In a very timely visit, my sister Jan has been touring Yellowstone National Park this week. The park was one of the more spectacular venues my family visited on our 11,000-mile cross-country adventure in 1963. For me, seeing it when I was only six years old, Yellowstone left an indelible impression. I have also revisited the park in the past and hope to go again someday. For now, I will enjoy it through my sister’s recent pictures and this except from A Bridge Between which may help explain why both the park and my father hold a special place in my heart.

(A brief aside: times are hugely different now and the park has changed: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RECREATE MY FATHER’S ACTIONS!)

Yellowstone Hot Springs

Yellowstone Hot Springs

While my mother had a love of learning and adventure, she was more likely to stick to established conventions, to play by the rules, so to speak. My father, on the other hand, was always more comfortable traveling off the beaten path.

Off the path was exactly where he had maneuvered one particular day, while visiting the colorful mineral pools of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. The springs were a wonderland of terraces, limestone sculptures and steaming pools, spattered with an array of liquid Crayola colors creating living art. The waters were shaded hues of orange, green, yellow and pink, a wondrous concoction of water, heat and limestone painted by microorganisms into a spectacular palette.

My father left the plank boardwalk that marked the sanctioned route over the terraced limestone springs and knelt at the edge of one of the pools. My mother turned her back, whether in embarrassment or fear for his safety, or a little of both. Carlo fished with a spoon strapped to the end of a metal antenna—items, I suppose, any truly adventurous man is capable of producing on a moment’s notice—gathering souvenir coins for his children from out of the steaming mineral water. Replacing each travertine coated salvaged coin with one from his pocket, he entertained passing tourists with his antics. My father was so comfortable in his actions that no one questioned his motives, appearing as he did to be an employee of the National Park Service offering a demonstration.

Many years have passed since that day. Portions of these magnificent hot springs have gone dry and their colors have faded to white and gray. Still, their beauty lives on, the formations growing and changing with time. When the flow of water becomes blocked by deposits of silt and stone, a new way is forged, and the springs morph in a new direction, painted with a different brush. Resolute and redirected, only then can their colors continue to develop and thrive. As it is with most anything that ages, a fresh path must be found when the old one is no longer passable—in nature, in life.

 

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