©By Richard Drebert
I love the way Alaska’s vast ecosystem mirrors God’s principles for the spiritual observer—like the lifestyle and manners of bearded, white, mountain goats. Their behavior toward one another illustrates the importance of being patient and loving with those who intrude upon my personal space.
Mountain goats are not especially swift, so they raise their families in near-vertical terrain, to escape Alaska’s most agile predators: bears and wolves. A goat’s hooves are splayed, and each half moves independently, suctioning against rocks with a hard outer edge and a soft, concaved inner pad. Goats can leap horizontally up to 12 feet from steep cliffs to mount precarious ledges. They clomp across slippery walls of stone with a fearlessness that world-class human rock-climbers can never equal.
In 1778, when Captain James Cook explored Southeast Alaska, Tlingit Native traders bartered with luxuriant, snow-white robes that the English mariners had never seen before. These strange hides had double-coats of thick fur under heavy guard hairs that looked like strands of a woman’s white locks. Cook mistakenly believed that these furs were from white bears. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that mountain goats were classified as indigenous to Alaska and studied as a species.
Nanny and billy goats are notoriously intolerant with members of their own family. A nannie’s single errant head-butt can provoke indignant circling and posturing within the whole band—before an all-out goring melee. During these volatile family feuds a yearling is often knocked off a cliff by a misdirected shove. A keen-eyed bald eagle can snatch up a helpless kid virtually unnoticed as the parents duel over personal space. Biologists who study mountain goat families say that they average three or four quarrels per goat, per hour. A mountain goat lives up to 15 years—you do the math…
As we climb the rough terrain of life with our own band of loved ones, inevitably they will horn into our personal space. They may need advice or approval (or just a piggyback ride), but it’s worth every moment that we devote to these precious “trespassers.” By affirming that we care enough to sacrifice our personal time, we build the trust necessary for leading them to our Savior and Rock—in whom they will find shelter and rest. (Psalms 94:22).