Thursday, June 19, 2008

Up Close and Personal

Yesterday, at Yellowstone, my little family and I had occasion to walk up a little trail overlooking the Yellowstone River. At one point, the trail had steep hill on one side and tree-lined drop-off on the other. Not the dangerous kind of steep or the dangerous kind of drop-off. The kind you can scurry up and down.

At a rather narrow spot in the trail, with hill on one side and tree wall on the other, we looked straight ahead to find an enormous 3-point bull elk blocking our path.

We froze.

So did the elk.

We stared at each other. Then I turned to Jeff and said, "“Whaddowedo?”

Jeff put a hand firmly against the small of my back, grabbed onto both boys with his other hand, and hoisted us all up onto the hillside next to the path. Once we were all safely crouched down on a fallen log, trying to make ourselves look as small as possible behind the skinniest evergreens in the whole world, I tossed the camera to Jeff, whose body shielded the rest of us from certain, dramatic death.

The elk took a few steps forward, peering at us camped out on the side of the hill.

Deciding his horns were big enough to protect himself from us, he ventured cautiously closer...and closer...

Sizing us up, the elk chose to make a run for it, hoping to avoid being eaten by the brightly-colored tourists.

So he sprinted past, obviously just as scared of us as we were of him.

Once he was out of danger, the elk slowed to an amiable trot.

Which left us dangling on the side of the hill for a considerable amount of time, hoping the elk wouldn't change his mind and come back. If you look closely, you can see his white tail way up there. But it's hard to spot.

I asked Jeff to get a good shot of us in our little perch, for increased dramatic storytelling effect.

But eventually, the elk meandered out of sight, and we made it up the trail, safe and sound, no harm done. Whew!

It was super cool to be so close to that big guy, whose shoulder stood higher than Jeff's head.

And it was very interesting to me, in the midst of how scared *I* was, to see how scared *he* was.

It's the same with people. Ever notice that when people act out dangerously in what appears to be a mean spirit, they're usually just scared to death? That can be pretty difficult to understand in the heat of the moment, especially when their fear is putting you in danger. But have you noticed that for the most part (with exceptions, of course) if you're calm, they calm down too?

My dad has a quote that sums it up nicely:

"Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle."