Sunday, September 19, 2010

The King and I

Lions stalk me.

It's true. In Texas and in the Frozen North, and even Europe.

Lions stalk me.

The first was Elsa the lioness in the film, Born Free, the story of Joy and George Adamson and their Kenyan rehabilitation center. I decided then and there that I would move to Kenya just like Joy and George. I was born and raised in Texas, I could do big, dry and hot. And poisonous snakes if I HAD to!

Lions are majestic, awesome, dignified, glorious, noble, fearful.

And sort of dangerously cuddly.

When higher education called, I laid aside the African dream and picked up drama and english. Not exactly the perfect training for pulling thorns from a lion's paw in the wilds of Africa. Then I met my Dear Professor and there was no contest.

But the lions are patient.

As my Dear Professor and I strolled hand in hand down the Montrose end of Westheimer one sunny Houston Saturday, they found me once again. It seemed safe enough. Major artists and artisans displayed their wares at a street fair. As we passed the local NBC affiliate interviewing participants on camera, I felt him watching me. And then I saw him. The lion, nestled under the shade of an awning, called.

Rabby's lion

It was a painting by an up and coming Houston artist, Jim Rabby.  I had just recently read CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and was captivated by this rendering of Aslan.  The rich paint strokes were layered so thickly I could almost hear him breathe. I longed to take him home with us, but this new bride felt awkward asking her groom for such a costly painting.  I took a picture. A faded picture that does not do justice to the richness of color and those extravagant brush strokes.

I said goodbye, never dreaming that we would meet again.

A year later we attended a party given by a friend's cousin.  I could not believe my eyes as my feet crossed their threshold.  Through the crowd I caught a glimpse of something in the den, in an exalted place above the mantle. 

It was Rabby's lion.  What a joy to see him again!  He had stalked me from the far eastern end of Westheimer to the far western end.  All the way across Houston.

Lions stalk me.

Three summers ago my Dear Professor and I chaperoned a student group tour of Europe.  We traced the Reformation movement through Germany, England, and Switzerland.  There were also a few side trips to France and Austria.  It was a sobering time as the lectures recounted the clash of politics, tradition, and faith and the price paid by the faithful.  In Lucerne, we met the Dying Lion.  It is a granite monument to the Swiss Guards massacred while protecting French royalty during that country's bloody revolution.  Mark Twain said it was "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."

Lucerne--Swiss Lion Monument

I found myself agreeing with Mr. Twain.  As I gazed upon this lion I couldn't help but recall Aslan at the great stone table.  And the deeper magic CS Lewis wrote of in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Lions stalk me.  The dead and the living.

Last year a dear friend found a magnificent lion at the National Zoo.  There is something about her photograph that continues to haunt me.  Perhaps it's the sorrowful nature hidden within his royal bearing and fearful countenance.

Jessica's Aslan
(my rendering of Jessica's Aslan, with her permission)

Yes, lions stalk me.  And I see in their courage, beauty, power, soulfulness, fearfulness a pale shadow of the true image of the all powerful Lion of Judah, who continues to stalk my heart.

And yours.