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.

 God 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 sombre ferns.

Plants and Animals form Everywhere


Over everything hung the sky full of blue vigour 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 protect you”

  A 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.

Living in Harmony

“I can climb a tree just like you,” he shouted up to (be bowler monkey. “But not so fast, chattered back the monkey.

“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 could fly 

The Black Swan, flying low, scooped up the boy between its swarthy webs and dropped him gently on the river bank. 
          “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.

 The 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 thoughtfully.

“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 peace.”

 

 In 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.”

 

The night 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.


Where 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 the west.

Where are we going?

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”

Off to town

“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 strange people.

“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 me.”


‘Oh, no, never!” cried the boy in alarm.

“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.”

 Only God can restore us

And will He?” asked the boy, worried.

“Oh 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 to do.

I have not left you….

The 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.

The boy got off and stood uncertainly among the tall reeds. The Swan smiled back at him.

‘Do not 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 child.”


As the 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

And 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.”

He turned to face the City

With powerful strokes the Black Swan soared aloft and vanished into the dusk.

The boy turned and faced the City.

After the familiar quiet of the Garden the unexpected chaos and havoc and splendour of the City burst around him like a thousand firecrackers.

 

 
 

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

 
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