A few posts of this blog have been entirely composed of pictures, because I haven’t been able to articulate my feelings and I felt it was best if I waited rather than bumble around in the dark and hit a desk and end up just cussing for a while. It’s been a couple-three weeks though, and I think I’m starting to get ahold of some things.

First of all, the bison. Growing up I spent a great deal of time and energy insinuating myself into Neopagan and New Age circles. The first non-Christian, alternate religion I experimented with was the Rainbow Path–Ed McGaa’s telling of the Lakota/Dakota/Sioux spirituality. This was my first lesson in “Beck Really Likes Ceremony and Incense and Sparklies/Is A Crow”. This was also the first time I encountered people who would tell you what their spirit animal was, and who professed great admiration for the “buffalo”. I was at the time suspicious as to the depth of their thinking, and given that I was thirteen, that’s probably a meaningful statement.

So, for over half my life I’ve heard an awful lot about the wisdom of the buffalo and how important the buffalo is, and on and on. I remained as skeptical of the truth of these statements as I did of the research capabilities of these folks. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t appreciate bison, as much as it seemed that bison were being appreciated for shallow reasons. Bison were the oversized, Woody Allen glasses to go with the cute vintage dress and tights of too-easy Native American spirituality.

And then I went to Yellowstone and saw my first bison. It was the second day that did it. We drove around a turn into a valley, and there were several bison walking on or right alongside the road! We drove past one bull, I think, and he was about six or seven feet away. On the other side of the car one was even closer to Chris, and he heard it huff and sigh.

This time and one other, I got to look a bison right in the eyes.

Once I was talking to my sensei, and he was saying how you had to be inhuman to kill whales and dolphins, because all it takes is one look in their eyes to see that they fit a certain definition of human: they have intelligence, they play, and they have compassion and probably a capability for rage and vindictiveness. You look in those eyes, and if you are paying any kind of attention, you relate to this creature.

Years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to swim with dolphins. I can’t actually swim and I was terrified of getting into the water. You see, if I get water up my nose, I immediately panic and inhale hard. I’ve nearly drowned thrice–as in, one time I saw a tunnel of light with figures at the end. After a mighty battle with myself which consisted mostly of being firm about taking my time and not freaking out about freaking out, I did get in the water and I played with two dolphins. At one point I felt their tails brush my legs and I immediately knew that they were so strong they could break my legs and not even really notice.

It was the same with the buffalo but different. I didn’t get the sense that if only I could speak the language I could have a great conversation, as I did with the dolphins. I did get the sense that this creature was a really good Taoist. It knew eating grass, roaming, mating. It knew defending other bison from predators, and it knew being silly as a calf. And I don’t think it was really concerned about much else. So by me, a really good Taoist.