Sep 19, 2009 | Yellowstone, WY
Sep 19, 2009

A big beautiful day in Yellowstone, with its rusty canyon walls, its burned out forests, and its volcanic geysers that emerge from the earth in every imaginable way — bubbling, steaming, coughing, erupting. There were the obligatory encounters with roadway buffalo, waterfall rainbows, grassy trails, and a famous Ansel Adams vista. Toward the end of the day I stopped at Mystic Spring, looking for answers, but all I found was the feeling of low sun on my face, wind ruffling my shirt, a faint hunger, and the smell of sulfur, which always reminds me of Japan. At dusk I watched a group of elk proceed cautiously across a high plain, as nearby wolves howled in the distance. Now I sit in the grand old Mammoth Hotel at the edge of the park, in its glorious map room, which houses a 1937 inlaid wooden map of the continental U.S., each state rendered in a different wood, with railroad lines painted on in red and highways in blue. If I could add my own line, it would almost stretch from coast to coast. Maybe traveling from side to side is like saying no, and traveling up and down is like nodding. But that doesn't seem right.