The Orion Nebula
Sacred Wonderland

A Yellowstone Creation Story

During years of research and thinking about the history of religion in Yellowstone, I have toyed with several ways of conceiving a book on the topic. At one point I drafted the following as a possible beginning. I subsequently rejected the idea of presenting Yellowstone in quasi-religious terms, but I am intrigued by imagining a creation story inspired by scientific understandings of the universe.

In the beginning stars formed in the clouds of the young universe. Stellar winds streamed across vast stretches of cold space, bringing light and warmth to the pervasive darkness. Galaxies spun into being.

Creation fell wildly without order, without clean divisions between light and dark, earth and sky, water and land, animal and human. There was no time, no days of creation, no seventh day of rest. The colliding energies of formation and destruction exploded randomly across an unfathomable existence without the benefit of time, place, or consciousness. They are exploding still.

The Orion Nebula
The Orion Nebula (Photo by NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)

In a remote corner on the edge of a small galaxy, an indistinct star flung its superheated masses outward. The roar of radiation streaming from its surface cooled as the pull of gravity slowed the outward trajectory, colliding with the massive remains of the star’s nebulous cloud. Mass and velocity settled into molten balls of orbiting debris, spinning along a gravitational equilibrium between gravity and velocity. The planetary mass absorbed the debris it encountered along its singular orbital path, and its growing mass exercised its own gravitational pull along an ever-widening field racing around the star. As it swept through its stellar band, the planet cooled.

The planet’s molten center, though, preserved the remains of its galactic ancestry. The explosive superheated energies of its formation remain encased deep within the earth’s core. Layers of molten minerals form mantles and crusts that enwrap and contain the violence of planetary birth. On the surface, only hints of internal turmoil make an occasional appearance. A superficial calm belies a violent origin. But the scars of creative destruction remain.

Some twenty million years ago a small portion of the violent center bulged to the surface. Reminiscent of the ferocious energies that brought the planet into being, the same explosive ferocity that created its sun, its galaxy, its universe, the bulging underworld erupted into the atmosphere, spewing deadly gases, ash, stone, and magma into the sky and across the surface of the earth. The supervolcano gave birth to a place called Yellowstone . ♨

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