My longtime friend and colleague Bruce Gourley owns the popular website yellowstone.net. He makes regular visits into Yellowstone National Park from his home in Bozeman, Montana.
While visiting with Bruce earlier this week, he walked me along (and sometime off) some of the many trails there. It was impressive in every way — and different from a simple driving tour.
The park has some 10,000 thermal features, Bruce told me. (I think he only took me to see about 9,000 of them.) Some are well known, like Old Faithful geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Others are large and small, along roadsides and in the back country where few see them.
Some fire steam and water into the atmosphere (faithfully or infrequently) while others burp mud. Colorful pools of scalding water abound — and one feature looks like a cave and sounds like a dragon's roar.
The variety of thermal features in the park is great but one characteristic is shared in common: they all let off steam.
Geologists point to a major volcanic eruption that occurred about two million years ago (give or take a few weeks) that set in motion much of what visitors experience today in this remarkable environment. Walking across such a lively surface brings out both wonder and caution.
And spending a little time exploring some of these wonders brought about another realization: I noticed some pressure venting of my own.
My shoulders became more relaxed; I was felt less rushed and my perspective on life seemed bigger and clearer.
Returning to routines and responsibilities, I am determined to not leave the lessons of thermal features behind. But that is not easy to do.
The challenge is to find that right balance in being responsible and productive while finding needed reflection and relief from the pressures of daily living. Spiritual disciplines are given for such purposes.
Eruptions are more impressive to watch in a national park than to experience within one's own life.