Animal Planet

Because Mama figured that surely the lives of animals wouldn’t defy or mock God, Animal Planet became my TV safe haven. I’d wake up at sunrise before school and lie on the carpet in the front room, my T. rex PJ–clad body dwarfed by the screen. Aside from The Most Extreme, Animal Miracles, and Untamed and Uncut, I loved the shows about migrations. I loved the mile-high shots of the herds, their totality sweeping the landscape like a dust storm. Everything on Earth seemed so funny when viewed from space. So small. Inconsequential. Meanwhile, the lions lurked, crouched low and waiting in the grasses, their eyes masked by rings of flies. Hoof-stirred clouds of dust rose in the herd’s wake, the glaze of terror waxing in a blink over the wildebeest’s eyes as the lionesses leapt. When the wildebeest collapsed, their throats gripped by bloodied fangs, sometimes they cried out, grunting and bellowing for their lives. It reminded me of what Mama had told me to do if I was ever attacked. Scream the name of Jesus. Cry out to God as loud as you can, baby, and go for the eyes. If that was what the wildebeest were doing, it never worked. From between their hind legs, the lions tore into the wildebeest’s belly. If the wildebeest was still alive, it kicked electrically, its legs sometimes tangling in its own intestines. But if it was dead or in shock, its legs stuck stiffly out. The corpse jerked back and forth between the lions, its legs waving in the air like thick, brown reeds alongside the golden grasses. My eyes followed them, falling into the trance of the cycle of life and death. This was life for the whole wide world. In this world, there was no redemption, or mercy, or intervention. The herds left their sick, wounded, and dying behind. The sun was just as bright on freshly flesh-stripped ribcages as it was on the newborn wildebeest calves. This world didn’t seem like it had ever been a part of Eden. Maybe that was because none of these specific animals had ever been in Eden. But, still, it was like the animals didn’t even know that there was a God.