After nearly dying of aspirated pneumonia, I was finally released from the hospital, only for the Bay Area to be engulfed in thick black toxic smoke from fires surrounding my downtown dwelling. The air quality was so bad that the black soot was seeping in every crack and crevasse, coating my apartment. No Hepa filter is helping the matter. My doctors have been concerned that the conditions will worsen my lungs since I have not fully recovered from pneumonia. During my most recent doctor’s appointment, my doctor asked if I could travel out of state far enough away from the fires where the air quality index would be better. The fires affected everything as far out as the edge of Yellowstone. I said, possibly.

With pneumonia and suspected CFS, we knew I couldn’t travel by myself, but I had a friend I thought I could ask. My doctors told me the sooner I could leave the better for my health. Before I knew it, my friend Sophia was packing me up for the trip, and my friend Rod was grocery shopping for a week out in Yellowstone. Rod drove through the whole night to get us out of the smoke and to the Tetons (I slept the entire time) so that I could breathe better. I really do have the most amazing friends who care for my health.

Yellowstone is a sacred place for those indigenous to Turtle Island, or what is known by most people as North America. After nearly dying more than once because of this damn pandemic (and let’s not even start down the path of indigenous people and pandemics) and the disharmony in my spirit about other things, I saw this as a sign that I was being sent to this sacred place for a reason. The smoke from California stopped right at the edge of Yellowstone NP by the Teton Ridge. I was just open to laying down my western tech side and walking with creation for a week.

In exchange for basically doing all of the work, I told Rod I would teach him how to be a photographer. There really isn’t a better place to learn than in Yellowstone. It was fantastic to have my hybrid Jeep (hey, I want to be sustainable and still explore) since I couldn’t really walk anywhere with my declined health. Being post-covid while recovering from pneumonia in Yellowstone contrasts with past photo excursions. I didn’t even have enough strength to hold my camera up. I had to use a tripod for everything or rely on my iPhone. And you know that breaks a photog’s heart.

It was hard for me to allow my friend to see just how sick I still am. He got no sleep because of how much I wake up every night screaming in pain when I aspirate stomach acid up my esophagus. Or the hours of coughing and vomiting that follow. Or how exhausted I am all. the. damn. time. And how much need to sleep. I literally sleep 17 to 20 hours a day.

Anyway, here are a few photos from our time in Yellowstone. I did get a pretty damn good selfie–a lot better than the one in the hospital!

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