Wildflowers, Switchbacks, and Forest Fires
I just returned from one of my famous photo/road trips in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Although I haven't visited there for over 40 years, little seems to have changed with that natural world---fawns bounced through the forest, Bison lumbered along, and elk lay in the forest "in velvet"---looking as stately as ever. Even Old Faithful chose to erupt on schedule (well, close to it) and was as powerful as it used to be. It really made me think that I too haven't changed much. Well, maybe just a few more wrinkles, blond hair (sounds so much better than GREY) and several stainless steel joints compliments of my OA, but other than that OK. I walk a little different and slower than I used to, and I won't win the Boston Marathon, but I couldn't at 20 and it's VERY unlikely at 64. Of course, that's ONLY because my orthopedic doctors tell me "no running". HA!!!!!
Because I travel a great deal, I've become aware of the new dance craze that's sweeping our nation. The TSA TANGO, which involves people attempting to thread belts in their pants and replace their shoes without sitting down, while corralling laptops, toddlers, and carry-on luggage!!! I've learned to be "good to me" and discovered that, if I can, I try to schedule a "cushion day" at the end of each trip when I'm flying. I used to always wonder about those announcements by the airlines ("we're overbooked, and....."). So, five times since April, I've checked with the airlines about their offers and three times I've ended up staying in great hotels at the airlines expense, of course. They also provided two meal tickets, transportation to and from the hotel, a bonus of frequent flier mileage, and a guaranteed booking on a flight for the next morning!!!
I've learned to carry a small photographer's backpack in addition to my Pelican case for camera gear. I keep a small toothbrush, small deodorant (be SURE to have these in heavyweight, small Zip Lock bags), change of underwear, big t-shirt, three days extra meds, and a couple of granola bars. I've found that this brief lay-over makes my return home much more relaxed!!! I've also learned to carry, bungee-strapped to my backpack, a mono-pod, which is a single-legged tripod. Its very light-weight, collapsible and, when needed, it doubles as a walking stick!!!!! Another discovery; if you are flying into an area, and then renting a car be sure to CHECK THE RATES. I changed companies yesterday, since I needed a car in San Diego for a week, and checked with my original reservation to find it was not only almost $140 more (PER WEEK), but the first one had mileage restrictions and the second one didn't (FOR THE SAME car)!!!!!
After returning from my sojourn into the world of camping and canoeing in incessant rain a month ago, I felt ultimately qualified to produce a documentary on "What NOT to do in the World of OA"! However, the best part of all is that I'm gradually learning to laugh at myself and take things in stride (or a little limp, for me). I look back and remember, although not fondly, sitting on a slick mossy log and, in slow motion, sliding backward to the forest floor with my feet still in the air. The challenges of dressing while lying on my back in a small, wet tent with flexibility challenges due to artificial hips will never be forgotten. I'd almost opted for nudity, but that would have brought up other scary issues!!!!! I can even chuckle at myself about the Wyoming/Montana trip where I pre-paid $30 for gas, and then calmly drove off because I REALLY had to use the bathroom!!! I returned to the filling station (much to everyone's amusement), and announced that this had to be the first drive-off where the customer PAID but didn't take any gas!!!
So, all in all, this was a glorious trip! Because I was on MY own trip; I could shoot when and where I wanted, meet lots of wonderful people, and, most importantly for me, go at my own pace!!!!! I explored all over Montana and Wyoming, ate awesome "cowboy" meals, and even took the time to hopefully walk off a few of the calories. I saw mountain tops looming in the distance with drifts of snow, incredible mirrored reflections in mountain lakes, and masses of fallen timber, like Tinker Toys waiting to be assembled. There was the peace and quiet of the purple silhouettes of mountain peaks hovering in the distance. Even the awesome view inside the Chapel of the Transfiguration was almost overwhelming. I took the time to return to a favorite pass on Beartooth Mountain to photograph the tiny end-of the-season wildflowers cheerfully peeking out between the boulders. The East Gate of Yellowstone was finally re-opened (it had been closed due to the forest fire), and as I drove from Jackson toward Cody there was an almost ethereal wall of rain, low-lying clouds, and smoke and vapor coming up from the smoldering forest. Visibility was very limited at times, but it became almost a spiritual feeling for me. Once in awhile a profile of trees climbing up a mountain-side or a cliff peeked through. Ghostly, but memorable pictures!
So now I've returned to my world of preparing for a "show" of some of my African photography, matting and framing work for sale, producing my photo-greeting cards, and studying Swahili for my up-coming lengthy stay in Tanzania. My life HAS definitely changed since my "friend" Arthur (you know, OA) crept into my life. I don't run races any more (OK, I never did!). I've learned that this is a challenge and NOT A HANDICAP. One of my readers wrote from Australia that the ONLY handicap is between your ears!!! I now know that if I'm not feeling well for some unknown reason, then I should check with my doctor. We recently discovered that two of my prescriptions were "fighting" each other and when, at her advice, I quit taking them both I got better!!! I know that I need to go at my own pace, be good to me and, most importantly, reach for the mountaintops!!!!!