It would be impossible to count how many gorgeous photographs I pass by every day. Which is one reason I sometimes intentionally leave my camera at home, to keep myself from being tempted to do nothing but take pictures all day, or be annoyed with myself that I didn’t stop for that picture. Besides, all too often I have my camera with me and never see anything that compels me to stop and capture it. But then again, sometimes I do have my camera and I do feel compelled to stop. And then how glad I am.
I see these landscapes all the time, but found this view captivating.
Driving both our parks, Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park, it is hard to believe now the devastation brought upon them by Legion Lake Fire in December. Some places show the obvious scars, the scorched or torched trees, the scars from the cleanup logging operations, but other places have been left even more pristine than they were before. In grasslands, you just get used to the landscape always looking a little dull because of the clinging remnants of last year’s grasses, until the fleeting part of the summer when everything is at its prime and is almost too green. But this is so different, so clean.
The green was unbelievable. It hardly looked real. But it is.
During and after the Legion Lake Fire, a lot of tears were shed (figuratively and literally) over the devastation wreaked upon the beautiful landscape of Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. Of course wildfire is devastating, and it is terrible and terrifying when it threatens human habitation, but it is a natural process necessary to the health of the wilderness ecosystem. No, the landscape will not be the same. Yes, it will be changed. Yes, the land will bear the scars of that devastation for years to come. And this picture is glorious proof of the renewal that comes from that same devastation, mere months after the fact.
It is a uniquely human desire for things to “never change.” What is there in this life that “never changes?” Nothing. Change is a good thing. Yet we cling to the familiar, and instinctively react to change as if it was an evil, when in reality that change, though painful, may be God’s way of strengthening us, renewing us, shaping us, and making us more like His Son.
The black is greening up. And one thing is certain…the buffalo and other critters eating that tender, young grass are definitely not complaining. So drive through the Parks and make mental note, and then drive them again later this spring, and summer, and next year. God has equipped them to be renewed. So in a strange, haunting way, even the burned areas are beautiful.
There was something strangely beautiful about the scattered white headstones lost in the sea of prairie grasses, the rolling hills like rolling waves on an ocean of windswept, time-tarnished gold. It was hauntingly sad, so isolated and wild and completely alone. The date, June 25, 1876, is almost lost in time, but its memory lingers on at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.Although our nation has enjoyed periods of relative peace and relative prosperity, that peace and prosperity has not been the usual state of things. A glance back through our history reveals many events most people would rather not talk about, and if one begins to dig even more is unearthed. Time obscures many more event, both the good and the bad, than most of us will ever know about. But we can’t forget, we can’t selectively remember, we can’t pretend that the tragedies didn’t happen, and we can’t erase them. The past is immensely important, not to treasure our hatred and nurse our resentment, but to foster compassion. We need to remember our past, with forgiveness, compassion, and humility.The Battle of the Little Bighorn was a tragedy. The events surrounding it and the way the U.S. Government treated the Indians and cheated them out of land that was rightfully theirs and guaranteed to them is an ugly, disgraceful blot on our history. The crimes and atrocities committed on both sides are shameful and inhuman, and those who have proper perspective realize that and can acknowledge that. If we try to judge the past by the standards of the present, we’ll only succeed in cultivating and perpetuating hatred. We have to look at the past through the lens of the past, not through a lens of modern-day political correctness or 130-year hindsight. And the Monument succeeds in doing that. I was struck by the level of cross-cultural unity and the way in which all of the fallen were honored, not only the Army or only the Cheyenne and those who fought with them. It is a tribute to the heroism of all the warriors, and a love song to the lives that were lost.
The men who died were warriors. It was their way of life to defend their way of life, whether we look back and judge their way of life as right or wrong. They fought bravely and according to their code of battle. The following quote inscribed on the Indian Memorial is striking:
“It was a terrible battle….a hard battle because both sides were brave warriors.” ~Red Feather, Lakota
Okay, now I have a little time to go back and catch up on last week! After my first entry, we got busy in Whitehorse and there really wasn’t any good time for posting! Then when I first got to Alaska last Thursday and did have time for posting, I was frankly too tired.Just a summary of the events of last week: Monday through Wednesday, we shot the pilot episode of what is planned to be a web series. We filmed at three different locations – Maria’s cabin off Lake Laberge, a German bakery in Whitehorse, and a wooded trail behind a neighborhood overlooking a lake, also in Whitehorse. And yes, it was fun wandering around dressed up in Anne of Green Gables era clothing. A lot of fun. When we weren’t filming, we enjoyed Maria’s company in the evenings, lovely conversations over dinner and late into the evening, took walks along the shore of Jackfish Bay, and were also introduced to various sights and scenes of Whitehorse and the Yukon by the director, Bogna, and her husband. They took us on a “driving tour” on Wednesday evening, to a few scenic spots for pictures and walking. I couldn’t get enough of the lupines, or of the Jacob’s ladder!
Delana had specifically requested that we stop by a Whitehorse sign for pictures, which we did, of course. Of all the pictures on the Whitehorse “welcome sign,” the one I zeroed in on was the bulldogger. And in case you were curious, there happens to be a Yukon rodeo association. We drove past it on the way to Maria’s cabin.
The Yukon was a brand-new adventure, and it is a place I hope to see again! Very different from the other places I have seen, with its own temperament and mood, and it was beautiful. So beautiful.
Whenever Uncle Scott comes to visit, the girls and I do our best to monopolize his time. It didn’t take much convincing to get him to do a Badlands trip with us, and we just managed to squeeze it in on Sunday evening. What a gorgeous evening for it!
Hwy. 44 from Rapid City to Interior is a beautiful drive in and of itself, with distant views of the Badlands, and glimpses of homesteads and ranches still weathering the climate of the region and thriving amid scrubby grass and hardly a stick of timber. As the Badlands drew near, we were greeted by cheery signs like this one:
We ate at the lodge restaurant near the intersection of the Interior and Badlands Loop roads, a popular spot. By the time we got back on the road, we were nearing the photographic golden hour. The Badlands were glowing in the sinking sun, and our leisurely drive became more eager.
Gazing over the racing landscape, it was like being on another planet, swallowed in the vastness and openness and awesome fierceness of that strange and wonderful place. Amazing how such hostility and such beauty can meet in such magnificence.
The sun set in a blaze of glory over the jagged ridges. The song of the coyotes rang softly in the valleys, and big horned sheep scrambled on the shadowed slopes. Nighthawks dipped and dived, and then the sun was gone and dusk crept in. Harney Peak, miles and miles away, rose out of the prairie like a sentinel, keeping watch over everything within its gaze. I love that mountain.
We drove home in the dark, the stars shining brighter and brighter as the sky grew blacker and blacker. What a beautiful evening, enjoying the wonders of God’s Creation, the glories of the Heavens, and the joy of fellowship and family.