Last week, I went to Yellowstone National Park for the first time. We’ve lived in this region for nineteen years and I’ve wanted to do this trip for the whole time, but it took the thought of moving for us to actually get in the car and make the drive.
For two days, we explored the park. I wanted to see everything! Magnificent mountains, glorious wildlife, the caldera of the supervolcano! However, I was most surprised by the amount of water there. Huge amounts of water!
When I thought of Yellowstone, of course I thought of Old Faithful, but mostly I thought of amazing wildlife and the supervolcano. Even though I live in the middle of the Rockies with rivers and creeks and lakes, I hadn’t associated Yellowstone with water.
As we crested the pass on our way into the park, Lake Yellowstone came into view. The vast expanse of water stunned me. Continuing on our journey, waterfalls, rivers, mudpots, hot springs, and geysers dominated the landscape.
Just before our visit, I read a Facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert which talked about going to the water for healing (She wrote my current favorite nonfiction book, Big Magic). She ended the piece by saying “Just rest, and go to the water. It’s all gonna be alright. That’s what the water always tells me, anyhow. And I believe in the water.”
Suddenly, the surprise of Yellowstone’s gurgling mudpots and bubbling springs and ruffled rivers and amazingly giant lake came into focus. I knew that I was planning on starting this business back up upon my return, but I didn’t realize how intrinsic this trip was to my final healing process.
Two years ago (after working for myself for over a decade), I had lost all confidence in myself and my abilities. I felt like nothing I did made any difference and that my decisions were all wrong. If I picked left, I should have gone right. If I looked up, the interesting thing I should be looking for was on the ground.
Thus, I decided to take a job where someone else would tell me what to do and I would just do it. I wanted to be a minion.
I picked something that looked simple and mindless: gallery receptionist for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. I would be around art all day and chat with people as they walked through.
Upon applying for the job, I discovered that it was more than being a receptionist, but rather an administrative assistant with some bookkeeping. Still, other people would be making the decisions for me. They gave me the job and I embraced my new “minion” status.
Over the next two years, the Steamboat Springs Arts Council – from the president of the board to the people who just wandered into the gallery one day – took me in and encouraged me. They praised my actions, expressed their appreciation of my abilities, and embraced my decisions. They gave me a promotion and a lovely title (Art Ninja! or Finance & Administration) and their trust. I can’t count the number of times someone walked up the stairs to my little office (I left the gallery space pretty quickly as I’m mostly an introvert) and remarked positively about a decision I made or an action I’d taken.
Their encouragement bolstered me and gave me the confidence to take this next step – leaving the safety of a “job” and moving back into the joy and independence of working for myself.
Before I could really embrace my new journey fully however, I had to finish my healing. Thus, it was time to “go to the water.” I just never expected the water to be nestled in an ancient caldera in the middle of the Rockies.
As we picnicked by rivers and gazed wonderingly at waterfalls, my pain and fear and uncertainty melted and flowed away.
The mudpots bubbled and plopped, mirroring my well of creativity which will not be denied (no matter how hard I try). Old Faithful, that magnificent geyser, zipped into the air in a rush of heat and water and steam to end our outdoor adventure, comforting me with the idea that, even if I don’t have the talent and the creativity, consistency will always be appreciated.
And the lake. Lake Yellowstone. An expanse of water with springs underneath causing waves to brush up against the dark gray beaches. Sitting on a bench knitting, I watched people take pictures of each other with that beautiful backdrop while I allowed the silvery surface to seep into my soul and heal all those final little cracks.
Water accompanied me through the entire trip back as lakes provided the foreground to my pictures of the Grand Teton mountain range and storms poured rain across the plain. Our Yampa River accompanied us as we drove back into town and led us back up to our little house.
I went to the water, and now my spirit is healed. I feel ready to explore my creativity and follow my inspiration and develop my business and embrace my customers and students and patrons of all sorts. I can finally go back out into the world and be a real person and hang out with friends.
Sigh. It’s good to be back.