But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
— Wisdom 11:23-12:1
Perhaps there are some folks, or many, who don’t share my love of the outdoors and my simple fascination with nature. I can certainly understand that, but I find that for whatever reason, I just have an easier time ‘listening’ to God in this aspect of His creation and better understanding His inexhaustable lessons there, than I do in many other more common experiences. I suppose the operative word here is ‘simple.’
As my boys continue to get older and move on to more pursuits at school, with sports, friends and so forth, my youngest daughter has become my latest outdoor adventure buddy by default, and I would say she even takes to it better than they did as she seems to share more of my particular wiring in this regard.
A recent adventure had us down at the Sweetwater the other night, a little desert oasis in the midst of our neighborhood that serves as a great place to get away from it all and recover from some of life’s more trying distractions and demands.
We brought the dog along to stretch her legs and run around unrestrained by her leash which is sometimes necessary.
It was around 9:00 p.m. and there was only a sliver of a moon in the sky, so the area was fairly dark. Naturally, this wasn’t a challenge for the dog, who tore across the desert grass and past the large eucalyptus tree where my daughter and I paused to rest and chat.
I could just make out the blond fur of my dog off in the distance. For some reason, she looked to be frozen in place, staring keenly at something near the higher grasses beyond. It was then that I noticed one of our familiar great horned owls hooting up a storm in another large eucalyptus tree closer to the dog.
I peered into the thick darkness, squinting in the dog’s direction, wondering what had her so intensely riveted. Just as I was turning back towards my daughter, I thought I had caught sight of a dark blur moving across the area in front of the dog. Had I imagined it?
I asked my daughter if she had seen anything and noticed that her eyes were as big as saucers. She was clearly spooked. Now my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, and I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but I thought I saw one, then another, then a third black shape dart across the same spot in the distance.
Suddenly on my guard, I called the dog back to my side and quickly slipped her leash on.
WIth her young eyes, my daughter could see quite a bit better than I and was now clearly in a panic as I counted out another half dozen or so shapes take the same route in the same general direction. I hadn’t imagined that.
My daughter was keen on getting out of there and based on everything she was rattling off, those shapes could have been anything from big dogs, to wild wolves, to werewolves, to dragons.
The owl was still hooting away as my mind quickly filtered out the impossible and improbable to arrive at one likely suspect.
They certainly weren’t dogs, since my dog was already down there and she would have been yelping and tail wagging in the midst of them if they were friendly, or growling and ready to pick a fight if they weren’t.
They didn’t appear to be coyotes, because she would have reacted much the same as if they were dogs, and also they appeared to be too big in shape to be the typical desert coyotes seen around here.
Bobcats and mountain lions were definitely out, because I’ve never seen them in packs and certainly this is well beyond their expected range. I almost felt ridiculous for even considering it.
That basically left one likely possibility, but I was going to need a closer look to confirm it. Of course my daughter was having none of that, so I suggested that we grab the car and swing around to that side of the preserve for a better look.
A few minutes later I was rounding the far bend in the car and manuevering my lights so they illuminated the spot where I last saw the creatures take refuge. My daughter spotted them first under the high beams and sure enough –– they were javelina.
We even spotted a mother with a couple of babies tucked up close to her belly for protection.
Best of all, it was interesting to see how quickly my daughter’s fear had turned to intense curiosity and outright joy at having seen upclose a new species in the Arizona desert to add to her long list of other firsthand sightings.
It might also be hard to imagine from the pictures posted at left, but she actually thought they were “cute.”
As you can imagine, we had quite an animated conversation on the short ride home, and plenty of discussion afterwards as I endeavored to turn the experience into a teaching lesson on the mercy of God.
Can you imagine how the ‘Mercy’ tie-in might have worked? Well, hopefully you share my love of listening and learning through God’s creation. If not, maybe it’s something to think about.