"Okay, Precious, it's nearing your annual birthday celebration, so what would you like to do?"
The next several months had already been planned ... sort of ... but Carol's birthday celebration adjacent to Mother's Day is always special.
"We're already in Denver visiting Darlene [our daughter], and we're heading to California. So can we visit Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, both in Utah, on the way?"
"Sure can. Then let's visit Death Valley on the way to Yosemite."
I'll write about Zion and Death Valley another time, but we didn't get to Yosemite on this trip.
Ute means "people of the mountains" and was pronounced ootă. And Paiute might mean "true Ute." The Native American Southern Paiutes live in the southwestern corner of Utah, but other branches of the Paiutes lived elsewhere. The Spanish referred to both the Paiute and the Ute as "Yutas," which became the name of the state of Utah.
Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but a series of amphitheater-type formations on the east side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Paunsaugunt in the Paiute language means "home of the beaver," but we saw no beaver there. The area was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded there in 1874, and was designated a national monument in 1928.
Many centuries ago (the time frame is debatable) geological movements opened up the earth to expose the sediment layers to rain, snow and wind. Today the area receives up to 16 feet of snow annually, plus about 15-18 inches of rain.
Headward erosion [rain, snow, wind] dug the amphitheaters and formed the figurines in Bryce Canyon. The softer materials eroded and formed thousands of figures the Paiutes called hoodoos [people] that are up to 200 feet tall. Depending on their location, these hoodoos are also called tent rocks, earth pyramids and fairy chimneys. We sometimes find big rocks balancing on the top of some of the hoodoos.
The formations vary in color, hues and shades. Some of the hoodoos are mostly orange with white tops that look like they are illuminated from the inside. Although many formations look similar, they are quite different. We have photos to prove it.
A portion of Paiute mythology is about the ancient Legend People, the To-when-an-ung-wa. These people were supposedly eating too much food and drinking too much water during the summer and not leaving enough food and water for everyone else to last them through the winter. So, the god or spirit Coyote [originally Coyotl] turned them to stone hoodoos as punishment.
Looking at them reminded me of the 8,000 terra-cotta soldiers found in Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb.
Legend or not, these formations are amazing to look at. At Sunset Point, Carol and I walked halfway down the zigzag trail because we wanted to experience this scenario from the inside. Not having hiked much for the past 20 years, we didn't dare walk all the way down because we knew we would have to climb back out. There are no elevators there!
Then we drove the 18 miles to the end of the plateau, stopping at each scenic spot to take pictures. Between the two of us, we took more than 1,200 photos.
Standing and gazing at these wonders of nature reminds me of God.
I know that God did not stand there and personally carve out each and every hoodoo, rock, natural arch and all the rest. But God did set in motion the forces of nature which would eventually create all the magnificent and spectacular beauty that we see.
That's how I see God at work in the lives of humanity.
God does not sit down with every person in the world -- 7.8 billion at present -- and strategize how they are to live, work, interact and mature. But God did give us instructions (the Bible) and gave us the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) Who is ready and willing to help us grow and become an important member in His Kingdom.
As it took centuries to form the beauty in Bryce National Park, it may take years for us to mature into the person God has designed us to be. But if we study His manual, the Bible, and purposely, conscientiously cooperate with the Lord, others will eventually look at us and see the love, compassion and the joy of the Lord in and through us.
All of nature declares the glory of God, and we should too.
-- S. Eugene Linzey is the author of 'Charter of the Christian Faith.' Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.