Wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit. – Joseph Wood Krutch
In 1872, Yellowstone became the first National Park ever established in the world. Its diverse wild beauty and roaming beasts spurred the creation of the concept of a National Park.
During the time we spent in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and beyond, we have noticed something. Our children have not been this quiet or reverent since we left Europe’s great cathedrals. Sure, we would prepare them as we approached the massive cathedral doors to take off their hats, cover their shoulders, and whisper.
Every time we entered places of worship and the kids turned their eyes upward, their awe came from another place. From the Sistine Chapel in Rome to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, to remote mountain altars, they were stunned into silence as the presence of seemingly impossible greatness overwhelmed their experience.
They had the same response to various encounters in our U.S. National Parks. Again, we prepped them – stay on the path, be quiet if you want to see animals, don’t feed the wildlife, and watch out for selfie sticks!
As soon as we entered the park gates, like the great doors of a cathedral, our children were brought to their knees by what was before them. Coming face to face with buffalo in the Lamar Valley, seeing their first elk at Jackson Lake, the intensity of a mamma bear’s gaze when she is with her cubs, and the way the lupine fields climb to the snow line will forever be etched in their experience.
As we positioned ourselves strategically, putting all of our faith in Old Faithful, we knew that this earth is full of cathedrals. Some are man-made, others are unfathomable feats of nature. Both are testaments to the strength and hope that are within our reach when we need a reminder that we a part of something greater than ourselves.