It was late, late afternoon in the Badlands of South Dakota. I was alone in the vast multi-hued rock formations. Unscalable, unconquerable and uninhabitable, or so it seemed to me. Lavender and vermillion outcroppings reflected the rapidly fading sunlight. It was the day after Labor Day and the crowds that flood the national parks, the animal paparazzi, had returned home. I was engulfed in solitude, not a single living thing could be seen for miles and miles and miles. The Honda scooted over the sharp crest of a hill.
From nowhere, they became visible, not two, or three, or four, but hundreds. Bison.
They crossed the road in front of me. Some ignored me, some stared me down fiercely and then a few blessed souls stopped by to stick their furry faces to the windows. I was alone in an ocean of bison. What charmed action could I have done in some past life to be so rewarded by an audience with such divine creatures? Bison, known to give to America’s first people everything that they needed to survive. Bison, reminder of the sacred interdependent relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world. There they were, surrounding me, in the most desolate landscape I’d ever visited. Looking in their eyes, I knew that they knew so much more than I could even begin to fathom. We were there for a very long time. Them looking at me, me looking at them. I was tempted often to look away, but it seemed there was something I needed to hear from them. If ever I experienced a moment of genuine humility, it was that one. A teacher later told me that they symbolized the heart, when I shared the story of meeting them in the heartland. It was growing dark.
The whooping was audible long before the truck became visible. White men in cowboy hats, beeping the horn and refusing to slow down. The herd scattered. As I gazed after them, I wondered after these strange men in their big hats, who drove blindly through a miracle, compelling it to scatter and dissolve. How could they miss the meaning of this?
My heart broke to bits upon seeing the Yahoo news headling about the impending buffalo slaughter in Yellowstone Park. Apparently it’s gone on before, and I at least was not aware of it. There is concern that the buffalo carry mad cow disease and that it will contaminate the local livestock.
A couple things to consider about this. It’s important to know that, in increasing numbers, the wildlife of this country, and other countries as well, are forced out of their habitat and confined on limited grounds that the government declares “refuge”. But it is not “refuge” when the animals, through living their own lives, are perceived by the government as being nuisances and subsequently murdered. If you have ever been to our national parks, you have have heard the rangers plead with people not to behave in ways that encourage what might be perceived as disruptive behavior on the part of the furred and feathered residents of the parks. It is an abomination that any life would be considered less than sacred, but for those of you who are skeptical of the value of non-human lives, be assured that humans can easily be considered just as dispensable. It happens all the time. Either life is sacred and we act in harmony with this, or it is not.
The second thing to consider is the impact the cattle industry has in this whole affair. Please don’t support them at all by consuming their products. We cannot condone and support an industry based on slaughter and expect that violence to stay confined. Violence always begets more violence.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
To do list:
Eat vegetables, grains and legumes
“We deserve to live, just like you do” Howard the Bison remarked in response to a query about the pending slaughter.