Snow Beauty

There was record snowfall on the ground in Canyon Village, Yellowstone National Park when I arrived the 28th of March this year.

The vast white blanket of snow that covered Canyon and Hayden Valley in many places was untouched by the tracks of animal or man. With an average depth of fifty-six inches on the ground and drifts up to twenty feet in areas, it is easy to understand why the Bison and Coyotes that I saw were using the snow-packed roads.

As I started shooting snow scenes visions of David Lean's film "Lawrence of Arabia" came to mind, not "Doctor Zhivago." What I remember about the movie were scenes of sand drifts in the vast desert landscape, and here in Yellowstone the sand was substituted by the windblown sculpted snow as far as I could see with similar patterns of light and texture.

Terry Tempest Williams writes in her book, The Hour of Land  "Perhaps it is not so much what we learn that matters in these moments of awe and wonder, but what we feel in relationship to a world beyond ourselves, even beyond our own species. "

I photographed much of this awe and wonder in black and white. 

"Maybe falling in love, the piercing knowledge that we ourselfs will someday die, and the love of snow are in reality not some sudden events: maybe they never completely vanish, either."

Peter Hoeg, Smilla's Sense of Snow

It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly. ”
- Claude Monet

All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate...

Snow...unceasing snow” 

Matsuo Basho, Japanese Haiku 

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass.

“Only mountains can feel the frozen warmth of the sun through snow's gentle caress on their peaks”

Munia Kahn 

“For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And, nothing himself, beholds 

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Wallace Stevens, " The Snow Man."

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,

and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.

Mary Oliver, "Snow Geese

“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. ”

Oscar Wilde  

"Our state tourism bureaus spend millions, using misleading pictures, touting summer vacations in Yellowstone without reflecting on the reality that no more promotion is needed. Roads already are filled with jarring congestion that is the opposite of the idyll they are selling."

Todd Wilkinson, “This is Our Place to Celebrate the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," Mountain Journal, April 24th, 2018.

What I have witnessed in Canyon Village in Yellowstone Park while working as assistant manager of maintenance last season and for the early record-breaking snow-and-ice (" Snow Beauty ”) opening of this season is that the extended openings and late closings for the Park are adding to the damage caused by “the jarring congestion” and misleading marketing that Wilkinson documents. They’re adding to the (perhaps irreversible?) toll on the environment of this National Park.

The animals in the park, the bison (“culled,” more aptly “slaughtered” to reduce the size of the herd), the fish (killed by the poisoning of waterways said to be done to restock “natives”), the bear (opening hunting of the Grizzlies just outside the boundaries of the Park), the elk and moose, the Park’s flora and fauna ecosystems are already in jeopardy of being compromised. The reduced oversight and perhaps misguided policies of the National Park Service are not entirely to blame. The profit-motives, short-term planning, actions and inactions of the concession companies, Xanterra (my former employer) and Delaware North, should be held responsible for adding to the degradation of the Park.

Xanterra’s mission statement claims to provide "Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint." I did not see a softer footprint. It appeared to me that their real mission is to continue to open earlier and close later to bring as many people into the park as they can. It’s a “Hard Footprint” that shows little or no regard for the pressure on the environment, for the maintenance of the infrastructure, the housing and guest buildings, the historic architecture in the Park.

I am not unrealistic that the National Park Service (NPS) needs to have partners that manage concessions, such as Delaware North and Xanterra, which manage lodges, stores, restaurants and activities for guests. But it comes at a cost to the beautiful park we all love when the companies encourage the entrance of four and a half million people this year and  five million next year. The Park’s bison, moose, elk, and bear in the Park are counted in the hundreds.

“As we look into the future, we must have the magnanimity to understand that recreation is the reward for conservation and not the other way around.”

Michael Dax, "Weakening Wilderness Act is Antithetical to Principle of Landmark Law," Mountain Journal, April 10, 2018. 

Thank you, Gaysie

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