Monday, September 20, 2010

Phase I - Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone – Reflections 3

As I write, Susan and I are on an Air France jet heading for Paris en route to Tel Aviv. We will be met in Tel Aviv by the driver from St. George’s College who will take us to the College in Jerusalem where we will begin our course Ways in the Wilderness on September 22. The flight seemed a good time to share some additional thought and reflections on our Wyoming experience.

Exactly a week ago, we were in Cody. On Sunday morning we worshiped at Christ Episcopal Church where the Rev. Mary Caucutt is the Rector. It is one of the bigger churches in the Diocese of Wyoming. The Sunday we were there was their ministry kick-off Sunday, so we felt very connected with our St. Paul’s family as that same Sunday (the 15th) was the St. Paul’s Ministry Fair. We hope and trust that went well. It is also the tradition at Christ Church, Cody to have an “instructed Eucharist” on that Sunday, which means that there are pauses throughout the service when an appointed person (in this instance and assisting priest) explains each particular part of the service and explains its meaning in the service. We have had instructed Eucharists at St. Paul’s, but it’s been awhile, and this made me think it was time for another. I suspect it will be one of the things we put on the calendar when we get back, perhaps for Lent. Our visit was delightful and the church community in Cody vibrant

Throughout the service I was overwhelmed by an inner sense of my deep thankfulness for the week Susan and I had in Wyoming. I have shared some of that with you.
We took our longest excursion into Yellowstone on Saturday, our last day in the Park, when we went to Mammouth Hot Springs which is in the north end of the park. Yellowstone’s North entrance is actually on the Wyoming and Montana border. Major attractions in that part of the park are the Upper and Lower Terraces which are hot springs and travertines formed by Calcite and other minerals (see picture). I really wanted to see these as I had visited the incredible Terraces in Pamukkale in Turkey. I wanted to see how the two compared (actually, although in every other way Yellowstone is stupendous, the terraces were not as impressive as in Pammaukele). Still, they were worth seeing and the entire drive to them spectacular.

Our Saturday drive from the Eastern entrance was exceptionally beautiful, and especially when we went through the higher elevations. There had been a pretty significant snowfall which had, in fact, closed the East Entrance Road for a while on Thursday. Because of the snowfall, we stayed in Cody on both Thursday and Friday where we spent many hours in the wonderful Buffalo Bill Historic Center (see which is really five museums rolled into one. Separate wings include a fabulous collection of American Western Art including a number of original Remingtons; a museum of Natural History which focuses on the particular natural history of that part of the country; a wing dedicated to the history of the Native Americans of the Plains; a wing dedicated to Buffalo Bill Cody and his amazing story; and lastly a wing devoted to the history of firearms.

On that Thursday, we also went to the Visitors Center at the Buffalo Bill Dam which was, at one time the highest arch dam in the United States. We got to stand on the dam and here the amazing story of its building in unbelievable conditions.

Susan and I also hiked up the Ridge Trail behind the Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center. It was pretty windy, but it did allow us a good hike and a view of hills and mountains that took our breath away. We read some of Thomas Keating on that hill and then took some silent time.

As this sabbatical takes shape around the themes of wilderness and solitude, it strikes me that the Wyoming experience will be distinct for underscoring the magnificence of God’s creation. When we get to Jerusalem and begin that phase with the Ways in the Wilderness course, nature will certainly be a significant component, but there will be more attention to the biblical and early monastic experiences.

In Yellowstone and Cody it was Creation writ large that struck me and captured my heart and imagination. That scale of awesome wonder calls forth a deep humility. It is something I will continue to celebrate and ponder. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it well, “the world is charged with the glory of God.” On our way out of the Park that last Saturday we to see a Grizzly Bear, a Moose and her baby and an American bald Eagle in flight. It was a wondrous finish!

In my next installment, I'll tell you about Susan's unfortunate run-in with a Brown Recluse Spider!

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