irreplaceable, a 1700+ line praise poem in the making...

irreplaceable will become at least a 1700 line poem, a chorus of praise swelling with love for our Great Salt Lake. The size of this poem is a call for Great Salt Lake's full restoration. By some reports, 1700 square miles would be the size of the lake in an average water year. There is scientific debate about this number, with some estimates closer to 2100 square miles. If the poem flows past 1700 lines, so be it!  The poem is a community prayer on behalf of this hemispherically essential ecosystem.

Please add your own details in the comments. Before long, your lines will flow into the poem. There are 134 different voices and 633 lines in this poem thus far.

irreplaceable

Invocation
when praise began to flow

we watched the water rise 
along both sides of the causeway
eleven islands recovered 
their autonomy. microbialites sighed 
with relief. when praise began to flow 
the dust subsided. metals resettled 
on the seafloor, arsenic and mercury 
were lulled back to sleep
blanketed once more 
by the great weight of water

when praise began to flow 
three rivers rushed forth unhindered
as greed relinquished its grasp
and fat flakes of snow tumbled
into the great body becoming 
clouds, drifting into peaks
making snow and more snow  
and then creeks, then rivers 
then lake, and then lake effect
also known as sustenance 
also known as snow
and the waters did not desert
us when praise began to flow

when praise began to flow
we returned to fourth grade field trips
the picnics run amok, spirited floats
and salt-encrusted bodies
boats bobbed back to their docks
we recalled how to sail
we could taste our first kiss  
we remembered a day we didn’t die

when praise began to flow
we gathered and told these stories
and a culture of disdain released its chokehold
our eyes shone with love and even 
reverence, which began to grow
when praise began to flow 

when praise began to flow
we sorrowed over the way  
we had shunned her
irreplaceable body and vowed 
not to part from her company
and the love we felt for each drop 
making a way to her whale-heart 
became unfathomable

when praise began to flow
we thirsted for the names of birds 
we learned the mouth-feel of the words
grebe, avocet, willet
pelican, curlew, stilt
we observed their long dives
sudden swerves, and bright eyes 
we noted their cries and habits
tracing murmurations
we drew love 
beyond naming 

when praise began to flow
we felt the genesis of our feathers 
we felt water return to the sea 
of ourselves, we felt
a swell in the lake 
of ourselves. we felt 
the surge of our rivers
we felt tidal. we felt primal. we fell 
with the snow. we grew ocean-
hearted. we began to know 
we had never been separate 
and thus could not be parted 
when praise began to flow

Part 1
why save our great salt lake?

because rocks sing with life in her shallows 
because of bison
because of buoyancy
because of ten million birds
because her colors defy naming
because her shoreline defies tracing
because her earth print defies state lines 
because we will be lonely for the cries of gulls
and starved for the sight of flight   
because we have desiccated other lakes 
because every night we sleep in her bed
and each day we drink water melted from snow she makes 
because we are made of clay but more of water 
and we are born into just one body
because our lungs branch into tributaries
and stream into rivulets
because mercury and arsenic lurk in her basin
and we are as permeable to poison as the others
because she is irreplaceable  
because we can
because we must 
because her body lies between us
and the dust

Part 2
praise chorus from five friends at farmington bay gathered around the brutalist table

praise bright green grass on the edge of saline water
praise raindrops falling gently
praise the halo of brine flies
praise eared grebes
praise muted desert tones fading into each other
gradient yellows and greens, a reminder of life
praise boats drifting as birds follow
praise the reverence of the duck hunter,
a promise of connecting for shared purpose
praise buoyancy
praise white pelicans flowing through brisk desert wind
seven in formation
a jet above
flying overhead to say hello
a lake of life, a lake of flight
salty yes, lifeless no

Part 3
ode to microbialites

first breathers, imperiled neighbors—
you rise from the shallows in ancient forms
a diversity of architects
building layer upon layer of life

metabolizers of light—
behold your living edge
you nurture brine shrimp and brine flies
who fill grebes and stilts,
phalaropes, avocets, and cliff swallows
you sing through the wing bones of seagulls
thank you for each feathered citizen
thank you for filling the air with flight

saline corals, great sustainers—
behold your delicate rhythms
your time-bending and slow growth
you were here before handcarts and causeways
before state parks, airports, and apps
before we began to make weather
you took centuries to form 
we did not create you
may we take in the fact
that we cannot remake you

platforms of life
holy origins—
may we humble ourselves
before you as your descendants
may we find reverence
for we are latecomers
diverting your waters
if we don’t cease
you will perish
may we bring water in time

Part 4
praise chorus from a web of experience

praise the sunset sliver of pink
praise memories of calamine and salt-caked feet
praise selenite crystals
drawn from soft sodium clay
praise combing the shore for micro trash
on a soggy saturday
praise the salty blood of the lake
praise the salty water
where my desert-raised father learned to sail
praise spiraling lava rock
praise the corklike body afloat
praise the smell of life recycling
praise microbes detoxifying, restoring balance
praise the oolites on her shores
praise sea monkeys!

praise snowy plover, pelican, and sandpiper
descending in clouds
praise watery sanctuary
bald eagle, phalarope, and grebes
praise wild and the life it breathes

Part 5
a miracle is due

fourth grade in utah public school
i’m ten and tired of pioneers
but i’m listening
because today in history 
we’re studying a miracle:
how crickets once devoured 
our crops, how we plead
until god sent seabirds
who rolled in like clouds
how without them 
we’d have met our end

it was the first pioneering spring
and we thought those tender shoots 
meant survival. we were oblivious  
to what Goshute people knew
how crickets can be caught and dried
ground into flour, made into cakes
instead, we saw a swarm 
and thought ourselves gone

i’d known seagulls from the playground 
crying and diving for crusts— 
but after that lesson i saw each of them anew
agent of miracle
more agile than angel
at recess i looked up as if to cry back
to the flash of wings
we owe you
now i know
we owe you


there was still farmland then
the freeway, merely planned
and yet, in forty years 
i’d become part of a swarm
desiccating the lakeswift and insatiable, 
it’s past time to be reciprocal
we owe them
and we know we owe a miracle

Part 6
praise chorus from eighty friends of great salt lake

praise dawn on the causeway
a rusty coyote splashing through
rounding the corner, antelope island opens to view
praise the startling vista

praise distant calm from the highway
praise space for bison to thrive
praise wild desolation so close to home
praise ancient world in present day

praise winter ski trips with friends
praise salty foam whipping up at rozel point
praise ten thousand avocets with rusty heads
praise imagination, praise billions of brine shrimp

praise tornadoes of midges
praise hopper salt crystals
plucked from lake bed like so many teeth
praise floating between sky and sky

praise her salty kiss burning like fire on the horizon
appalled by flies, enthralled by sunset
grassy slopes grace us, riding alongside
praise the midnight bicycle ride

praise the color explosion at days end
white foam, watery pastiche, changing blues, 

depending on where you stand
praise orange, in sky and on water

praise the days when the water is its pinkest
salt crystals sparkle at a pale blue sky
praise sage green with deep maroon
silhouettes against gradient colors

the site of gulls without an ocean,
in the desert fighting for fries
i will miss the funky smell
praise slow, salty undulations

i will miss the feel of salt
no lake, no lake effect snow,
no snow, no winters, no water
praise hollowing waves of sorrow

praise feeling weight in damp smash
praise the place out past the railroad
the place that saved me in 2020
where the water is sometimes pink

praise ripples, praise stillness
praise kit carson’s cross
praise moments spent lost
praise sun on salt, praise sky

praise eared grebes
with golden feathers
and scarlet eyes
praise eared grebes!

praise the flight of the migratory
praise rest for birds and earth
praise a solitary mammoth tooth
caught between time and depth

praise children marveling at brine shrimp
praise bringing a friend for a first visit
praise people swimming
praise the job of a lake girl

praise the drive to the jetty
the jetty, pink and i can’t believe it
knee deep in the waters of Smithson’s spiral,
praise the illuminated salty sculpture

how would it be for the spiral
to slip under the waves
and sleep again?
praise layers of time

praise a picnic with two ninety year-old women
no-see-ums defending the beaches
swirled clouds mimic water ripples
praise contemplating stars from buffalo point

praise sunsets overlooking saltair,
more impressive than the show inside
praise floating on a summer day in ’72,
feeling like a pretzel after drying

praise learning and teaching a unique ecosystem
kids laugh when i tell them the water will sting their eyes
feeling the planet’s pulse
forms and cures loneliness

praise home, the home i am made of—
praise reflections of mackerel sky
vast expanses, mirror-smooth
feel alone and connected at the same time

praise the great blue heron
taking off and flying through reeds
praise capturing the amber eye of an egret
through a cloud of thousands of gnats

praise the panoramic view from frary peak
praise joy on the shores of stansbury
praise gazing at the intense blue
golden grasses blowing in symphony

praise the texture of pickle grass
praise the smell of rainfall, stinky, fresh
praise briny socks and briny smiles
praise senses scrubbed raw

praise visiting the lake with my mother
memorias com o meu pai
praise the ever mutable backdrop of childhood
visit even when you are afraid

bear witness even when you are afraid
how can water be so heavy?
the lake, my sister, lives in my body,
carries my weight.

Part 7
10 things to say to future beings

1. we watched a murmuration of blackbirds and longed for you to see them
2. the feathered appendages of brine shrimp reminded us of wings
3. some heard the lake cry for thirst and went there with water
4. we grieved the desiccated reefs of microbialites
5. the bone yards of fresh death startled us
6. we thought of you as we memorized birds. we wondered if the last bird on earth would be small and brown
7. we prayed the day would never come. we prayed with more than words
8. watching a bison breathe steam through his nostrils, we traced his great snow-plow head with the ink of our attention
9. you are with us now as we write. we pray you will recognize these forms of life
10. we can't take it for granted that you will

Part 8
praise chorus from ladyfinger point

praise for the smell
so rancid and ripe
burning your nose
and you know it gives life

praise for the bugs
that bite and annoy
the leave their itchy memory
and you know it gives life

praise for the sounds
sometimes they annoy
planes, peoples, cars
the laughter and wonder

and you know this place gives life
praise christmas dinners atop frary peak
praise the salt and savory of it all
praise eyes opened in wonder

praise feet turned to wander
praise spirit laid bare
praise soul finding respite here
praise the quiet and space

praise the orb weaver spider
eating brine flies on my shirt
as i learn to row, afraid to drop my oar
praise my own heart

praise eyes leaking salty drops
praise our interconnection
bring me the stillness of mountaintops
bring time into focus at sunset

i experience the evaporation of a life force
tired and overwhelmed, but i will listen
i am listening now
soaking in the sounds and smells of this ancient teacher

praise the poet before me
lake glistening behind her—
i don’t fancy myself an activist
i change my mind

praise the sun forcing eyes focused
praise bodies present
praise air blowing fresh
over an inland sea

praise the last sunflower
on a southern slope in november
praise our power and potential to heal
praise resistance

praise the big boulders
and the trail winding through and around them
praise the views from frary peak
inspiring me to something greater

seeing my first seagull here
it seemed improbable and out of place
praise a rich fable of how they saved settlers
they still make me smile

now i take them for granted
another unlikely resident of this place
bring a bug’s wing catching the last light
the sunlight warming my face

bring winter beige and glassy blue
voices frizzling into vastness
bring purple chill creeping up
from under the sagebrush

praise the place of fourth grade field trips
praise a cut knee on big rocks and the first place i saw a bison
praise the place we kissed under the stars
praise children playing in the sand and even the smell of them after

it began with the light on the clouds
on the water, on the peaks
it began on their little faces
it began on the lake’s edge

bring me to the halite crystal edge
to the edge of the microbialite
the edge of pickle weed
to the edge of my understanding

bring me to the edge of insight
the edge of plight realized
the edge of what lies ahead
to the edge of my seat

bring me to the edge of what’s here
bring me to the mirror
bring water, bring water
bring the mirror and show me what i am

Part 9
praise bison time

could a bison just walk through our camp?
suddenly here’s the answer to our question:
praise his quiet sway and massive yes
praise listening to each gust of his breath
praise the grazing of tender blades
praise each steaming nostril
praise the sacred suspension of what we call schedule
praise the necessity to pause
praise absence of permission
to pack or depart, praise lack of a clock,
praise bison presence, bison heart
we’re now on bison time
praise the absence of a list
praise this full and holy hour spent observing

Part 10
praise chorus from sue, angela, rachel, michelle, liz, and margo

praise her simple, proud name
praise absorbing her divinity
through the window of an airplane
praise the contour of a bison's neck

praise wide-brimmed hats
shading wide-grinned smiles
praise the miles of bumpy dirt road
silence giving justice to laughter

praise gold sun melting into the lake
like butter on a warm pancake
praise be the spiders crowding the path
when it’s warm, signs of abundance

praise be the valley
which once cradled an ancient sea
now vast but not empty
dramatic but not performative

praise the towering sky
praise the way grass flows like water
through blood, salty tears
and ebbing shores

praise be the lanterns we sent 

we watched them rise
above her clear and still
praise be that stillness

oh salted shores
next to brine broth
thank you for listening
when my voice shook

Part 11
To the Baby Pelican by Willy Palomo

praise the baby pelicans
salt-white feathers tarred
like filthy and immaculate
prophets.   we must all
be notorious, ready to die
for your gospel of crack
and eggshell.  each of
your feathers is a quill,
a page of the book of life,
black with our gasoline.
nobody reads books
anymore for fear of what
is written about them.
heirs of air and cloud,
blood brothers of breath
and wind.  your bones
are snow that never melts,
only glistens.  you are
disgusting and pure.
the guilty condemn you
only because innocence
pains them.  it pains me
to see the twisted hay
of your feathers,  the weak
air melting beneath your
wings until you land like
a ripped grocery bag,
eggs broken, milk claiming
a continent on the tile.
ravens will dive. foxes sniff.
they will join you in your
sticky grave, devoured
by their own hunger.
Rest now, young one.
This pain is for the living.

Part 12
praise chorus from winter solstice confluence

praise pelicans above
flying from an island to feed at deer creek
praise an intersection of love
meditative adventure and salt

praise the life in spine and arms
scooping lake-snow off pavement
today i skied the perfect powder of lake effect
yesterday i laughed at the sweetness of phalaropes

praise big fluffy flakes
praise the smell of chill in the air
praise the smell before snow
praise spiral jetty

praise sunrise. it is new
praise peach sorbet sunsets
praise flying in and out of salt lake
bowing to glistening waters reflecting life

praise biking to the lake from liberty park
a fifty mile day with snacks and chats
praise a dancing astronaut in lake sand
praise another halloween as an arctic explorer

praise the words of terry tempest williams
connecting my mom and i through refuge

praise the mirror reflecting
everything above as below

praise walking so deeply you float
praise the delight of buoyancy with friends
praise lights reflecting on salty water
praise the taste, so salty and bitter

praise the name of the city
praise people saving great salt lake
praise jaimi. praise being unmute. praise being 

and becoming a steward of the land

Part 13
Ways of Knowing by Christy Bills

There are ways of knowing a lake.
From 7th grade Utah history class:
Grainy black and white photos and maps,
historical texts that dry out all the juiciness.
“A very salty, lifeless lake, not much for pioneers to harvest,
But a point of wonder for restless travelers.
Salt in the desert! A remnant of an ancient lake
that filled this western basin
where fish once swam, and camels
and giant sloths prowled the periphery.”

I learned that from books
Before I found other ways to know –
from teachers who encourage the eating of pickleweed,
from noisy children eager to explore,
And know the wisdom of soft mud between their toes,
From fervent birds who travel thousands of miles to pay homage,
From enduring invertebrates who claim their stake in a marginal landscape,
And mostly from letting the aloneness of the lake tell its own story.

To know the peace the lake offers,
wade into it.
Ignore the dancing wall of flies
guarding its shore and walk, and walk, and walk.
Relish the giddiness that comes from allowing yourself to march off into a body of water. 
You can do that in this lake’s surreal shallowness.
Lay back, arms wide, and float.
The saltiness wants to hold you up,
not let you down.
She’ll welcome you.

Your skin will know the itchiness of salt drying on it,
Which also makes you sparkle if the sun is shining.
You can see the ephemeral sculptures
crafted by sand, salt and gentle waves,
sometimes foot high rounded shapes
that have a watery intelligence to them,
a pictographic language, telling you a salty secret.

The way the lake knows how to calmly reflect the sky.
The way this lake knows how to absorb
the noise of people and our zooming cars and our growing cities.
She’s not a loud, lapping body demanding attention.
For a lake, she’s quite still. She knows how to be quiet, how her size can make silence.

When the busy people were new in this valley,
they played in the lake, marveled at it, built resorts
and ferris wheels and danced beside it.
They knew it in a Dionysian way that we don’t.

Through a microscope, you can pry into one of the lake’s more intimate details
And know her roundness, how smooth each grain of sand is.
Not a jagged bit of rock, that is the crumblings of bigger stones.
The sand is of the rare oolitic type. That’s a syllable for each “O” - which seems right.
Oo-
Oo-
Lit-
Ic
Each granule a smooth pearl, a tiny blooming, layering up of calcium.

Only a few plants have the peculiar, necessary knowing – how to thrive here
Greasewood, iodine bush, shadscale, pickleweed –
Their names tell you they are hardy,
full of tricks.
They deftly embrace, exude and extract that which poisons other photosynthesizers.
Halophilic they are called. Salt loving.

Millions of birds know the lake.
You can hear the red-winged blackbirds brutish call
on the reeds while the geese honk overhead.
Gulls will run along the muddy shore, beaks open,
catching a bellyful of breakfast.
Pelicans choreograph their commutes.
A fashion show of duck varieties that defy imagining, bob serenely.
Delicate avocets and stilts pick their way through the shallows like finicky shoppers.
They all know the way the lake provides.

Another way to know the lake—
Through the memories of ancient animals that flourished here.
For thousands of years this lake was their home,
they swam where we breathe now.
Do their ghosts still glide down I-15,
around the Walker Center building,
up over a Costco, hunting?
The lake must have seemed eternal to them,
their generations before them, after them,
knowing nothing but forever lake,
Birthing and dying among plants only our geologists can name now.
You can still see the ripples of the lake’s waves
Carved into our arid hillside’s peach-colored rocks.

My heart and eyes know the tiny, pink,
continually waving brine shrimp.
“Hello,” they say, “do not forget us!”
the last remaining citizens of an ancient watery kingdom,
so grand you’d never believe it.

Once I met a jogger on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail,
a visitor from out of state. She stopped to ask me,
where the lake was – the Bonneville.
I wanted to part the curtains of time – all around us.

Ways of knowing from science class –
the Great Salt Lake was once enormous.
It gets its saltiness from the build-up of minerals
that come from its feeder rivers and concentrate there,
having no outlet.
Its waters reach no ocean.
Water flows into it, and the only way out is up.
The water rises, clean of all impurities, into the clouds
and then falls back to Earth, onto us,
Onto our urban gardens, our hopeful orchards, the hillside’s wildflowers
and the houses big and small,
And in season, gracing us with quieting snow.

Because she goes nowhere but up,
she’s called a terminal lake.
She has nowhere else to go.

Part 14
just wanting to stay: a chorus of praise and lament from poetry students at Kearns High School

it was very shallow
the smell of salt very present
i went there with my family:
two brothers, one sister, our parents

saline solution to our dreams
burning our feet, stiffening our jeans
all the while we felt serene
salt flats whistling

praise the place where frogs take refuge
our noses greeted before our eyes
kids ran about while the sun fell
just wanting to stay a little while

salty breeze filled us with ease
praise the lake that feeds the earth
praise the lake that may forever die
the earth singed, now cries

soon you may be gone
how you have dimmed
yet you made your mark on the land
just wanting to stay a little while more

praise laughter in the air, yet silence in the world
praise loud chatter, children’s fun
praise saline dreams and the falling sun
praise just wanting to stay

Part 15
The Birds Will Save us by Therese Berry

The birds will save us
Not gulls saving the pioneers save us
The other salvation
The birds will save us
A direction known
A path to follow
Show up
Keep together
Return to the reliable
Gather when necessary
Community
A calling to survive
To reproduce
Return again and again
Pay attention
Learn from them
Marvel at their wildness
Hold them in your heart
Keep them in your dreams
Stand with them when the time comes
The birds will save us

 ~

 Catalogue of Lines

Preface: when praise began to flow by nan (63 lines)
Part 1: Verse: why save our great salt lake? by nan (23 lines)
Part 2: Chorus: lines written at Farmington Bay Refuge at the brutalist picnic table on owl hill; by derek, chandler, denise, cleve, & nan (16 lines)
Part 3: Verse: ode to microbialites by nan (32 lines)
Part 4: Chorus: lines gathered on Instagram from stef.ani_e, marybethjclark, nihonbi, 
honoringthejourney, scott.perry.984, international_acrobat, lizbogus, compassionate.wisdom, jmicweber, ninir485 (20 lines)
Part 5: Verse: a miracle is due by nan (32 lines)
Part 6: Chorus: lines gathered from 80 individual attendees at the Alfred Lambourne program presented by Friends of Great Salt Lake on November 5, 2021 (100 lines)
Part 7: Verse: 10 things to say to future beings by nan (10 lines)
Part 8: Chorus: lines gathered primarily from 17 River Writers gathered at Lady Finger Point on Antelope Island on November 12, 2021: therese, nini, jasmine, lawrence, amy, lara, rebecca, maggie, holly, jaimi, deandra, & anonymous (80 lines)
Part 9: Verse: praise bison time by nan (14 lines)
Part 10: Chorus: lines gathered here and on Instagram on December 14th, 2021 (28 lines)
Part 11: Verse: To the Baby Pelican by Willy Palomo (34 lines)
Part 12 Chorus: collected from Winter Solstice Confluence (32 lines)
Part 13: Verse: Ways of Knowing by Christy Bills (104 lines)
Part 14: Chorus: Lines collected from Liberdee, Finley, Sam, Bridgette, Billy, and anonymous students from Amanda Hurd’s Kearns High poetry class on January 4th, 2021 (24 lines)
Part 15: Verse:The Birds Will Save us by Therese Berry (21 lines)

Method for creating choruses:

1. Gather details, experiences, and memories from folks who have something specific to share about Great Salt Lake.
2. Invite everyone to participate.
3. Weave words into sections as they arrive. Build sections that can be shared as complete poems.
4. Remove words, rearrange phrases, and alter verb tense and pronouns when helpful.
5. Keep refrains such as praise grebes in the poem when coming from various voices.
6. Keep every voice in the poem.
7. Last but not least, frequently add the word praise.

 

10 comments

  • Great Salt Lake, great vortex
    and crossroads of hemispheric importance,
    testament that water is life,
    great oasis in a vast desert,
    the Great Basin, for ten million birds
    who rest in mysteriously beautiful ever-changing light,
    the great and complex web of home
    for 330 million species who continue to live
    as they have for millennia, because of you,
    your great life-giving waters.

    Rachel White 13 January 2022 Rachel White
    Comment Link
  • Praise for what is borrowed from our Mother Earth.
    Be considerate to these gifts.
    Treat them with kindness and respect.
    Step gently with reverence, leave only part of your soul as you pass.

    Karen Bean 13 January 2022 Karen Bean
    Comment Link
  • The jetty, spiraled from black basalt
    And its reveal
    Over and over again, we migrate to witness.

    Praise the ancestral homelands of the Goshute, the Ute, the Eastern Shoshone, and the Shoshone Bannock. For we are relative newcomers in our love affair with this ancient place.

    Suzy 01 January 2022 Suzy
    Comment Link
  • The birds will save us
    Not gulls saving the pioneers save us
    The other salvation
    The birds will save us
    A direction known
    A path to follow
    Show up
    Keep together
    Return to the reliable
    Gather when necessary
    Community
    A calling to survive
    To reproduce
    Return again and again
    Pay attention
    Learn from them
    Marvel at their wildness
    Hold them in your heart
    Keep them in your dreams
    Stand with them when the time comes
    The birds will save us

    Therese Berry 26 December 2021 Therese Berry
    Comment Link
  • Praise absorbing her divinity through the window of an airplane.

    Margo Stevens 14 December 2021 Margo Stevens
    Comment Link
  • Ways of knowing.
    Ways we are taught by our parents, from books, from playground stories and the ways we learn from our own wanderings
    There are ways of knowing a lake.
    Ways that I know it from 7th grade Utah history class. We were provided with black and white photos, maps, historical texts – a very salty, fishless lake, not much bounty but a point of wonder for restless European wanderers. Salt in the desert! A remnant of an ancient lake that filled this western basin, where fish swam, and camels and giant sloths prowled the periphery. I learned that from books.
    There are ways I learned to know it – from venturing there and wading out, sometimes with teachers who encourage the eating of pickleweed, sometimes with children who are often eager to climb in and don’t mind the soft mud. Sometimes through industrial sites where I was not permitted but dared anyway.
    (Yes, even the lake which many consider useless, can be minded and made into profit and pollution.)
    The only way to partake of the peace the lake offers is to wade into it
    To brave the wall of flies guarding its shore and walk, and walk, and walk.
    You can do that in the lake’s surreal shallowness.
    You can also lay back. The saltiness wants to hold you up, not let you down.
    She’ll welcome you. Your skin will know the itchiness of the salt drying on it.
    You can see the ephemeral sculptures that the salt and gentle waves craft together, sometimes sparkling in the sun, sometimes foot high rounded shapes that almost convey a message.
    You can hear the birds caw and call and cackle, on the reeds and overhead. Sometimes running along the muddy shore, beak open, catching a bellyful of breakfast.
    The way the lake knows how to reflect the sky.
    The way this lake knows how to absorb the noise of people and our busyness.
    When the busy people were new here, they played in the lake, built resorts and ferris wheels and danced beside it. They knew it in a way we don’t.
    Another way to know the lake is the memory of ancient animals that swam here.
    For thousands of years this lake was their home, they swam where we breathe now.
    Do their ghosts still swim down I15, around the Walker Center building, up over a Costco, hunting?
    The lake must have seemed eternal to them, their generations before them, after them, knowing nothing but forever lake, with plants only our geologists can name now.
    My eyes and heart know the tiny, pink, continually waving bring shrimp.
    “Hello,” they say, “do not forget us!” the last remaining citizens of an ancient watery kingdom, so grand you’d never believe it.
    Once I met a jogger on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, a visitor from out of state. She stopped to ask me, where the lake was – the Bonneville. I wanted to part the curtains of time – all around us.
    All Around us.
    Ways of knowing from science class – the Great Salt Lake was once enormous. It gets its saltiness from the build-up of minerals that do not flow anywhere else because it does not flow to the ocean.
    Water flows into it, and the only way out is up. The water goes up, into the clouds and then rains down onto us, nourishing our plants and trees and gracing us with snow.
    Because she goes nowhere but up, she’s called a terminal lake. She has nowhere else to go.

    Christy Bills 11 December 2021 Christy Bills
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  • Praise be, the lake full
    Of salty tears of imagination;
    Praise be the spiders,
    That crowd your path when it’s warm;
    Spiders are sign of abundance.
    Praise be the valley,
    Which once cradled an ancient sea,
    Now vast but not empty,
    Dramatic but not performative.

    Michelle 07 December 2021 Michelle
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  • *addition to my previous comment, added to the last line,

    'what a foundation she provides humanity.'

    Rachel 01 December 2021 Rachel
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  • Praise be, the mighty sky that towers over me.
    The way the grass flows like water through my blood, salty tears, and ebbing shores.
    Praise be, the lanterns we set off, making memories. Goals and hopeful dreams.
    I watched our lanterns rise above her waters, clear and still.
    Praise be that stillness she provides.

    Rachel 01 December 2021 Rachel
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  • Praise the place of fourth grade field trips, the island by the Great Lake. Praise a cut knee on big rocks and the first place I saw a Bison. Praise the place we took our wedding photos and the beautiful sky over her while we kissed under the stars. Praise my children playing in the sand and even the smell of them after.

    Deandra 04 November 2021 Deandra
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