The Lakota traditionally mark Vernal Equinox with a “Yate iwakicipi” ceremony in the Black Hills, meaning “Welcoming back the thunder beings.” Yesterday (March 21) there was not a cloud in the sky, but this afternoon the thunder rolled back into the Badlands. At one point, the storm cloud whirled in a semicircle, stretching out a pair of feathered wings, obscuring the sun as it set.
Something inside me comes back to life each spring, the first time I smell rain, the first time I hear thunder. To experience this renewal within the Badlands terrain is particularly powerful. Powerful, too, to consider that these geological processes (rain, wind) have been eroding the Badlands sediments for 500,000 years. In another 500,000 years, geologists predict, the Badlands terrain will have eroded away entirely.
Vast geologic time scales, of course, are barely imaginable to most of us. It is hard to gaze out at the carved castles of the Badlands, and imagine the landscape as a perfect layer cake of sediments, still untouched by erosion. I am reminded of that terrific joke about the man who asks God for money:
Man: Can I ask you something?
God: Of course!
Man: What is for you a million of years?
God: A second.
Man: And a million dollars?
God: A penny.
Man: God, Can you give me a penny?
God: Wait a second…