A very long time ago - so long it
might just have been yesterday, God planted a Garden. H lay within a
curve of a great sandy river. Fruit bats hung upside down from the
topmost branches cooling themselves in the breeze in the heat of the
day, while at evening elephants rolled in the shallows squirting
water over themselves. In the Garden God gathered together plants
and animals from all over the face of the Earth.
Planted a Garden
A Black Swan carried them there. Like
a messenger he brought them by seed and seedling, by eggs and buds
and newborn, carrying them safely in his beak and between the strong
webs of his feet. He placed them where each would thrive best. He
brought the double-fruited coconut that men call ‘Coco du Mer’ from
the desert isles of coral seas, fat bellied baobabs from Africa,
giant bamboo from eastern forests which he planted along the river
bank - Their towering shoots soaring skywards over the stream.
He planted fig trees whose roots
snaked through the long grass scented and speckled with pungent
herbs and wild exotic flowers. He planted forest trees whose fluted
trunks tanned like wings, tall trees crested with palms or branches
spanned like the spars of square-rigged ships. Orchids sprayed
clusters of color from amid the fronds of
Animals form Everywhere
Over everything hung the sky full of
with ever changing clouds towering up and sailing through. Eagles
swayed on air currents, high above the Jung led hills, cataracts
plunged into green depths, howler monkeys swung in the branches.
Butterflies fluttered above bright leaves, darting humming birds
sipped the scented (lowers, cicadas shrilled in the stillness,
panthers prowled in he shadows.
The Black Swan carried a small child
to the Garden and placed him safely afloat in the circular boat leaf
of the giant Amazonian water lily.
“Are you my father?” the boy asked
one day when the Swan came to see him
“No,” replied the Swan. “But I will
Black Swan carried them
You are the lather of all things”
suggested the boy another day as he lay among the black down of Me
Swans broad back.
NO, “replied the Swan “I am just a
messenger but I fly on the winds of God.”
”Who is God?” asked the boy.
”God is the source of all things; God
is before anything ever was”
“God is the Word that is the source
of all words, the knower who is the source of all knowledge. No one
can ever know Him but He is in us and we are in Him. We come from
Him and to Him we return.”
But the boy did not hear him. He had
fallen softly asleep in the warmth of the sun. The boy grew into a
sturdy lad living in harmony with all the plants and animals of the
garden who knew him as a friend, not as a threat.
“I can climb a tree just like you,”
he shouted up to (be bowler monkey. “But not so fast, chattered back
“I can jump and swing from the
branches just like you.” he call out to the orangutan. ‘But not so
far,” smiled back the hairy red ape.
“But I can’t fly like you,” he said
wistfully watching the birds soaring in the sky. “Or like you,” to
the dragonfly hovering over the floating lilies.“I wish I could fly,’ said the boy.
He was sitting astride a bough overhanging the river. “Perhaps if I
stand on tip-toe and stretch upwards The boy stepped on the branch,
balancing until just the tips of his toes touched. He closed his
eyes tight-shut and for an instant he imagined himself floating.
Then with a loud splash he fell into the river.
I wish I
The Black Swan, flying low, scooped
up the boy between its swarthy webs and dropped him gently on the
“Why can’t I fly?” the boy asked the Swan. “Leaves don’t
have wings and they fly.”
“If you want to feel light as air,”
suggested the Swan gently, “what sort of thoughts fill your head?”
“Nice thoughts,” said the boy softly
and closing his eyes he filled his head with bright glimmers of joy
and peace so that his mind seemed to float like airy bubbles.
“If only I could fill all of me like
that,” sighed the boy doubtfully. “But these other thoughts come
along heavy, unkind thoughts that seem to grab my ankles and pull me
down.” The boy leaned against the strong folded wing of the Black
Swan and glumly watched a leaf floating downstream.
sky is vast
He slipped naked into the shallows
and taking a deep breath stretched his body out on the water.
Sunlight dappled his brown body. He floated effortlessly, gazing up
through the foliage to the blue sky high above.
“Why is the sky so vast?” he asked
the Black Swan swimming beside him.
“The sky is a word of God,” replied
the Swan. “Like the sea and the wind and the mountain.’
“A very big word,” said the boy
“Just as you are a very small word.”
“And the leaf is an even smaller
word,” laughed the boy. Then, puzzled, he asked, “But what of the
words we speak? Are they all fragments of a big word?”
“Better than a thousand useless words,” answered the Swan quietly, “is one single word that gives
God is no darkness at all
“And do all the words of God float?”
enquired the boy, squinting skywards. his limbs splayed out
motionless on the shining surface of the water.
“Like light shining in darkness,”
said the Swan. “God is Light” he continued. ‘In Him is no
darkness at all. If you swim towards light you find life - but if
you choose to plunge into darkness…
“Oooah,’ said the boy, scared,
doubling up and instantly sinking. He surfaced spluttering and sat
clutching his knees in the shallows. “But what is the dark? The
night is dark,”
“No, the night is not dark,” said the
Swan. “Not with the stars and moon to brighten it. Darkness is the
hatred and evil that can fill people’s hearts so that they can no
longer live in harmony.”
“I cannot imagine that” said the boy,
“because I have never seen it.”
“You have never been out of the
Garden,” said the Swan. “Perhaps I should show you; then you will
know how lucky you are.”
is not dark
“Perhaps,” agreed the boy doubtfully,
“but only if you promise to bring me back.”
“When you are ready,” promised the
Swan, “I will bring you back. Now climb up between my wings and
carefully put your arms around my neck.” Then, beating his powerful
wings, the Swan rose up into the sky, until the river and trees lay
far, far below.
are we going?” cried the boy, dazzled and breathless but delighted
to be airborne nonetheless.
“We are going to the City,’ called
back the Swan.
“I have never seen a City” the boy
shouted in exhilaration, his hair blown back by the wind.
“You may not like it,” murmured the
Swan, lifting his wings in a graceful arch and soaring away towards
Below them the forest vanished,
replaced by a patchwork of fields that in turn gave way to lines of
streets and row upon row of houses.
They circled slowly above the City
while the sun settled lower in the sky. The boy became alarmed. “But
why must I go to the City?” he pleaded sadly, his head pressed to
the Swan’s neck.
Without turning the Swan answered,
“You cannot stay forever in the Garden without living in the City
for a while. And when you are there,” added the Swan, “….remember
that what you do is not always as important as the way you do it.”
“But if I do it all wrong?” cried the
boy, “You’ll be angry and perhaps you won’t let me come back”
“Nobody ever does it al/wrong,”
comforted the Swan. “And I will not be angry, for I understand the
temptations of the City and the weakness of people’s hearts.”
“But how will I know?” said the boy,
despairing as he stared down at the unfamiliar city milling with
“You will know,” insisted the Black
Swan, “For although you may not see me, I will be there at your
side. You will not be alone if you remember that. You will only feel
alone if you do something you know I would not like - that you
cannot share with me. Then you will feel as if you want to hide from
‘Oh, no, never!” cried the boy in
“Although we don’t realise it at the time,” continued the Swan, circling
lower over the City, ‘whenever we give in to greed or anger or
desire we lose something, we become a little less, just as a tree
loses its leaves when the storm blows. Only God can restore us, give
us back what we have lost, make us whole again.”
God can restore us
And will He?” asked the boy, worried.
yes,” assured the Swan, “Out of love He will always redeem us so
long as we confide in Him and open our heart to Him.’
The boy thought for a while, “But
doesn’t God get irritated if we constantly pester Him?”
The Swan smiled at him. “Like when
you are hot and the flies come and settle on you seeking a little of
your sustenance and you brush them off? No, God will not brush you
off, no matter how many come crowding to Him seeking His sustenance
- for that is the food of Eternal Life.”
The Swan began to descend. Remember
this too,” he said. Even when you shield your eyes from the glare of
the sun and search for the speck of my shadow against the sky and
still cannot find me - I have not left you. I shall always be
watching over you. But I will not interfere with anything you choose
I have not
Black Swan glided down towards a muddy river bordering the City and
landed softly in the shadows. A few strokes of his powerful webbed
feet brought them to the bank.
got off and stood uncertainly among the tall reeds. The Swan smiled
back at him.
be afraid. I promise you that, no matter how far you stray, you can
always return. I will always welcome you back as if you were my own
boy stumbled up the muddy bank, trying to hold back his tears, the
Swan called out a final time. ‘Try to choose for friends those whose
soul is beautiful, try to go only with those whose soul is good
then as he unfolded his great wings and prepared to fly away he
added, “And look upon the person who tells you your faults as if he
told you of a hidden treasure.”
to face the City
powerful strokes the Black Swan soared aloft and vanished into the
turned and faced the City.
the familiar quiet of the Garden the unexpected chaos and havoc and
splendour of the City burst
around him like a thousand firecrackers.