Monday, July 4, 2011

Holy Wind

The word for Spirit, especially the Spirit of God in both Greek and Hebrew is also the word for wind.  The ancient writers could have taken their inspiration from the high "páramo" of Ecuador.

The páramo east of Quito is an area I frequented as a teen.  It begins at 12,000 feet and goes up to 14,500.  (You don't count 14'ers in Ecuador, there are too many to matter.)  Further to the east the Amazon jungle generates copious quantitites of humidity, that is summarily wrung from the air as it cools on its way over the high passes.  400 inches of rain a year is standard, which means it normally rains multiple times a day, and the rain may very well come at you sideways as downwards.  The temperatures average in the high 40's, on a clear night it will freeze hard any night of the year.  It is high, cold, wet and windy.

And it is also one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet.  The highest hummingbirds live there, going into a dormant torpor overnight to survive the cold.  It is home to a small race of White-tailed deer, the Spectacled Bear (every bit as big and ornery as the North American Black Bear,) and the elusive Mountain Tapir.  If one is especially lucky one can see the magnificent Andean Condor soar by on wings as big as the mountains themselves.  Flowers peek up through the thick coarse grass, club-mosses 10 inches high paint the marshes in orange, dwarf forests of Polylepsis trees, draped in moss and epiphytes, choke the steeper gullies.  It is truly a magical place.

I found it magical in another very un-magical way when I was a kid and just the other day when I was there.  It is often in the margins of life that we most potently encounter the Holy.  The páramo drives one to the margins very quickly.  God was there, powerfully, unequivocally, driving through me like the rain in my face, filling my soul with such incredible gratitude and happiness such that tears are hardly avoidable--perhaps my small oblation to the God of Wind!

No comments: