Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bear of the Northern Wilds

A vignette from my Yellowstone trip (with my parents) last year:

At one point along the North Loop Road, we came upon another backlog of cars—elk jam, I guessed. With so many tourists gawking and aiming cameras, we too decided to scoot our station wagon barely off the road, and join them. Some place in the woods, to which all the cameras pointed. One could imagine lines projecting from the cameras, all to converge at a point—on the nose of a small black bear. A young one. He attacked a shrub, probably fruited with currants, from every angle. He reached munched and picked, berries, leaves and all, first from one side of the bush then the other, then above and then below. From any available clearing in the vegetation by the road, the binoculars and cameras pointed and clicked. As thorough as a kid with a bag of M and M's, the bear ate for every last berry, and then shuffled on to find another bush. My mother remarked that when she visited Yellowstone as a child, the tourists would gather by the road to feed the bears bread and candy and turn them into overweight beggars. What an amazing shift between now and then, that we now capture and light up our computer screens with pictures of bears practicing their natural habits in their natural habitats! The young bear is probably out shuffling through the woods somewhere today, with pine smell in his nostrils and food on his mind.

(I don't know the bear's gender, so my male pronouns have a 50% chance of being correct.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Big event for this wandering ranger

On the evening of March 22, a few hours before my birthday, I accepted a seasonal Park Ranger (interp) position at the Canyon district of Yellowstone National Park. I will be there May through September.
I never imagined that this would happen.
For all my years of working at national parks and environmental ed centers, I had always assumed that getting a job at Yellowstone was beyond me. In good part, because of the principle of "it's not what you know, it's who you know." This time, said principle worked in my favor!
And, fittingly, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the subject of an epic seven-foot by twelve-foot painting by Thomas Moran. Moran's paintings, along with William Henry Jackson's photographs and Ferdinand Hayden's geology-based writings, convinced the U.S. Congress in 1872 to declare Yellowstone a national park, the first in the world.
I go to where an artist moved the Earth.
I am no match for Moran, but will share my own humble oil pastel drawing, of the canyon's Lower Falls, drawn from life on my visit last year.
I hope that you all come visit me this summer!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

All-of-the-Above is a disastrous option

I acknowledge that President Barack Obama has done some good things for our planet in the past few months. Three new National Monuments, a motion to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling, and the veto of the bill passed by congress to force the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. (Everyone please sign the No KXL Unity Letter and demand that Obama reject this horrible pipeline once and for all!) It's a start. But on the whole, oil drilling, fracking, and coal mining continue to expand, with support from the Obama administration and congress. This will lead to catastrophic global warming, and extreme weather events like we can barely begin to imagine—hurricanes and floods and droughts and heat waves and blizzards, all to make what New York and Boston have already faced seem mild by comparison. You and I and your children have many survival ordeals ahead (and some won't survive.) There is still time to greatly reduce and mitigate the amount of climate disruption—but not with an all-of-the-above energy strategy! To echo Naomi Klein, that's like portending to lose weight on an all-of-the-above diet. As such, I felt inspired to draw the cartoon above.