“. . .the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations. . .”
I don’t fault people who live in huge, bustling cities. I envy their endless opportunities, cultural and interpersonal. I can’t imagine being able to choose from hundreds of cuisines every night, a gala gallery of tablecloths.
Angeles, I’m told, is like the planet in miniature—hundreds
of languages, music as varied as its aromas.
Picking up the weekly paper in the town where I live, paging through it in five minutes, then tossing half of it since the entire second section is high school sports, can be downright depressing. Around here anyway, the old anonymous waves from passing cars quit decades ago, but a certain schmaltzy saccharine smile one still obligingly receives on the street reminds me too much of the political pressures raging in junior high hallways.
I’m not a curmudgeon, at least I try not to be; but sometimes I get downright scared of those who believe that God almighty intended human beings to live in small towns. And there are many in the neighborhood.
The literary fortunes of Sinclair Lewis have plummeted since he won the Nobel in 1930.
literary culture has to rival New
York’s, but even his native state rarely praises his
genius. Does anyone really read him, except as artifact? Every year we
pass through Sauk Center, Minnesota, his home town, where a handsome
Interpretive Center stands just south of town, never more than a half dozen
cars in the parking lot, staff probably. Who would want to read someone that
owly? And yet, at some moments in places like the Sioux Center where I lived, I used to think I’d like to unleash him
on the upstanding citizenry if I knew they would pick up his sarcasm.
I much prefer Willa Cather, who may have disliked cultural leveling small towns create as much as Sinclair Lewis did. When her super-heroines migrate into towns like the ones Cather grew up in, they’re in trouble. Out on the wild prairie, on the other hand, their virtues reappear and blossom as gloriously as wild flowers.
I don’t fault people who live in cities, but I wouldn’t trade life there for the default behavior of my Saturday mornings, when I get up before dawn and head out of town in most any direction, head out to an openness where there is far more cattle than human beings, but little else to obstruct a vision that runs for miles in every direction.
What David celebrates in these verses—God’s awesome deeds, scrapbook #1 (there’s more to follow), is his God’s “creatorliness,” if I can say it that way, his transcendent nature, the sheer unimaginable power of his hand. And all of that, I think, is displayed, today, most vividly in a landscape. I was born on Lake Michigan, and when I go home I can stand on the beach and feel at least an inkling of the rush of divine imperative that first day must have created, as I’m sure others can.
Here, in the neighborhood, a place I’ve chosen to live, the Creator God is made manifest in the broad silent spaces Willa Cather loved, where, if you watch closely and listen carefully, sometimes I think a bit of cosmic echo reverberates from that truly awesome first day of creation; and I am, at least for a moment some days, blessedly closer to God.