New Eyes

On a first visit, it seems that taking a place like Grand Teton National Park for granted would be impossible. But can familiarity breed indifference?

New eyes. Sometimes I wish I had new eyes. Not that the old ones are bad. With powerful correction I can see better than 20/20. What I mean is I wish I had the ability to see things as if for the first time, every time. It is so easy to become callused to even some of the most beautiful, wild and wonderful places in the world if I see them every day. I need new eyes and the only way to get them is through someone else.

There are few greater pleasures than introducing a newcomer, visitor or even someone who has lived here much of their life, to the beauties of our area, especially Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Last year, I took a friend to Yellowstone for his first visit, though he had lived here much of his adult life. I had new eyes for the geologic features, places I had passed by for years in a quest for wildlife to photograph. The amazing mud pots, geysers and hissing mountains were fascinating again.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife’s cousin, Bill Dawes, and his wife Sarah, both Oklahoma natives, came for a much anticipated visit. Technically, Bill had been to Grand Teton National Park before as a five year old and had vague memories that he hoped to relive. Sarah, however, had never been near the park.

Bill’s health issues kept us from strenuous physical activities, but we still found plenty to do as we tracked down his surprisingly accurate memories and visited iconic locations such as Schwabacher Landing, Moulton Barn, Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake Lodge and Oxbow Bend. Old trite places, billions of times photographed but absolutely new and stunningly beautiful to our visitors. 

Throughout the several days we were together enjoying the Park, Bill must have repeated 100 times: “This is the most beautiful place in the world.” It had been a long time since I seen the Teton Mountains in that way. I thought to tell him of places in the Wind Rivers, of Glacier National Park, or of Alaska where I had had similar reactions on my first visit there but it dawned on me that it wasn’t a competition. Each new place can legitimately become a new gold standard.

My failing is in not maintaining a wonder for a place I know intimately. Familiarity was breeding not contempt, but perhaps a slight but growing indifference. Been there, done that.

I began to look through new and excited eyes, imagining what these stunning mountains must be like to those accustomed to the thick green of life on the Arkansas River. Slowly the splendor, and especially the magic, began to softly reveal themselves again. Like the Kathy Mattea song, I murmured, “where have you been?” and the breeze seemed to whisper, “welcome back”.

New eyes. It is good to see familiar places through new eyes. It helps me remember how lucky we are to be surrounded by such beauty. It helps to not take it for granted.


Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho