As soon a school ended in May of 1982, my parents, my two siblings, our large Irish Setter-Black Lab mix, Sam, and I squeezed into our Toyota Corolla Hatchback to drive from Omaha, Nebraska to Yellowstone National Park. This was not for vacation. My father was a Park Service employee and had been transferred from a regional office to the ultimate location. We had the honor and pleasure of living in the Park for eight years. All five of us count those as eight of the best years of our lives.
Last week Yellowstone and the surrounding areas are experienced catastrophic flooding. Biblical, 1,000 year flood kind of damage. I still have friends that live in the Park and Gardiner, Montana. My Facebook feed is still filled with photos and video that I cannot believe. Never would I have imagined some of the places where the Gardiner, Lamar, Gallatin and Yellowstone rivers have expanded. The road from headquarters in Mammoth, where we lived, to Gardiner, where we went to school, has been destroyed. Gardiner become an island. The rivers filled with the debris of buildings and bridges.
My younger sister also has lots of friends in area. She kept sending me footage from what she is seeing from her social media. It was horrifying to see nature violently reclaiming her time. We talk about the land’s evolution like it is all in the past. It isn’t.
The flooding was a result of rain and melting snow run off. All of that water moved downstream spreading the devastation.
It was hard to stop looking. I wanted to pick up my phone to see the latest on the fury of water and the communities it had overtaken.
Just like nature, our evolution is not done. My sympathetic nervous system does not understand social media. I had a strong reaction to what I was seeing, which caused me to go into flight or flight mode. My sympathetic nervous system does not understand that I am not in danger. Nor does it understand there is nothing I can do about the situation. Being in fight or flight was not going to save a house, a person or an animal. All I was doing was triggering my adrenal glands and flooding my body with adrenaline. Being an adrenaline junkie is addictive, but not helpful to anyone. Especially yourself.
I to had to put the phone down and limit how often I looked at the devastation. I had to do the same after the December 2021 tornados destroyed large sections of Kentucky. I had to turn off the news after 9-11; the live streams on January 6, 2021. There is a fine line between being aware and being in adrenal overload.
Moving out of fight or flight requires me to be gentle with my body. I might walk around the block and or do some gentle movement.
Calming Movement: Standing, start to gently sway side to side. Think of a pencil extending from your head and drawing a horizontal line on the ceiling. Stop. Start to gently sway front and back as if drawing a vertical line on the ceiling. Making a cross on the ceiling is grounding and centering.
Gently look toward your left shoulder, roll your head through center with your chin to your chest to look toward your right shoulder. Continue and gently and slowly ease into looking over your shoulder.
Legs up the wall is the ultimate sympathetic nervous system calmer. Drag your mat or blanket or a rug as close to the wall as possible. Lay down and work to get your bottom as close as possible to the wall. Run your legs up the wall. Breathe. Hands by your side or left hand on your heart and right hand on your belly.
What can I/We Do: The Greater Gallatin United Way is collecting funds for Southwest Montana Flood Relief. They include Park and Madison counties in Montana. Look for opportunities to support local businesses while tourism is impossible.