A trip to Yellowstone is reminiscent of Canto thirteen of the Inferno. (Map this!)
This last trip to Yellowstone I couldn’t help but think of Canto thirteen, where Dante describes a walk through the wood of suicides. The souls of those who took their lives are entombed for eternity in knotty and deformed trees without leaves.
The stench of sulphur is omnipresent and walking on the ground can be dangerous. The heat can create boiling pools barely under the surface and a misstep can boil a person alive. Brian Barrett, our EMT instructor, describes these wounds as horrifying. The skin looks like candle wax, like chicken boiled in chicken soup. Maybe if we continue our little walk past the boardwalks and if we brave the steaming hot pools we will meet Pier delle Vigne?
But today we find these springs beautiful and fascinating, sulfurous smell not withstanding. Would men from Dante’s age agree with us? What is beautiful changes from person to person, from age to age. I don’t think there is an authoritative example of a beautiful object but one that most of us agree on is beautiful. But the mob is fickle – what is beautiful today can become horrific tomorrow. We visit these thermal features and pronounce them breathtaking and if enough of us agree they do indeed become so.