I was nineteen, filled with life, traveling on the edge, hitchhiking through the Rocky Mountains. I had been on the road a month, sleeping under the stars in a different spot each day. Filled with experiences, we had decided to stay in Yellowstone for at least a week.
Of course Yellowstone has at least three months of places and things to do, but we decided to use Old Faithful as our base camp, and go on trips from there.
Naturally we took in the geyser walks, the sulphuric pools, and the main attraction, Old Faithful.
It was named in 1870, and was the first geyser to be named. It may have been more regular in the past, but now it seems eruptions are anywhere from 45 to 120 minutes apart, and eruptions last three to minutes long, and go 100 to 185 feet high.
Old Faithful is the centerpiece. The visitor center, the Inn, the campground, everything is named for it. As a stranger in this strange land, I determined to study it intently, and I spent 4 or 5 eruption cycles watching, in order to know more.
By the last few eruption cycles I was now watching the people reacting. The surprise and wonder on the faces were powerful reminders that Mother Nature was in the House.
I was sitting in a deck chair in front of the visitor’s center, with a perfect view of the slightly steaming cone. To my right there was an elderly couple occupying two deck chairs that were slightly closer to the geyser.
In full “people watching mode”, I was doing my best to observe this couple as they observed the geyser. I didn’t overhear much, actually, I heard nothing. They sat very close, clasping both hands together, as the women seemed to be watching for geyser activity.
Then I noticed that the man had kept his hands cupped around his wife’s, and she was moving her fingers rapidly in the cave of his hand flesh.
He was not only blind, but he was deaf as well.
I turned my head to observe nature around me. The trees, the yellow sulphuric earth, the boiling pools with steam rising, and the mountains in the distance. It was rich in imagery, and it was about to explode with a plume of hot water going 150 ft in the air, complete with a rumbling deep in the earth.
And it must have been a complete mystery to him, except for his best friend sitting beside him. Her hands quickly described the scene, as the sounds grew louder, her fingers went faster. When the geyser blew, she raised their hands higher, descended, and raised again even higher, matching the output of Old Faithful. It was one of the longer eruptions and must have went on for eight minutes or more.
I took this image of how a couple can love one another, care for each other, and truly communicate the world to each other… I took all this to my heart and locked it away.
I have thought about what I saw almost fifty years ago, but I am only just a little closer to really understanding the depths.
Yesterday, I saw another example of marriage.
I was sitting in a bagel shop, enjoying a sesame seed bagel and pretty good coffee. A couple came in and sat at the table in front of me. They were older, at least a few years older than me.
She spoke in a clear voice, with no contractions or accent. He spoke low, and pitched only for her ears. I heard everything she said, but only a few phrases of his.
She said, “Evertime we come here we sit at this exact table!” No anger, just an observation. He chuckled and muttered something to her. Then he left to get their orders. She sat watching the people walk by.
He returned with food, and she said, “I do not know where my husband is, I am a little worried.”
The man said something more that was unintelligible.
Then she said, “I have no idea why you are so nice to me, as you are a complete stranger!”
He chuckled again, and I heard the tale end of a sentence. “… I know your brother very well.”
“My brother? I haven’t seen him in a long time. I think he may be dead. Is he dead? I think so…”, she said.
She went on, “Why a complete stranger would be so nice to me is just amazing. I just can not understand it!”
It became clear that the husband was well, present, and lovingly taking care of his wife. Another lesson I wish to learn.