Recently a friend and I went for a lazy Saturday afternoon drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, near where we live. It was a sharp-cold, bright winter day, not long before Christmas. We were cruising along enjoying the snowy wilderness, idly looking for a place to pull over and go walking from. Then we saw a number of stationary cars up ahead, so pulled up behind them.
There was half an elk herd on the mountainside to our left - the one old stag there grazing peacefully with obviously no concern about the situation below. The others, grazing in the meadow on our right. Most were within fifty feet, a few within ten feet, including one or two at a time immobile in the road, in front of or between cars.
A couple of them spent a few minutes licking salt off of an SUVs’ tires. One of them stumbled and nearly fell, stepping onto this weird hard tarmac.
The elk on the road looked stunned in the face of such an incomprehensible interference to crossing their land.
We sat still in our metal boxes, watching the adult does and many younger elk standing around us, barely twitching an ear, then eventually ambling down into the meadow. Some of the yearlings had really small, fluffy, still softly-contoured bodies and faces.
The longer we sat, the more I slowed down inside, tuning into two different worlds interfacing.
Us humans having human-type experiences of being in the presence of wildness, cocooned in our metal boxes: observing, viewing, engaged on a spectrum from awe to being entertained.
The elk having incomprehensibly different experience of being alive to ours, incomprehensibly different experience of this situation, including how their stopping on the tarmac was affecting another type of reality (us humans.)
Later, a flurry of flashing phone cameras, but for a while, much stillness in this shared physical space.
It was real and surreal, each perceiving the other in ways radically different from how they were being perceived.
I came more Deeply Alive again: gratitude!
Where, what, when, how, does being in wild places bring you into comparable states of Deep Aliveness?