"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
July 28, 2014
by Ami Chopine

We were still half an hour from the north entrance, and I already felt like maybe the Creator was showing off a little bit.

Not in that crass way, trying to get the adoration of men, but in a teaching way. Yellowstone is a place of epic beauty — a book of poems of rock and fire, water and life.

There is a petrified redwood tree behind a locked gate there.

Bighorn sheep nibble on the sides of a canyon nearly as magnificent as the Grand Canyon, but with the difference that it’s crowned in meadows and evergreens.

Hills are covered in trees once blackened by fire, now grayed and falling at the feet of their young that never would have had life if it had not been for the fire.

The animals, never hunted here, are unafraid of humans. They might take a nap at the side of the road, causing the humans to stop their cars and take pictures. Traffic jams of this sort are well known.

The volcano rules this land, a sovereign capable of destroying life in a thousand-mile radius, changing the climate of the whole planet, and growing Idaho potatoes that get cooked in oil and dipped in Utah’s fry sauce.

Hot springs are everywhere, lined with vast shallow terraces, the rock covered with bacteria colonies whose colors tell us what temperature the water is.

Deep caverns of steaming water also play host to the thermophilic bacteria, which make the deep, clear pools look turquoise.

With the right mixture of clay, some springs become mud pots of different colors. The Crow tribe used these muds to paint their tipis.

In this same area, the underground geography is just right to create geysers. Some are regular, some appear to go off randomly, and others seem tied to a ruling geyser, going off at the same time or in a predictable time frame.

There is a vast interconnecting system of underground channels, causing influence between geysers in a basin. We still don’t know how it works, but things like weather and the tidal forces of the moon affect the system. Earthquakes can have huge effects — some geysers stop altogether and others are born.

The beauty astonishes and goes deep. Uncover the surface, and we find new wonders and new questions. And now that it’s been over a hundred years since it was established, we have the history of the wonder and awe, the questions, the longing to connect with Mother Earth, and the universe, and God.

Not two weeks later, we went to Las Vegas to pick up my husband’s cousin who was touring the U.S.

The contrast is interesting.

Las Vegas is also a place of magnificence and grandeur. But uncover the surface and what do we get?

Yes, an honorable population of workers — who I hope have good working conditions.

But the thing that rules this land is greed.

I had the strange experience of two girls pulling me into their beauty potions shop, and complimenting me on my shoes — “They are so pretty and cute!” — before they looked down to see the black sandals so sturdy I can go running in them. I had not chosen them for their looks, but for the anticipation of miles of concrete and stone floor I’d be walking.

Once their gaze actually reached my feet, “Oh! And so comfortable! And look at your toes! So pretty!”

It was a month-old pedicure that was chipping.

“Here, try this cream.”

“Are you concerned about your wrinkles? Oh yes, of course you are. It’s a miracle, this cream, formulated by Doctor So and So that all the celebrities go to. Have you seen him on TV?”

At first, it feels that the falseness in Las Vegas is something to disdain. But then, there is a different thing to study here.

Who were these two women? What did they really think of my appearance? Why did they work in a shop like this? What did they go home to? What insecurity and pain lurks behind their overly done faces? What do they think about their life? What did they look forward to?

In a way, it is as revealing of human geology as Yellowstone is of Earth’s geology. By trying to appeal to all our desires, it highlights the natural man. Las Vegas is one of the most interesting places to people watch.

I’m at home now, in the wake of a much-needed floor replacement. I ripped it up, while my father patched subfloor and carefully measured, cut, and laid down new flooring.

It left me restless. At four in the morning rather than staying in bed trying to coax my brain to stop thinking, I went outside.

There is something of a sweet spot in my yard, a place of darkness where I can almost see the Milky Way. The moon, gilded by forest fires, was a just a sliver. Orion rose at the horizon of the beautiful mountains I love. The Pleiades glowed.

What planets are out there with their strange lands and tourist cities?

My family slept peacefully inside.

We discovered baby toys in one of the intakes. A ball and some cars of a wooden train set and some blocks. They would have dated to the time my husband surprised me by painting the house while I was at a writing workshop.

Yellowstone and Las Vegas, they are magnificent and revealing, each in their own way. But then, so is home.

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About Ami Chopine

Ami Chopine started out her mortal existence as a single cell. That cell divided into a collection of cells that cooperated enough to do such things as eat, crawl, walk and eventually read a lot and do grownuppy things.

When she was seven years old, hanging upside down on the monkey bars, she decided she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up. Even though she studied molecular biology at the University of Utah, that didn't quite come to pass. She became a writer instead. Still, her passion for science and honest inquiry has remained and married itself to her love of the Gospel. 

Ami is married to Vladimir and together they have four amazing children -- three in college and one in elementary school, where Ami is president of the Family School Organization. Vladimir is the better cook, but Ami is the better baker. She also knits, gardens, stares at clouds, and sings. She can only do three of these at the same time.

Besides two published computer graphics books and several magazine tutorials, she writes science fiction and has a couple of short stories published. You can find her blog at www.amichopine.com.

Ami was surprised to not be given a calling as some kind of teacher the last time she was called into the bishop's office. She currently serves as the Young Women Secretary -- somewhat challenging for the girl whose grandmother used to call the absentminded professor.

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