Friday, July 20, 2007

Although it seems like an eon ago since we were there, the total impact upon my soul from our journey out west is still reverberating within. People who've been to Yellowstone inevitably say to people who haven't: "It's so hard to describe. You just gotta go!"

I agree with that conclusion. Comprehending the massive bombardment to the senses there and what that portends was staggering for me, sort of an existential paring of my soul on a level for which I was unprepared.

It was no difficult task to be utterly reminded of the grandeur of God's creative supremacy while you are out there. You might be driving for hours in the color-washed reds, pinks, browns, tans and whites of the countryside spanning visibly for miles ahead and suddenly you are taken in by a wash of emotion and humility in the Creator who seems to say, "Look what I did."

The contrasting ironies are at once preposterous as they are invigorating. It is unnerving and freeing to have gone from suburban "civilization" to tremendous landscapes resulting from great and terrible forces that could, in a moment, end your life.

I was simply not prepared to process the enormity of the experience that is Tatanka. I must say, having surfed the channels one week before our trip, I happened across Dances With Wolves at the part where Costner's character is getting pummeled while trying to show the Native Americans that the bison were on the move. The only word he knows that they understand is "tatanka," which he indicates with two pointed index fingers attached to his temples. They got it and so did I.

So I issued an edict to Cathy, decreeing that we shall not refer to the bison as such, but they would be called "tatanka" and we had persmission to correct one another whenever we strayed.

These dudes were everywhere. They were wandering in our campground through the tents. That's about 1500-2000 lbs. of them, doing what they wanted. Approaching six feet tall at their shoulder, they are visual markers of bygone days of graceful innocence and rugged strength and power. To me they became icons of God, pointers to his grace and affirmation.

White man nearly decimated the creatures not so long ago. After coming to within 10 feet of one for the first time in my life, (in addition to seeing them in their natural places that I had never seen before), I began wondering: what is God's experience of these animals? does he take pleasure in them? are they "aware" of his pleasure in them? what is their "experience" of their Creator? It became nauseating to me that these animals could not have an existence outside of a park created for them. Is our current subduction of the globe as it is the kind of stewardship God intended, having traded the earliest Garden for ones wraught with concrete and steel, mostly at the expense of the creatures with which we are to coexist? Certainly, this begs the fullest expanse of the questions of consumption and sustainability.

It became amazing to me, that- in spite of our history with the tatanka- they tarried with their home, almost seamlessly weaving us into their ways, our unnatural
interruptions with our cars, tents and selves, gawking with mouths agape. They jam our roadways and lumber onward in their tantanka-ness, with a slow toll and pace that invites onlookers to relish the same. their behemoth heads rhythmically flowing up and down as they reveal a grace from time immemorial. such docility while knowing that they can run about 30 miles per hour and with one thrust of their horn...well, you get the picture.

But there we and them. We didn't deserve to be there. Not after our atrocity perpetrated upon them. By virtue of just being out there, it was no stretch to see the consumerism that almost eradicated them for their fur never really abated. But there, for me, amongst our tents and beside our cars and with no legitimate reason to allow us, was an image of God. Packaged in this furry beast was rolled up welcome, affirmation and grace. God, we are told, "pitched his tent" amongst us. And this in spite of how we try to "do" him in and eradicate any semblance of him. Perhaps I may be unsupported in these tenets, but I was still moved by them.

But their heads are so freekin' awesomely huge! Beyond the fact they use them to plow through the snow to reach the warmer springs and steam vents for grass, I am still trying to decipher the theological significance of that.