Everywhere I walked, I saw animals awake and active: One polar bear could not talk the other into getting into the water. So she climbed ashore – and pushed him in. The Three Bears (grizzlies) romped and sparred. Sea lions strutted their stuff. Penguins dove and swam. A mother ostrich chased a curious gazelle away from enormous eggs. Red river hogs, so ugly they were cute, ran amuck. A rhino paced slowly – down to the water, up to the shade, etc., etc. Two hippos practiced synchronized skinny dipping: Both awoke from their naps, stood at the same time, walked side by side, in step, toward the water – and plunked in. We watched from the rear.
Most amazing of all: The cats. Usually they sleep during the day. Not that day.
Immediately on entering the park, I saw a lioness taming a huge red plastic spool. Then, mistakenly entering the exit of the Cat Country exhibit and thus walking against the current, I saw them all – most, on the move. The ocelot couple bantered, climbed the rocks, descended and climbed again. The male Bengali tiger paced between the two females, one of which roared him away. He finally lay down halfway between the two. The cat with super-pointy black ears and a strange name I can’t recall paced incessantly. The black leopard walked and roared. I ended at the beginning: at the lion’s den. The male lion lay against the glass through which we looked, just inches away. The female now rested nearby, having conquered her prey. The male turned his head in that stately lion way and stared me in the eye.
I enjoyed all the animals. But the cats, and especially the lions, stirred something in me, something deep. So, at the days’ end, I stood in a line of kids – and got my first tattoo. Airbrushed in purple, high on my right arm: the head of a roaring lion.
After all, the Hebrew month of Nissan was starting, the first month of spring, the month associated with the tribe of Judah. In Genesis 49:9-10, Jacob blessed Judah this way:
You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations be his.
Revelation 5:5 identifies Jesus Christ as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” – Jesus, who died and rose again in the first month of spring, the month Nissan.
The roaring lion on my upper arm also reminded me of Aslan, the lion in the Chronicles of Narnia. Author C. S. Lewis created Aslan as a type of Christ. Home again, I located the first book of the Narnia series and picked it up. It fell open to this passage:
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
Ah, yes. We shall have spring again. The prophet Amos weighed in ahead of time (as prophets often do), announcing centuries before Christ’s birth:
The lion has roared – who will not fear?
The Sovereign Lord has spoken – who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:8)
Definitely. Time to get my first tattoo.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis (New York: Collier Books, 1950, 1970), pp. 74-75.