Friday, October 29, 2010

By Any Other Name

It all adds up to one thing: peace, silence, solitude. The world and its noise are out of sight and far away. Forest and field, sun and wind and sky, earth and water, all speak the same language.
A quote by American writer Thomas Merton, 1915-1968
found in the visitor's center at Devil's Tower
Photo taken through the window at the visitor's center

It was a beautiful place, but I'm not too fond of its name. Devil's Tower is just not some place I want to spend a beautiful October morning.

So, even though Devil's Tower is the most recognizable of the names for America's first national monument, I guess I'd prefer the Lakota's "Bear Lodge" or perhaps the Cheyenne's "Grizzly Bear's House."

In fact, early maps assign the name "Bear Lodge" to the unique rock formation. Following an 1878 military expedition led by Col. Richard Dodge, the name Devil's Tower appeared, and that's the name given to the monument in 1906.

Maybe it's because they had a "devil of a time" traversing it, I don't know.

This upthrust rock in Wyoming is the stuff of legends - literally.

An Indian Legend

One day, an Indian tribe was camped beside the river, and seven small girls were playing at a distance. The region had a big bear population, and a bear started to chase the girls.

They ran back toward their village, but the bear was about to catch them. The girls jumped up on a rock about three feet high and began to pray to the rock, "Rock, take pity on us; Rock, save us."

The rock heard the pleas of the young girls and began to elongate itself upwards, pushing them higher and higher out of reach of the bear.

The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock. The bear continued to jump at the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are to this day in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades). The marks of the bear claws are there yet.

We walked the trail around the base of the tower near Hulett, Wyoming, after having our photo taken by a couple from Australia.

We took a more leisurely approach than a group of climbers who planned to conquer the summit.

It was a beautiful view - whether looking up to the rock or down in the valley surrounding it.

It truly seemed a sacred spot. All along the way, visitors had left prayer cloths and bundles in the trees.

Not everything at the Tower can be seen. On the north side of the Tower, away from the noises of the visitor center and the road, the wind whistled through the pines ...

chipmunks and squirrels chattered ...

and the deer fed on grasses.
Few human noises intruded on the quiet solitude of the pines.

See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence;
see the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence.
A quote by Mother Teresa
found on one of the monument's placards


  1. Thank you for this tour! I went on this same one 60 years ago with my parents. I have already passed the slides down to Mike, so can't go back to look at them. I am enjoying your photos.

    Jane T

  2. Jane - I really appreciate your faithfulness in commenting on my blog. I am glad you are enjoying the tour vicariously!