The other day I was driving through Illinois when one of those dazzling moments occurred. This was the type of moment that should be put to film or be the inspiration for a thousand songs, the type of moment in which reality pauses and indulges in something sweet. Left alone from any sort of traffic, the smooth asphalt highway was mine alone and consequently so were the beautiful Illinois wheat fields sprawled out from the highway for miles like great feathery wings shuffling from the slight breeze. Ahead of me on the right I was approaching a forested area with trees that lined the highway. And then, in a fleeting glimpse, a sudden instance, I saw two of the most exquisite creatures I have ever seen. With a delicate and quiet agility that only these two animals could possibly attain, the two creatures suddenly appeared in wondrous motion on the road ahead of me. In fact, they were nearly off the road and galloping into the forest before I set my eyes upon them. But as suggested before these exceptional moments tend to be extremely generous and even have the power to inflect time and even stop it. This afforded my eyes the opportunity to gaze at these creatures. I was able to see the fine and beautiful way that they were constructed and built. Their smooth muscles were fitting for their staunch but slender legs. The bob tails were bouncing up and down as they galloped. These creatures seemed so fragile yet so complete. There long necks were just strong enough to support their rapidly jittering heads. I was even able to glance at their eyes from a distance deep and wild, taking in vast amounts of information. The hooves that met the highway, although silent from my vantage, seemed to generate some gorgeous melody anyway. I heard this melody as I watched the escaping leaves, rustled away from the trees, gently descending in flutter as the two creatures’ beautiful light brown coats allowed them to disappear into the forest and continue on in magnificent wildness…
So exclusive and blazing with significance was this picture I was invited to see that I felt almost unworthy. The word that came to my mind… “Perfection.”
What I witnessed that September afternoon was so completely serene, so completely natural that I felt immediately transported to the garden. It was as if I caught a glimpse of that splendid garden in the east, where all creation is new and man and wild beast lived in unusual harmony. Not yet tainted by fall, creation was so pure that God walked among it, completing it with every lingering moment.
It suddenly occurs to me why I have such a strong fascination with watching animals and touring trees. Somehow, their complete complexity and intricacy along with the simplicity of their untamed nature humbles my heart in many ways. It moves me to watch a horse run. It moves me to watch a falcon soar. It moves me to watch a spider spin a silver web. It moves me to watch a cat bathe itself with its small rose tongue. It moves me to watch a dog gently rest at the foot of its master. It moves me to watch a butterfly flutter around in tiny flashes. It moves me to watch a tree stand against the mighty wind and cling to the earth. It moves me to watch a tree lift its seeping branches into the air. It is because these things are holy, created to be beautiful … created to be. God Himself declared them good. In some strange way on some different sort of plane of knowledge, it seems that these creatures understand things much better than humans.
In a book called That Hideous Strength, Lewis writes about a large pet bear named Mr. Bultitude and in an altogether accurate way describes the mind of the bear:
“Mr. Bultitude’s mind was as furry and as unhuman in shape as his body…He did not know that he loved and trusted [his owners] now. He did not know that they were people, nor that he was a bear. Indeed, he did not know that he existed at all: everything that is represented by the words “I” and “Me” and “Thou” was absent from his mind.”
But then Lewis goes deeper:
“The appetencies which a human might disdain as cupboard loves were for him quivering and ecstatic aspirations which absorbed his whole being, infinite yearnings, stabbed with the threat of tragedy and shot through with the colors of Paradise. One of our race, if plunged back for a moment in the warm, trembling, iridescent pool of that pre-Adamite consciousness, would have emerged believing that he had grasped the absolute: for the states below reason and the states above it have, by their common contrast to the life we know, a certain superficial resemblance. Sometimes there returns to us from infancy the memory of a nameless delight or terror, unattached to any delightful or dreadful thing, a potent adjective floating in a nounless void, a pure quality. At such moments we have experience of the shallows of that pool. But fathoms deeper than any memory can take us, right down in the central warmth and dimness, the bear lived all its life” (p. 306).
Perhaps, I merely dipped my toe in that lustrous pool on that warm afternoon as I watched two creatures that were fully immersed in it. For it is not this remnant of the garden that is tied down by the often-times vociferous naming and explaining of experience that can sometimes keep the beautiful but fallen human mind and heart from liberation. The remnant has discovered the delightful secret of living experience rather than trying to be a master over it.
Do you ever feel distance from the Creator? Friends, I adjure you to go outside and experience the fierce reality of creation. Do not merely go outside to read or draw or paint. Do not merely use creation as a vehicle for your own agenda. But go outside and look at it. Go and see it. Enjoy it for its own created sake. I would suggest conversing with it. St. Francis did this often. Allow God to renew your mind in the visions of His creation. Discover why the Pslamist wrote that His glory fills the earth. What does that mean? Then, perhaps, we will discover more of our holy Creator.