Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Life of a Geyser

Is a geyser alive or not alive?

If you are between the ages of 5 and 9 and want to become a Young Scientist in Yellowstone National Park, you have to be able to answer this question.

You have to list 5 things that make you alive, and then be able to say whether or not geysers share these characteristics.

Many kids decide that, yes, geysers ARE alive.

Reconciling this conclusion with reality can sometimes require a little creative rangering.

However, the children usually end up hitting on some very astute observations in the end....observations that often find themselves working themselves into my thoughts on early mornings in the geyser basin when I am called upon to do "geyser prediction".

Now, you may think this sounds glamorous. After all, how many people can say that they get paid to predict geysers?

It is, in reality, very stressful. Do you have any idea how many people get upset when Old Faithful goes off at the "wrong" time???

All the pressure is worth it, though, to be able to be in the Upper Geyser Basin in the morning. There are usually no people around. The air is crisp, and the natural sounds of steam and water mingle with the calls of the Canada Geese or the occasional snort of a bison.

It is at these times that I agree with the children. These thermal features....made of rock and heat and indeed seem to be alive.

They breathe. They grow. They reproduce. They speak.

And, from what we know and observe, we try to predict them.

It's funny to me....this prediction. We want so much to know what is going to happen. To know when things are going to happen. It's not enough that this incredible, magical wonderland exists in the first place and that we are lucky enough to get to experience it - we have to know how we can fit it into our schedule. We can't just let it happen.

And I'm just as guilty as anyone.

I have a hard time just letting life happen. I have to know when and why and what and how is this going to fit into my grand plan of how I think things should be for me?

And if things don't work out the way that I've worked things out in my's not good enough. It's not right.

But that's not the way it should be.

No matter how much we think we know and how many variables we think we have under control, the geysers still do exactly what they want. They take whatever they are given and go all the way.....until they run out of steam.

The most we can do is take what they give us, and be happy that we were there for the experience.

After all, a geyser, like life, is at it's best when it explodes right in front of you - and you never saw it coming.

And being able to live in the moment, I think, is what makes you truly alive.