Hey, Look, I Can Do Optimism! I’m A Big Boy Now!

So, my father may very well be the most optimistic human I’ve ever encountered.  The man makes Little Orphan Annie look like freakin’ Mussolini, for Pete’s sake!

He also gets on me from time to time to remember that life ain’t actually all that bad…

Okay, Dad, I figured I would give that a shot today…

Actually, I already did.  I had a conversation earlier with a friend about COVID and politics and economics and all that other bullshi…erm, stuff.  Now, usually, a conversation like that would be enough to elicit from me more than a handful of four-letter words.

Crap, normally it would be easier to count the non-swearwords I used rather than have to break out the scientific notation to keep track of the rest…*

*”Hmm…let’s see…the phrase ‘fuckin’ ass-wagons’ is currently at four point two times ten to the nineteenth occurrences…”

The funny thing about that conversation is that I found that silver lining.  Err…well…at least I found my particular silver lining.

With the park closed…

With all the cars gone…

With all the people gone…

Holy crap is it a whole new place!  Now, I’m not technically allowed to go inside Yellowstone anymore than is anyone else, but…well…I know a few (hundred) backcountry trails that no one is gonna monitor, no matter how firm the closure.  See, Mom & Dad, the last 3 years haven’t been wasted after all: there’s something to be said for knowing the Park better than most of the Rangers!

Even just at the edges — which is all I can get to right now, until things open up — Yellowstone is a different place right now.  It is, in fact, a better place.  A much better place.

We tend to forget just how much of an impact we humans have on everything around us, even when we’re just trying to “appreciate” it.  But now?  Now, when no one can (technically) go anywhere?

Not only is the pollution visibly better…

Not only are the plants and trees thriving in ways they haven’t in several decades…

Not only is the park recovering as a whole from overuse and abuse, but the wildlife — my particular “drug” of choice, mind you — are rediscovering just what it means to be truly wild…

A mother grizzly and her cubs without a crowd of gawkers and photographers shadowing their every move?

A bison herd without random, drunk knuckleheads trying to “ride the big ponies”?

A wolf pack without the truly thoughtless trying to “pet” the “cute l’il puppies”?

The wildlife are running riot right now.  I saw more tracks and sign of various animals on my last hike than I have in a long time.  Okay, so I happen to know where to go and how to look, but it’s still a piece of wonder and joy to find them so easily…

Wolves and bears, yes…but also foxes and coyotes…more elk, deer and bison than you can shake a thousand sticks at…an otter family (the cutest, “funnest” things in this entire universe, mind you)…even a couple of freaking badgers!  All within ten miles of the park boundary…

Outside the boundary, of course.

Of course!

I would never, ever cross over without permission.  I would never, ever slip behind a ridgeline and cruise up a stream to a wolf hunting ground I know.  Nope, not me — I’m a good boy!

But back to that optimism thing…

GGIA-SilverLiningsThat is the optimistic side of COVID for me.  That is the silver lining to this particular thundercloud.  By getting away from our cars and our outings and our vacations, we have finally given the planet a chance to do some healing.

I would love to be optimistic enough to think we were smart enough to add two to two and come up with the same answer a few more times, but I know us as a species far too well.  The only reason we gave the planet this respite was because a virus held a gun to our heads.  That gun, sadly, still won’t be anything near enough to deal with climate change, pollution, overuse or any of the other evils we have visited on our poor world…

And, of course, there’s only one possible song for a post about optimism!

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