The Breath of Praise
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! – Psalm 150:6, NRSV
On Hawai’i Island, mountains breathe.
As magma fills the chambers beneath our active volcanoes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, their surfaces expand. When pressures beneath the ground diminish, the slopes settle back. Geologists measure the change in tilt to understand what may be happening beneath.
Last summer, Kilauea’s fiery breath burst to the surface far downslope. Rifts opened in residential neighborhoods, exhaling first noxious gases and then lava. For thirteen weeks, liquid rock poured over homes and orchards, filled the well-loved tide pools of Kapoho Bay, and drove thousands from their homes. At the summit, the volcano exhaled clouds of ash that fogged the landscape.
Then, the land caught its breath. The lava stopped, the plumes subsided, the skies cleared.
We humans struggle now to find homes for those whose houses vanished. Others need replacement land on which to grow papayas and anthuriums.
The volcano’s breath brings destruction.
It also breathes creation. Hawai’i Island is larger today by 875 acres. As the stone cools, adventurous seeds will crack it into soil. I have seen, over and over again, the wonder of green leaves emerging from volcanic rock. Someday—not soon—papaya groves could rise again.
The psalmist lifted praise with trumpets and pipes, materials quarried from the earth then given breath. At Kilauea’s summit and on Hawai’i’s coast, I have seen and heard the majesty of earth’s own breath. Inhaling and exhaling, in destruction and in creation, what can it do but praise the LORD?
O Holy One, receive the breathing praise of Your Creation: From human voices, songbird’s trills, coyote’s wails, ocean’s swells – and the lingering sighs of the mountains.