Katie Snipes Lancaster
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1
We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.
You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.
You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.
—Philip Levine, “Our Valley”
Despite knowing the texture of uncertainty for more than a year, O God,
so much still remains uncertain in ways that we have yet to even admit.
You see an eagle’s eye view of past and present,
your steadfast love endures forever in both directions,
and even as the mountains turn to dust and the oceans shift,
the irresistible pull of your spirit coaxes us back toward the only certainty we need: you.
You are near.
You are with us.
You carry us.
You hold us.
You steady us.
Let the new burdens of this year,
belong in your strong care,
as we seek to begin again,
under the gravity of today’s dawn.