is, what it reveals. I prefer to accept her on her terms, let her set the pace. As she unfolds, opens up, her tempo, her beauty will compel introspection.
The voice of her valley, while familiar and reassuring, does not mirror the patience she requires. Herons squawk in the distance, the noise protesting their very existence; Sandhills chortle while Canada Geese sound anxious, as if reacting to the pace she has set.
A moon-like sun glows through the shroud revealing residents. Elk silhouetted against the Yellowstone, their outward appearance reflecting their home, reflecting the abundance of this valley. Their alert posture a reminder that, for some, they are part of the abundance. Steam rises from the backs of prone bison, their massive bulk and apparent indifference suggesting dominance.
I too am motionless, held captive by her subtle beauty, appreciating all that she is, yet perplexed by the paradox. Will I lose these mornings, this valley, to the only species known to savor these moments?