I’ve long believed the surest sign of a good mind is an understanding that things could be another way without allowing for the possibility of your resistance, through the agencies of people and institutions and objects that do not encircle or overlap yours. If there is a person here you love that person could instead be at Dartmouth caressing another and unaware of your existence; if you are right-handed your arm could instead be broken as a young child and you a lefty as a result; if today your father is a good father or a bad one he could instead swerve to miss an animal and drown in a cold river six months ago.
As far as I can tell it is impossible to be fewer than 6,000 feet above sea level when visiting Yellowstone National Park. The altitude yields legendarily bitter winters. Snowfall for much of the year is drastic and unrelenting; many of YNP’s larger resident mammals (those not asleep) migrate down and out of the park during winter’s most pitiless stretch in order to survive.