While visiting my sister in Oregon back in the Spring of 1998 a friend and I visited Surprise Valley in Modoc County, CA. The first Native American settlers who settled in the area referred to it with the phrase "The Smiles of God". My friend told me that in the ancient days this area of the Great Basin was covered by Lake Surprise, leaving it particularly rich in geologic history. Research teams from many universities have gathered there to study its mysteries in recent years. As we were driving through the town of Cedarville after spending the day there, I began to 'hear' words coming, so I reached into my purse and wrote this poem.


Cedarville CA


Round the bend and over the hill;

Surprise Valley!

It creeps into the soul

Like a locomotive

Whispering its way to your heart.

Suddenly, the cry of delight!

The catch of the breath,

As it meets you at its doorstep.

Enter the world

Of the gigantic puddle;

Penetrating the haze

Of the promise

It seeks to hide from the occasional wanderer.

Come back!

Caress my corners and sensibilities.

I'll share my secrets, as you unfold yours.

Pass through,

And remain forever a mystery.


Nancy Tate 1998