Climbing a steep ridge at Lyndon Park North, we were miles from the nearest river. Comfort, too, seemed far away. It was April, 2020, in the first frightening month of the pandemic. Ed and I had gone to the woods because there was no place else to go. Schools, restaurants, businesses, libraries, and gyms were all closed.
On the way to the park, we'd passed a dead fox beside the road, its rust-colored haunches covered with dust. Vultures circled overhead. I'd read in the newspaper that morgues in Italy had closed because there were too many bodies.
"Where are you, God?" I said.
When we topped the hill, an interpretive sign told us that the ridge we'd just climbed was an esker. An esker is a winding, narrow mound of sand or gravel deposited by a stream flowing within or under a glacier. We were walking on the raised bed of a ten-thousand-year-old river.
As I imagined blue water flowing through ancient ice, my breathing began to calm. I thought of the verse from the Bible, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God." The landscape around me, the valleys falling away on either side, had been carved over time by a patient God through tumbling water and cascading debris.
There is a river... Surely, I thought, the God who shaped the earth over eons has not abandoned us.
Now, though these days of Omicron feel like a throwback to 2020, there are important differences. We have masks. We have tests. We have vaccines. We know more about how to treat COVID-19. If we protect ourselves and others properly, we can be together indoors.
I believe that God has also been at work since the beginning of the pandemic through human beings. Through brave and creative people who kept showing up, doing their jobs and taking care of each other.
God has been at work through nurses, doctors, teachers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, scientists, restaurant workers, pastors, farmers, artists, police officers, public officials, journalists, bankers, emergency responders, factory workers, pharmacists, school administrators, road crews, parents and grandparents and day care providers who are raising the next generation, day after exhausting day.
Their love flows underneath me like an ancient river. Thank you, all. Thank you, God.
"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God… God will help it when the morning dawns." – Psalm 46:4-5 (NRSV)
Playlist: "Down to the River to Pray," Alison Krauss, O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000.