Her face changed in an instant, from engaged in listening to my patio talk to transported to a far-removed place and gripped with emotion. She swallowed hard, and a sniff followed. Soon her glasses were in her hands and she was surreptitiously trying to dab a tear from each eye. I couldn’t miss it in my intimate audience of seven.
It all came at that powerful place in my talk where I build an emotional connection for my listeners; I take them from “John Wesley Powell was here in the park facing an unimaginable unknown (Cataract Canyon) on July 20, 1869” to “Exactly 100 years later, to the day, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the unexplored moon.” My visitor must have been in the right frame of mind to make that leap, that connection to a piece of history-turned-reality. It opened her up to something she’d never considered before. To my eyes, it looked as if it rocked her world.
Our training in interpretation techniques states clearly that if we assist the visitor to make both intellectual and emotional connections with the park, it is a powerful one-two punch that drives our teaching home like nothing else. I’d seen glimpses of this a few times in my presentations, but this one was a ten on a ten-point scale. It is my sincere hope that the woman from Houston will experience Canyonlands NP with a “beginner mind” as a result of her fresh connections between 19th-century exploration and 20th-century accomplishments.