July 7, 2002

The Sun Cross, Martins and a Congregation of Otters

Church services at the Wilderness Cathedral were to begin at 7:56—30 minutes before sunset as usual. I was running a little late so wolfed down my supper and headed toward the Sanctuary. The setting sun was in direct alignment with Waterwood Parkway and I was heading straight toward it. Because of the smoke in the air from far away forest fires the fireball had been reduced to a glowing red disk from which emanated rays forming a perfect cross that tilted slightly to the right.

I arrived at the Sanctuary at exactly 7:56 as scheduled only to find the peninsula deserted. As there were no cars parked at the end of Cathedral Drive I didn’t expect the congregation to be too large but I did expect that at least a few people would have arrived by boat and taken advantage of the new pier which had been donated by Deacon Ringler.

Purple Martins were careening about over the water capturing flying insects. They were pretty successful at eliminating the mosquitoes as only one evaded their capture and found my leg. The Martins come here each year to fatten up before beginning their long migration. At sunset they fly toward the highway 190 bridge where they congregate to roost. Last year I estimated the flock to consist of over 100,000 birds.

An environmental group had recently been invited to camp on the Sanctuary grounds. About 20 young volunteers from several States had come together for the meeting. I had visited with them on Friday evening and nearly half wished to be anointed as Deacons in the Ethician Church. I was dismayed however to discover that the candles, mosses, and other artifacts that had graced the area that serves as the alter, had not been replaced. The candle wax had been melted out of the glass candleholders decorated with images of The Virgin of Guadalupe. Only blobs of melted wax remained. A partially burned log had been left on the alter and many of the artifacts had been broken and placed in a pile nearby. I really do not understand how a group of young people who have dedicated their summer to helping to make the world a better place, would be so insensitive and disrespectful toward a sacred place.

By this time I was feeling pretty disheartened and discouraged so decided to walk down to the boulders at the point which overlooks hippo rock, a boulder in the shape of a hippopotamus head, with a perfectly round hole for an eye, through which water gushes with each passing wavelet. A huge water snake resides in the boulders and sometimes rests in the limbs of a little shrub and I was hoping that at least my snake friend had come to church.

I walked up onto one of the boulders at the water’s edge. The snake was neither in the bush nor resting on the rocks. I looked down to my left and there looking up at me were four of the most beautiful otters I have ever seen. Two of them were standing on their haunches with little fish in their paws taking dainty bites and then staring straight into my eyes while chewing. The other two were amusing themselves by taking turns swimming and then climbing onto the rocks to examine me and then gliding back into the water to play.

I communicated to them with my eyes and with my mind, telling them that I was so very pleased that they had come to church, to fear not, and to enjoy themselves and their meal. They seemed to understand, as they showed no fear at continuing their activities as if they were taking pleasure in entertaining me. After the two fish eating otters had finished their supper they joined the other two, frolicking in the water for awhile, then gliding off and then returning to the rock at the water’s edge to stand and look at me as if to say good-by. Then one by one they gracefully slid into the water and disappeared from sight.

By then the peninsula was no longer lonely. A chorus of cicadas sang the first song accentuated by the cry of a great blue heron. As the cicada choir finished their chorus, a bullfrog sang a one-croak solo, which was soon followed by, croaks and grunts from other singers ending in a crescendo with the voices of many singers of various species and dialects after which the doxology was sung by none other than a cardinal.

In spite of the lack of attendance by God’s human children, the creatures of Creation that inhabit the Cathedral seemed happy to be there.


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