Out of Her Element

Writer Jennie Dorris thought she left the wilderness behind when she chose city life, but nature continued to guide her.

Illustration by Tracy Spadafora

I learned two things that summer about driving in Yellowstone National Park: First, there were no guardrails as you zipped along the edges of the canyons. Second, the shadows in the valley might be hiding a herd of buffalo, so you needed to keep your foot hovering over the brake. That wide-open feeling of freedom and danger was just what I needed.I was 19 then and had just finished my first year at a competitive liberal arts college. I thought myself ambitious at the beginning of my freshman year, but the top-of-the-heap struggle for internships or a byline in the student paper left me nauseated and full of self-doubt. Yellowstone’s yawning valleys and stomach-dropping canyons let me stop comparing myself, instilling a fierce confidence. I took that feeling back to college and started a magazine from scratch, publishing young voices from around the world.The next summer found me wearing a short, shiny black dress, scarfing down Chinese fast food in New York City. The student magazine I had started grew successful, and I earned a prestigious internship. I was meeting with an editor, one who I’d mistakenl …


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