People talk about the best meal they ever ate or the best sunset they ever saw. Let me tell you about the best Rosary I ever said.
Margaret and I started out the day in Ranchester, Wyoming. It’s not even a town. It’s just a few shops, the shabby motel we stayed at (there had been a storm the night before, no camping for this girl) and apparently a great fishing hole nearby (or at least that is what I assume from the rest of the clientele at the shabby motel). We were driving to Yellowstone. We drove up into the mountains; into fog and a mysterious “Check Engine” light. We came back down through a beautiful pass and on to Cody, where we stopped for lunch. On past a damn, that admittedly created a beautiful river, and a few short miles from our goal.
It was snowing when we pulled up to the gate at Yellowstone. Snowing. In late June. Needless to say this was not what we expected. Despite the snow, and the fear of bears, we kept driving toward the western-most camp grounds, hoping there would be a spot open for us when we got there.
It was beautiful. Not just the scenery, though that was breathtaking. The whole experience. We listened to Vivaldi’s Vespers, talked about the pros and cons of being a small business owner, and drove slowly through one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have been to places that have humbled me; the first time I entered St. Peter’s, Auschwitz in the snow, an evening Chopin concert at St.-Chappelle. But very few places, if any, have ever before made me think, “Here is where people want to stay forever.” This did:
But we didn’t. In fact, we didn’t even stay the night. By the time we arrived, all the campsites were full. It was disappointing, but not devastating. It was just one of the hazards of a federal system of parks that doesn’t take reservations. So be it. We drove out looking for a place to camp for the night. We were both getting pretty tired by this point.
About 10 minutes outside the Montana entrance to Yellowstone we found the hands-down, no joke, most terrifying campground ever. The “office” was closed, so we did self-check in. The campground itself was across the freeway. We were the only people there. There wasn’t another tent or RV in sight. There were a few dilapidated buildings from what was clearly a defunct ranch, but they look pretty abandoned. The wind was insane, and it was pretty cold, so after we set up out tent, we decided to eat a cold dinner in the car, use the bathroom to change and brush out teeth. It was using the slightly odd bathroom building that we noticed though we might be the only campers, we were not alone. Turns out those abandoned building were occupied, by people as concerned to see us as we were to see them. Scenes from every horror movie I have ever seen started to play in my head, but honestly, we’d already paid out 30 bucks, and I was in my pjs.
Our information packet for the campsite had mentioned a hot spring, so when we were done preparing for the night Margaret asked me if I wanted to go check it out. I was willing to take a look, even if in my heart I was prepared for something completely terrifying. What we found was this:
The warm, sulfur-y water was amazing after a long and at points cold day in the car. The view of the river and the hills and the valley was gorgeous. And the quiet was spectacular. See how happy it made us:
Okay, Margaret wasn’t the biggest fan of me taking her picture at that point, but she was happy, rest assured.
We hadn’t said the Rosary yet, and we tossed around the idea of saying it there.
“Are you sure? Seems, I don’t know, not completely reverent…”
“I think it’s fine Margaret. This place is beautiful. St. Francis would approve.”
So we said the Rosary. In our pajamas, our feet soaking in an outdoor hot spring, at a truly bizarre campground on the outskirts of Nowhere, Montana.
It was the best Rosary I’ve ever said. I wanted nothing out of it. I just wanted to be there, with God in this beautiful place he had made with a wonderful friend he had given to me. There wasn’t any desperate wish lingering in the back of my heart, no worry eating away at my concentration. There was oncoming dusk, and running water, and a peaceful acceptance of my place within Creation.
Not every prayer is perfect. Sometimes I fall asleep while saying the Rosary and I have to wake myself up and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my place. But once, and maybe it will only be once, I loved God with my whole heart, and my whole mind, and my whole soul.
(3 Years, 5 Months, and 13 Days Sober)