Monday, August 24, 2009

Lions in the Meadows*

Every summer of my life (25 summers now), I've visited my family in California, and my siblings have joined in the pilgrimage as they have gotten old enough to do so.

The journey is always dictated by habit. We do something once, we do it every summer there after; we go to the same places following the same itinerary, eat at the same places, watch the same movies. Summer vacation in California is kind of like watching the same movie over and over, and that actually is what makes it so glorious.

Each summer of the last ten or so, a side trip to Las Vegas is included, much to the glee of my littlest siblings (alright, and me -- I'm a sucker for tacky gift shops, giant Coca Cola bottles, and glittering lights).

This year, though, we inadvertently added a stop to the cycle. This happens; the movie evolves now and again. We parked on the wrong side of the MGM Grand, and so had to walk through it to get to the giant Coke bottle. Along our bee-line to green-bottle bliss, we passed MGM Grand's lion habitat, a spot I hadn't known existed. It was open, bright, and lush; lots of things for the lions to climb, waterfalls crashing dramatically-yet-gently into a little pool, quite idyllic. Two lions, a male and a female, lounged just on the other side of the inch-thick, slightly green glass, drowsy and showered in sun from the massive skylight.

All around them, pressed to every inch of the perimeter, were tourists from God knows where -- everywhere, probably -- thee people deep holding up children and cameras, standing on tip toe to get a view of the lions. The sleepy felines, meanwhile, remained totally aloof.

The female lion perched at the top of one of the water falls, gazing about occasionally but mostly vegetating with her eyes closed; beautiful. The male lion was sprawled out on top of the frosted glass that covered a walkway through the middle of the habitat, presumably to another section. Dozens of people had crammed themselves into this space, a space meant for people to pass through not linger in, to see him and take vague silhouetted pictures.

I count myself in this number, of course.

And I was fascinated. Not so much by the lion, actually, though being a mere two inches and a flaw in glass-making craftsmanship away from those paws and jaws was pretty awe-inspiring. No, I was really interested in the people who came to Las Vegas, the middle of the dessert, presumably for some gaming, some food, some shows, and perhaps some less family friendly activity, and were now captured, in rapt attention, by this massive, powerful creature (who had absolutely no use for them, by the way).

I often lament how disconnected we've become from good ol' Mother Earth. Greening industry and saving the planet are all the rage, but I don't know how many of us spend much time actually appreciating the planet we live on (sorry, Planet Earth doesn't count) or the other creatures who inhabit it. We -- humans, that is -- are God's crowning jewel, but can you imagine Adam's reaction when God showed him the first lion?

God: Here, check this guy out! You might want to give him an especially good name, I don't think he'll be too happy with you otherwise.
Adam: (squeak)

It was both amusing and heartening to see all those people so enthralled by a pair of lions. I've started to think (realize might be the better word) that God meant for us to feel connected to every other living thing on the planet, not in an Earth mother crazy kind of way, but in an awareness that we come from the same place and those other things were made for our good. It's evident, especially when we meet those creations in such unexpected places -- like lions in a meadow.

*"Las Vegas" is Spanish for "the meadows".

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