Driving through Llallagua is what I imagine driving over lunar landscapes would be. That any life, let alone human life, exists here at all is a testament to the will of the survivors: the naked hills, thin air, incessant wind, razor blade grasses and the blowing dust, dust, dust, colour it all inhospitable. Uninhabitable. Though it is not.
One morning we drove to the worksite, silent, travel-weary and dull, and the radio sang quietly, “The earth is full of your glory.” We were passing the almost dried riverbed with its blowing collections of garbage stuck in the mud and its women and children who pick through the refuse in their endless pursuit for survival, and the irony of God’s glory crying out from these rocks only felt like an unkindness.
That God can be met in the extravagance of his creation when it is dripping wet with green and life, when the stars hurt your heart and the birds surge triumphant is believable, but what, I wondered, of God’s glory in the dead lands? What do these treeless hills cry out about?Later, I saw that the beauty of this place was in the sky, in the way the clouds moved and shadowed the spaces, cupping and holding for a moment that was already dissolving, the life and lives of those travelling below, and I thought that maybe this land was witness to the uncontainable: that God is wild in mystery, vast, unyielding, folded in secret and sharp like a sword on the wind.
Photo Credit: Brian Wirzba