For Purple Mountains’ Majesty: Dancing With the Muse

God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.” – Lord Francis Bacon

It’s Spring outside my window today – my favorite time of year. Leaves are unfurled, lilac bushes and tulips are blooming. Our garden is going in today. Frigid winter has given way to life and warmth. Our lawn is a thick emerald green. The Boise front range has shed most of its snow, revealing scrubby desert hills and above, forested slopes. Spring captivates me with its charm and beauty.  I hope to be out of my head and the house soon, under the blue sky, but first the Muse beckons me to dance. We dance as I think about things like purple mountains’ majesty and the existence of a second book. Stuff like that.

First, relax. This isn’t a religious piece, though it refers to my values and beliefs. It’s spiritual, like America the Beautiful. Katherine Lee Bates, inspired atop of Pikes Peak to write America the Beautiful once said, “I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.”  There’s a communion between souls and natural beauty or should be. She, like Bacon above, was referring to a second book. I love that book.

Our old house’s front window faces east. On a hot summer day (in the good-old-days when forests held their moisture and before wildland fire was ubiquitous in California), I used to love to watch thunderheads pile up above the Sierra Nevada until flashes of lightning struck the mountains below, sounding like the gods a-bowling in the heavens. Back then and still today I couldn’t understand how anyone could see such earthly evidence and doubt God’s existence. No, when I look at the glory on full display in front of me, I want to burst out in song like Julie Andrews, arms flung wide. I can’t separate the beauty I see from the spiritual connection I feel.

From before I can remember I’ve heard the creation story. If you are foggy on the details, it goes like this. Day One: the earth was formless and void. Dark. God spoke, light appeared, dividing the darkness – day and night, morning and evening. Day Two: He separated waters above from waters below, creating the atmosphere, the heavens. Day Three: He gathered the waters underneath the heavens, revealing the land – Earth – below. He called on the land to produce grasses, seed-bearing herbs, and fruit trees. That done, on Day Four: He hung the stars and moon to give light and be for signs and seasons. He scattered stars across the heavens. The sun ruled the day and the moon, the night. And every day He saw that what He had done was good.

Day Five: the waters were filled with “an abundance of living creatures” and the heavens, with birds. He blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply” and said His handiwork was also good. Day Six: He created terrestrial animals, not just one of each, but multiples so they could reproduce. He called that good too. Then He made male and female in the image of God, instructing them to multiply, giving them “dominion over the fish of the sea, birds of the air, and every living thing that moves on the earth”. [Notably, He reserved dominion of some things for Himself. Regretably, not that some folks noticed.] By Day Seven, He’d authored this glorious world and everything in it, so He rested and called it “good”. It truly was.

Whether you believe in creation over a literal seven days or in a much longer amount of time (there’s evidence for this in Scripture), how can folks avoid seeing the connection between the natural world and a Creator? Attributing all of this to a random, serendipitous big-bang event is the longer stretch. Though my understanding of the logistics is sparse, this is how I see it: faith, in my book, is the evidence of things not seen. I don’t have to figure it out.

Day One. It was as black as could be. No matter, no substance. Darkness. But apparently, water was everywhere. Imagine yourself hundreds of feet down below the surface of the sea. Not only is it dark, it’s cold. It’s thick. It’s oppressive. A flash of pure white light pierces through the depths and suddenly you can see all that was hidden from sight. Amazing. And on the second day, God fashioned two vast reservoirs of water – one above, one below, both completely linked by the hydrologic cycle and responsible for weather (temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, precipitation, and winds) and climate (seasons of weather), neither of them static. How about that?

On the Third Day, waters got separated from the land. Dry land emerged. Like He’d later do in the Red Sea, He rolled back oceans. Beneath them were the Grand Canyon, the Tetons, the Sierra Nevada, the Great Smokies, the sandy beaches and rugged coastlines of Maine, California, and Oregon, and so much more. The high desert and the Great Basin. The Great Central Valley and Yosemite. The seemingly endless plains and prairies, the Coeur d’Alene basin, the lands under the Great Lakes, the Olympic Rainforest, and the steamy swamps of the South. But wait, there’s more!

He covered the mountains and meadows with native grasses and flowering plants that sowed seed. Western and Slender/Bearded, Sedge, Wildrye, Onion, and Fescue grasses. Buffalo grass, Prairie Dropseed, and Indian grasses. Sagebrush, Bottlebrush, ferns, and oaks. Redwoods, cedars, and pines. Morning Glories, lilacs, poppies, wild roses and more. In all shapes, sizes, and colors, distributed according to climates and seasons, providing glorious robes to adorn the land. The trees and plants bore berries and stone fruit: huckleberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, and plums.

The Fourth Day was when he strung the night and day with jewel-like lights for warmth and sight: the sun in the day and the moon and stars at night. Who can stare unmoved by the brilliant Milky Way over the Pioneer Mountains and Yellowstone? And where is it we want to be in an icy Idaho winter but on a beach somewhere (anywhere)?

How do you feel when you are presented the fruits of the Fifth Day of creation? When you watch salmon and steelhead spawn or listen to an underwater recording of a whale or dolphin, or see a trout thrashing on the end of your line. Aren’t these fantastic? Or the Sixth Day’s fruits: the bugle of an elk, the whinny of a horse, and the taste of a ribeye steak or bacon? These speak to a Creator’s genius and provision. How can we but marvel when we witness the awesome strengthy of a Grizzly Bear or Killer Whale, the power in a wolf’s jaw, the sheer mass of a buffalo, the sinuosity of a snake, and the high lonesome yips of a coyote. Do these not also speak?

My person, purple mountains.

No less a marvel was the creation of male and female and our life cycle. To find your person (where options seemed limited) and share a life – this is profound and miraculous. To watch a pregnant woman’s belly swell, to see a newborn seek his mother’s eyes as he nurses, to watch baby fat give way to lean, sure limbs, to hear a young man’s voice crack, and a girl becoming a woman is to witness the adult emerging from the cocoon of the child. These are profound and miraculous. To have the capacity to reason, the ability to perceive and learn from the second book, is incredible.

In my eyes, everything is connected by a silver cord to a Creator. Everything created gives testimony to our Creator – to God. That the God of the universe should choose to imagine and create all of this and that some will only attribute everything to a random explosion of matter and the process of evolution, I will never understand.

So before I go outside this afternoon, I pause and think about the second book which is evident and manifested in everything He made. The first book – Scripture – (Romans 1:20) says that “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature “have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world”.

I feel, see, hear, taste, and touch His creative power within these things everywhere, but especially in the majesty of purple mountains. When I contemplate their beauty my heart and spirit drink in the rest. And my Muse and I dance.

4 comments

  1. Reading your description of the creation story reminded me of a song we used to sing in church. Sadly it escapes me as to whether it was part of the Midnight Mass at Christmas or the Easter vigil service.

    No matter. Thanks for that memory!

    Like

    1. It was a really fun thing to write. Thanks, friend! And you’re right. Where you heard it doesn’t matter. I think that we heard it at all links us with each other and Someone much bigger and far wiser. That we’re pleasing Him by paying close attention to that second book!

      Like

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