From the river that flowed from Eden at the beginning of Genesis to the water of life at the end of Revelation, the Lord has given his people an actual source and not merely a metaphor for how He sustains us, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The Bible is filled with references to water. Certainly, we can find no more soothing place to sit than by a river, listening to its sounds resonate from ripples to rapids, and seeing its ever changing, never changing flow.
A note on these particular pictures. I arose early in the morning before we left Yellowstone and went into the Park, along the Madison River, for sunrise. To obtain this kind of color, find high cliffs that glow in the early morning or early evening light above a river. The reflection of this light in the river creates the gold effect.
The magnificence of Yellowstone is often marred by the large numbers of visitors who ply the roads, the boardwalks, and the trails. Nonetheless, early morning and late evening light lift one’s mind, heart, and soul to what soars beyond our human desire to control and define. The light draws us to a wonder of what God has created for us. And, in those moments He reminds us to “be still and know that I am God.”
In August of 1958, my father took our family to Yellowstone in our trailer. He showed me how to set it up and take care of things, and then took the bus from West Yellowstone to the Presidio for three weeks of Army reserve training. At age 15, as the oldest child, I got to be “the man of the family.” I taught my mother how to fish, and she excitedly caught three cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake. After fifty years, the memories are still strong.
With stops, West Yellowstone is a twelve hour drive from La Grande, Meg and I have taken Matt and Michael to the Park many times. I call it the “Disneyland of the Outdoors” because of the multiple geologic features and the wide range of outdoor activities.
It is a special place to show visitors. Although Meg was not able to go with us, Jasmine, Marshal and I had a great trip from June 11 through June 15. We stayed in a two bedroom log cabin at a KOA outside of West Yellowstone and made daily trips into the Park. They enjoyed the vastness and the variety of the scenery. They were deeply appreciative to be there, and I enjoyed sharing their enthusiasm and their learning.
Out of His love, He created us. Our pain is His, but we are not removed from it. Only as the pain, whether mental, emotional, or physical refines us, are we able to share His comfort with others. Only the pain makes us capable of deep empathy.
When I was in the sixth grade, I fell in love with horned lizards (the so-called horned “toads” ) after viewing a movie at the nature center in Death Valley. Shortly after that, my father found a horned lizard and gave it to me; I was awestruck that such a wish had been wonderfully fulfilled. The memory is deeply ingrained in me today at age 67. I have long been fascinated by the horned lizard’s dinosaur like appearance.. Its head resembles a miniature triceratops. The fossil record dates this creature back to the mid Miocene, about 15 million years ago. Southwest Indian tribes portray it as a symbol of strength and sang healing song’s that referred to its behaviors. As you can see from the petroglyph picture from the Hart Mountain area, it was recognized and honored in the rock inscription.
Jackrabbits are not really rabbits, but hares. Hares are the larger cousins of rabbits. They look awkward and silly with their large ears and feet. Yet they can move at speeds up to 40 miles an hour. Their powerful hind feet can propel them up to ten feet “in a single bound.” I love this backlit shot of the jackrabbit hiding from me in the sagebrush and Indian paintbrush. Some scientists believe that the blood vessels in the ears help radiate heat while the jackrabbit is resting, those cooling its body temperature.
Golden gilia, Indian paintbrush, and purple lupine are three flowers that carpet the Alvord in the spring when the rains have been good. Golden gilia thrives in the alkali soil found here. Indian paintbrush blooms throughout the sagebrush country. Their color is not actually the flower, but the bract/leaf that attract hummingbirds to assist pollination. It is high in the mineral selenium, and was used medicinally by American Indians, as well as for paintbrushes as the name suggests. Alvord paintbrush have a marvelous unique redness to them.
Finally, it is impossible to overlook the lupine, whose purple spreads across the damper grasslands where the Steens begin to rise from the desert. They are in the legume family, and add important nitrogen to the soil. They contain poisonous alkaloids and are deadly to sheep and livestock.
The playa that forms the Alvord desert stretches out beneath Steens Mt, a marvelous fault block mountain that rises to more than ninety six hundred feet. This playa runs nine miles north/south along the Steens and stretches six miles east. Tens of thousands of years ago, a lake almost two hundred feet deep covered the playa. Now, it is intermittently covered with water depending on the season. Land sailors, car racers, bicyclists enjoy the area when it is dry.
Borax Lake, at the southern end of the Alvord, near Fields, is fed by hot springs which contain a high concentration of borate. When the hot springs evaporate, a high concentration of alkali is left behind. Between 1892 and 1902, about 400 tons of borax were boiled down and crystalized annually. Mule teams transported this processed borax to the railhead at Winnemucca, NV, a distance of 120 miles. Borax Lake is now owned by The Nature Conservancy, and offers excellent birding.
Just north of the Alvord, Mickey Hot springs bubbles away, both as hot pools and as mud pots. Some springs have dried up, leaving interesting alkali patterns in the crust. Springtime blooms carpet the area. Golden gilia is particularly beautiful, as are the Indian paintbrush that grow up through the sage.
Oswald Chambers writes in “My Utmost for His Highest” that God will never leave us, “not for any reason, not my sin, my selfishness, stubbornness, nor waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that He will never leave me? If I have not truly heard this assurance of God, then let me listen again.”
What a promise! Even when we are busy, distracted, fantasizing, lost, wrapped up in ourselves, God is always there, calling us back to the right path where He ever waits for us. Even though the road we often take meanders, twists, and gets confused, He continually shows us the straight path to Him.