Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The story of Two (conclusion)

(This is the fourth and final installment of the story of the story of Two.)

Just before first light the next morning, Two woke from her restless sleep. Her body felt painfully cramped from huddling under the bush all night with her little ones. It took her just a moment to realize where she was - and then the horrible reality of yesterday all came rushing back over her.

The pain in her heart was suffocating, yet there was no way to escape it. She would soon have to rouse Little One and Little Two so that they could head - where? She longed to be back home but she also feared it more than she had ever feared anything. How could she tell One? Her parents?

And she did not even know if she could find home now. From the ground, she could not see any familiar landmarks. She remembered the way home from the Great Lake but now she didn't even know where the Great Lake was.

"O Holy One," she prayed fervently, gasping in near despair. "I'm not sure I can do this anymore. I know I can't do it alone. Please, please help me!"

The ducklings at her side began to stir now and Two hoped they had not overheard her prayer to the Holy One. She did not want them to know just how very afraid and desolate she felt. Little One poked her bill up and cocked her head.

"Did I just hear you call upon the Holy One, Quaka?" Little One asked in puzzlement, using the familiar childhood name for her mother. "Is something wrong?" But then she fell silent, for she knew, of course, that something was very much wrong. The day was breaking and there was no Little Three among them.

"Yes, my Little One," Two responded. "We must ask the Holy One to guide and protect us. Always we must ask, but today in particular..."

However, her words were interrupted by a honking sound from above. Two looked up sharply and saw them - geese! Although she had never been very close to any of the geese that occasioned the ponds, she recognized them as Anatidae and therefore part of her family. She breathed a little easier and felt just a little less alone.

Then, through the grief-filled fog in her mind, the obvious occurred to her. The geese are probably heading to open water - perhaps even to the Great Lake itself! Though she had no interest in the Great Lake trip anymore (for quite obvious reasons), if they could find the Great Lake, they could dive for food, get their bearings and head home again.

Despite her deep fear of going home, there was nowhere else that Two could imagine being now. She needed One terribly and hoped he would not cast her out for what she had done. She longed to see her parents and to know that they still loved her.

She nudged Little Two sharply with her bill to wake him. Sleepily, he pulled his bill out from under his wing to see what was the matter - when he too remembered. Everything was the matter.

"Quatii! Quatii!" ("Fly! Fly"), Two cried out sharply in the ancient tongue, leading them in a rapid ascent. Higher and higher they rose, first above the bushes, then above the trees, into the cool morning air that was just beginning to fill with light.

Two circled around, hoping she would see the direction taken by the geese. However, even with her sharp eyes, she could not spot them. Her heart began to sink again when, once more, she heard a honking from behind and higher up. More geese!

With Little One and Little Two falling into formation behind her, Two quickly adjusted her direction to follow the geese. Surely they would lead her to open waters. They were Anatidae and they too would be hungry and wanting to dive for fish this fine morning.

None of them, not Two, not Little One or Little Two, felt very strong in flight, having had little to eat and carrying heavy hearts within them. However, mustering what strength they had, they flew and flew, trying to keep up with the geese who, by virtue of their larger wings, were getting farther and farther ahead.

Before long, Two saw the brilliant sparkling light along the horizon and she knew it had to be the Great Lake itself. This was hardly the introduction she had wanted to give her ducklings to this wondrous body of water. She knew there could be no fun, no joy there - not without Little Three to share it with them.

Yet seeing the morning light shimmering so brightly off the Lake's surface gave Two, at least for a moment, a renewed sense of hope. Perhaps the Holy One had heard her crying out last night and this morning. Perhaps He was going to guide them back home after all...

As they approached the Lake, Two gave the signal to her offspring to begin the descent. She felt just a bit less worried now. Both of her ducklings were proficient at water landings and she had prepared them before they began the journey to expect the coldness. At least now they would have the safety of the open waters and the chance to fill their bellies before trying to fly home.

One by one they splashed down into the brisk waters of the vast and beautiful Lake. With the sun creeping up the sky from the East, for a moment they could lose themselves in the beauty and forget the horrors of the previous day. It felt so good to paddle their feet once again and to gaze upon the peach-colored streaks fading into the blue of the freshly brightened sky.

Little One and Little Two naturally began to splash and play and Two was about to join in when...suddenly they were all still again, remembering. Two wondered if there would ever be a time when this heaviness would not fall upon their hearts, whether they would ever feel joy again. Once again, she wondered what she would tell One...

Just then, Two spotted some small fish approaching the water's surface in search of insects. Instinctively, she dove and soon had one in her mouth. Little Two was the next to catch one and soon they were all diving and eating their fill. Two was just coming up for the final time when she heard a splash in the water a short distance behind her.

"Two! Quakataata te dak! Ka tada, ta Kwoli Qone! Quakataata te dak!" ("Two! It is you! Thanks be to the Holy One! It is you!") a familiar drake voice cried out.

Stunned, Two turned her head. "One?" Her first instinct was to rush toward her mate with profound relief to seek his comfort. But then she held back, fear seizing her heart. He did not yet know about Little Three.

But One ignored his mate's hesitation and swam toward her with all his might.

"Oh Two! I was so afraid something terrible had happened to you!" One exclaimed in their informal tongue. "I had to come right away! I have been flying through night and first light to find you!"

Two, however, hung her head and could not look at him. "It is Little Three. We had to land suddenly and we found ourselves on a hard path. Something huge and horrible crushed him before our eyes."

Two finally looked up at her mate, "He is now with the Holy One."

Although the guilt and shame Two felt at that moment were almost unbearable, she realized that she now could say that Little Three was with the Holy One and feel certain that it was true.

A hoarse, keening sound came forth from One's deep throat and became louder and louder. Soon, Little Two joined in, while Two and Little One began quacking their lament. They pulled close together in the huge Lake, oblivious to anyone or anything outside of their small family group.

Although they were not aware of it, other ducks whom they had never met before, having heard the death cry, began swimming toward them and forming a circle around them. They did not know what had happened but they knew that cry only too well. It could only have been made for a lost duckling.

Soon too the geese swam near, not knowing at first what to make of the unusual gathering of ducks all in one spot. Their plumage made it clear that these ducks were not all from the same family. Yet they were drawn together in a close circle as though a group of old friends.

But then, as the hoarse keening and sorrowful quacking spread throughout the whole circle of ducks, the geese knew. They did not know the language but they were Anatidae and they knew.

It was only when the sorrowful honking was added to the chorus of keening and quacking that Two and One brought their heads up and looked around them. Two had never before seen such a gathering of Anatidae except at the Great Councils. That they had gathered for her little family overwhelmed her with emotion. It was clear that One was also deeply moved and the ducklings were crying.

For a time, there was much swimming and quacking as the different members of the Anatidae approached the grieving family to gently nudge them with their bills to show their support. None of them asked what had happened - they didn't need to.

As the sun started moving toward the West, the visiting ducks gradually drifted away to continue their feeding and afternoon rest in their own family groups.

At last, when all of the others had left, Two sent Little One and Little Two off to swim and explore the Lake so that she could be alone with One.

"How did you know to come?" she asked One. "We had not been gone long enough for you to know that anything was wrong..."

"It was so strange," One replied. "I heard the Holy One whispering in my heart. It began just as we were wrapping up our day's work on the nesting areas. At first, I thought I must be imagining it - though I have never imagined His voice before - because I knew that it was not nearly time to head South. The weather was warm and fair and the days were still long."

He paused for a moment and then continued. "As the sun fell behind the trees and it grew dark, there was no mistake. The Holy One was no longer whispering. He was calling into my heart - calling me to fly. And I knew there was nowhere else He could be calling me than to find you."

Two listened intently, her eyes wide, and waited for her mate to continue.

"I was so afraid I would be too late," One continued. "But I knew I had to tell our parents and a few others where I was going. If I simply disappeared, rumors would start and the others might fear that a fox had taken me in the night.

"Of course, your parents were anxious. My parents were afraid to let me go. They were worried that whatever had happened to you might happen to me as well. I told them that I had to come - because whatever happens to you does happen to me. It can be no other way since the Holy One gave us to each other as mates."

"Oh, One," Two exclaimed. "Can you forgive me? It is because of me that one of our ducklings is gone." Then she moaned, "If only I had listened to you...Little Three would still be here.

"I understand if you want to cast me out," she continued. "I deserve to be cast out. I have failed you and I have failed the Holy One."

"Two," One said gently. "Did you fail me or did I fail you?" He paused.

"I could have gone with you. Or I could have told you not to go, using the authority given to me by the Holy One as drake-mate." Again, he paused. "I did neither of these things."

For a time, One and Two floated together in silence, bobbing sorrowfully with the Lake's gentle waves.

Finally, One spoke again, "In this life, we can never know if Little Three would still be here - even if you had not insisted on the journey or if I had chosen to go with you. The Holy One does not tell us why one duck lives to see many generations while a tiny new-hatch may have only a single breath. He only asks that we remain faithful to Him and to the Way."

Two pondered these words, still lost in her sorrow and shame. "But that is just it, One," she lamented. "I am so confused. I don't even know what the Way is anymore. I don't know if I turned from it - if that is why Little Three was taken...I do not deserve to be your mate."

Again she hung her head in despair. One gently nudged her with his bill so that she would look at him.

"Two, I could no more cast you out that I could cast the heart out of my own body," he murmured softly. "The Holy One made us mates for all time."

He waited a moment and continued, "I am just a simple drake as you are but a simple hen. I cannot explain the Way to you. I do not understand it in words anymore than you. It is simply the Way - the true path given by the Holy One to all of the living."

Two pondered these words. Something occurred to her just then, as she looked steadily into One's eyes for the first time. "When was it that you said you knew that the Holy One was sending you to look for me?" she asked, her voice tremulous.

"It was last night, as the sun was leaving the sky," One responded, puzzled.

"And when did you leave?" Two asked anxiously.

"When the moon was high in the sky," he replied looking at her intently.

"That was when I first asked Him," Two whispered. "That was when, for the first time since the moment Little Three was taken, that I was able to turn to the Holy One and ask Him to guide me." She paused. "But He had begun calling you even before I asked..."

As she said these words, Two felt what she had not been able to feel for the entire last cycle of the sun, for the one day in her life that had felt many seasons long. At last, she could feel the Holy One surrounding her again.

She felt Him in the familiar and feathery form of the loving drake at her side. She now understood that His voice had been in the geese's honking in morning's first light. She recognized Him in the hearts of the Anatidae who had encircled their grieving family that afternoon. He was with them now, in the afternoon sun, glistening on the vast Lake...

And she embraced Him in Little One and Little Two who, at that very moment, swam up to them while playfully splashing their parents and each other.

Two and One gazed at each, renewed love emerging from the deep well of their sorrow.

"Let us begin the journey home," said Two. "We can go now - the Holy One has shown us the Way."

With a quick motion of her head to the children, she cried, "Quatii! Quatii!" ("Fly! Fly") and soon the little family was soaring together again over the Lake, above the treetops and into the sky toward home.

Author's note: This concludes The Story of Two. Thirty-plus years ago, I was driving on a highway along Lake Erie when I accidentally ran over and killed "Little Three". In all these years, I have never been able to erase from my memory the image I saw in my rear view mirror a second later: a mother duck looking behind her and seeing only two ducklings standing where just a moment before there had been three. May God forgive me. Surely by now, Two and her mate, One, are sharing the kingdom of the Holy One with their beloved third-hatched. 

Yet many mothers - and fathers - still live to grieve the tragic loss of their young. And so, this story is dedicated to all parents who have lost a child in any manner, at any age. May the Holy One bless you and heal you and ever guide you in the Way of love. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

The story of Two (part 3)

(This is the third installment of a story presented in four parts.)

Two trudged on with Little One and Little Two waddling in line behind her. She did not know where she was heading and she was utterly exhausted. They had eaten little, grabbing a few insects here and there as they came upon them.

When they had started out on their journey, Two had never imagined they would be away from the open water this long so they had not had their regular daytime naps to refresh them. Inwardly, she felt confused, alone and totally devastated.

She knew she needed to have a plan but, quite honestly, Two felt unable to think. The image of the number two position on the hard path kept flashing through her mind, despite her continual efforts block it out. As they walked, her mind began to wander again.

"Oh my Little Three, where are you?" she thought to herself, catching herself before she said the words aloud. Could it possibly be true, as she had always been taught, that he now experienced pure joy in the Kingdom of the Holy One? Or had he simply ceased to be?

If Two were to judge by her feelings, it would be the latter without a doubt. After seeing the crumpled mass of feathers, bones and blood, she could not imagine that there was anything left of her beloved duckling. And certainly in her heart, where once there was a warm spot just for Little Three, all she felt now was a cold and terrifying emptiness.

But Two did not want to give up hope. She knew that, if she stopped believing now, most certainly she would be stepping out of the Way. Even though she could not feel the Holy One surrounding her as she always had before, she knew that He might still be there.

Others had told her that there were times when He seemed silent and she needed Him too badly to turn away. And, if she left the Way now, she was afraid that she might not ever find her way back again. Recalling the tall, lifeless structures, the hot, hard paths and the strange water that did not move, she could not bear the thought of an existence outside of the Way.

Finally, Two felt she could not walk another step. She glanced back at her ducklings and was shocked to find that they had fallen far behind her. They too were exhausted. Never before would she have been so careless as to allow this to happen! She felt a fresh wave of guilt and shame wash over her for what could have happened to them, only to wonder again whether she had lost her third-hatched because of some negligence on her part.

As she and her brood pulled together once more, Two searched the darkening landscape for a place to roost for the night. They had come across fresh puddles from the earlier rain which gave them drink and seeds and insects stilled their rumbling bellies, but they had not found any open waters in which to swim.

Normally, they spent the nights floating on the water or flying from pond to pond in order to be safe from predators - but this was clearly not an option tonight. Two longed for One to be by her side now, to guide her and help her know what to do.

At long last, Two decided that they would be safest if they scooted under one of the large leafy bushes they had been walking around all evening. In the morning, they would fly. They would have to. But for now, desperately needing rest, they huddled close together, tucking their bills under their wings to stay warm.

None of them could rest well, but finally they fell into a fitful sleep. The moon was high in the sky when Two was awakened by the muffled sobs and trembling of her second-hatched, a brave young drake who almost never cried, even as a new-hatch.

"Quattatka ka te quam!" he cried out hoarsely in the ancient Duck language. "Quattatka ka te quam!" ("It should have been me! It should have been me!")

Recovering from the shock she felt at his cry, Two nudged him gently with her bill to reassure him. She knew that Little Two was in torment because it had been his idea that he and Little Three play the switching places trick on her. Because of the ruse, Little Three had been in his place in line behind her. Had he been in his proper place, he would be gone but Little Three would still be alive.

"Qo, quattatka ka te quam," she whispered back. ("No, it should have been me.") For that was indeed how Two felt. If it had not been for her anxious excitement, they would have made the trip later in the summer and Little Three would most likely still be with them. In that moment - and in many moments after that - Two wished that she were dead.

However, since the Holy One had seen fit to keep her in life when the loud roar and hot wind had come, she knew she must carry on. Drawing closer to her son, she tucked her bill once again and dozed, waiting for morning to come.

She knew that, with the rising of the sun, they would need to fly - but she had no idea where they were to go or what they would do when they got there. For the first time since that awful moment on the hard path, Two prayed fervently to the Holy One to be with her and to guide her in the days ahead...

(to be continued...)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The story of Two (part 2)

(This is the second installment of a story presented in four parts.)

At last, Two's feet fell into the stiff brush by the edge of the hard path. She did not even notice the brambles scratching her legs. Everything felt unreal to her in that moment and she flopped down on the ground as soon as Little One and Little Two had made their way safely off the strange path...the place where they had left Little Three.

At first, the three of them just laid there, exhausted from the effort of waddling such a very long distance on such a hot surface. As they heaved and sighed, Two tried to keep her mind blank. She did not want to remember the roar, the burning hot wind...the image of what she had seen where once Little Three had stood.

She did not feel the air cool or notice the skies darken as clouds began to cover the sun. The cold rain pelted down on her and her two ducklings and she had little awareness. It was almost as though she herself were living in the storm cloud and her very life blood was pouring out of her in torrents. How long this went on she did not know. Nor did she care.

It was only after the rains subsided that Two heard the muffled sobs coming from the feathery heap formed by her two remaining ducklings who lay close together in the thick brush. She knew she had to move but it seemed almost impossible to hoist her body onto her trembling legs. Yet she did it. She waddled over to them slowly and began poking gently at them with her bill.

The two younger ones pulled apart. If Two had any heart left to be broken, it broke yet again when she saw the anguished expressions on the faces of her offspring. The features of Little One in particular were twisted into a painful grimace that made her almost unrecognizable to her mother.

"Quat qua kak ta, Quitchterickwa?" Two addressed her first-hatched in the ancient Duck language. "What is it, my Little One?"

"Quikad ta chwa," Little One responded, "Kwad te dequer ta quam." ("It is my fault. He is gone because of me.") The last part came out so garbled that Two might not have understood had it not been her own words coming forth from her daughter's heart.

For the first time in her life, Two felt utterly alone and she had no idea what to do.

One, her mate, had stayed behind because of an important project the younger drake fathers were working on to make their hatching areas safer. Her parents were older ducks now and did not make these kinds of trips anymore, saving their strength for the long journeys called into their hearts by the Holy One.

As these realities passed through her slowed mind, Two realized that she had not been thinking much of the Holy One lately. She had been so busy with planning the trip. She had been sure that the Holy One would not object to her taking the youngsters to the Lake - for He had made the Great Lake for their sustenance and pleasure...

Yet a cold feeling ran through her as she made motions with her wings to protect and comfort her ducklings. She could not label the feeling with words - certainly not any in the new vocabulary. But not even in the ancient Duck language could she express it, a language that she had previously believed could convey any thought or feeling.

She wondered to herself, "Is this what it means to have turned from the Way?" She had heard of those creatures who departed from the Way of the Holy One but she never in her life imagined that she would do it. Had her preoccupation with the trip been a turning away? Or had it been a disobedience when she insisted on going, despite One's opinion that the ducklings might be too young?

The lethargy and dullness that had overcome her now disappeared with the panicky thumping of her heart. Had her turning, her disobedience, offended the Holy One and led Him to take Little Three from her as punishment? Had she been so set on her way that she had stepped out of His Way and lost the protections He had promised His beloved children?

Little One and Little Two were now squirming under the weight of her wings which she had instinctively rested upon them in a protective gesture. Two shook herself again. She could not let herself dwell on these possibilities. She still had a young hen and a young drake to guide and soon they would all need water and food.

As she pulled her wings back to her body, Two realized that she had totally lost her bearings. She no longer had any sense of where the Great Lake was from their position on the ground nor did she feel that she had the strength to fly any further even if she did. And so she began once again to walk, with Little One and Little Two automatically falling in line behind her.

Soon they came upon a narrow stream of water sitting oddly still in a crevice in the land. Two had never seen a stream that didn't move. It seemed to have swirly patterns of colors on its surface. She looked to the sky and saw no rainbow. What could cause this color and why didn't the stream move?

She held her wings up to caution Little One and Little Two who were about to run splashing into the stream. Poking her bill into the water, she pulled back suddenly. Never before had Two experienced such a dreadfully harsh taste and some of the strange water even seemed to linger on her bill after she withdrew it. This water could not belong to the Holy One, she thought. It cannot be part of His Way. She had never before encountered water that did not seem alive but that was how this water seemed to her.

As she beckoned the ducklings away from this strange stream, Two's mind again drifted to thoughts of the Holy One. She wondered where He was now. She needed His help desperately and yet the world around her felt utterly empty of His presence. Not only was Little Three gone - she still could not really grasp this reality - but now even the water was not right.

Had the Holy One gone away? Had He left her alone because she had been bad? Or had He left their whole world? She certainly could not ask Little One and Little Two if they could feel Him. It would frighten them to even consider such a question, much less to hear it spoken by their mother. Yet she could not help but wonder - for the world around her was no longer the world she had always known.

Again, the ducklings were restless and starting to squawk thirsty sounds. And so Two did the only thing she could do: she began once again to walk...

(to be continued...)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The story of Two (part 1)

(The following is the first installment of a story that will be presented in four daily posts. Be forewarned that some of the content is very sad, so please use your own judgment as to whether now is a good time for you to read it.) 

Once upon a time, not far from the Great Lake, there lived a large brace of ducks and, in particular, a hen duck named Two. Actually, like most in the Anatidae family, Two had a formal name in the old Duck language. However, it was a hard name to remember - and even harder to pronounce - so everyone just called her Two, for she had been the second in her childhood nest to hatch.

Two enjoyed life in her flock. She and the other young hens and drakes had several ponds that were favorite places to dive for tiny fish and search out insects along the shore. Once happy and fed, they would paddle and play, splashing through ripples in the clear, fresh water.

However, the most exciting times were when they went to the Great Lake to swim and dive and fish. Two vividly remembered her very first trip there as a young duckling. She had heard stories about the vast sea to their north but had been totally unprepared for what she had seen that day when her mother had told her and her nest-mates that it was time they saw it for themselves.

It had been a warm sunny day and the sky a brilliant, almost sapphire blue. The journey itself had been exciting, with Two discovering the strength in her wings as they soared above the hills and trees. When she had seen the sun sparkling off of the vast expanse of greenish blue waves beneath her, her heart had thrilled. Although the lake water was sharply colder than the ponds she had known, Two had found the chilly plunge exhilarating.

That day had been one of the happiest of her life. For it was at the Great Lake that she had met One, the handsome young drake who later became her mate. And, now that she had her own little brood of ducklings, she anxiously awaited the time when they would be old enough to have their own first experience with the wondrous Lake.

However, when Two casually shared this dream with some of the other young mother hens at the pond, she was surprised to learn that they did not share her enthusiasm. They all spoke of the dangers, of all of the strange new happenings in their world. Some ducks, they claimed, had left for the Great Lake and never returned. No one knew what had happened to them.

Two felt a shiver of fear run through her. However, she shook it off quickly, telling herself that hens like to gossip and often exaggerate their stories. Most likely those ducks had found mates and settled in one of the ponds further to the east. Ducks did not just disappear into thin air, she told herself.

Many generations of ducks before her time had commented on the Changes and Two was well aware of them. Their reality could not be denied. However, no one knew for sure what they meant or whether there was any harm in them.

With the Changes had come strange new structures in their world, some of them taller than the biggest of trees. Yet they were not like the trees who made their seeds and dropped them into the earth. No, these structures did not grow like that. Once there, they never changed and they never moved, even when the winds were very strong. There was something cold and hard about them that made Two uncomfortable.

Two sensed that these structures were not part of the Way and so she avoided them. After all, the Way was for the living and she could see no signs of life in these edifices. Yet they did not seem dangerous to her because they did not do anything. They did not steal their food or eat their young. They were simply there.

There was the one time that Two went a bit too close to one, however, accidentally straying from her soft muddy path on to one of those strange hard ones. It had been hot and black and sticky, burning her usually sturdy webbed feet. She had quickly pulled back and did not follow that path again. She would remain with the Way she knew.

Aside from that one experience, Two had always felt safe. She had grown up around ponds and marshes with tall grasses and willowy trees nearby. From the very beginning, her parents had instructed her in the Way, assuring her that the Holy One loved her and would always take care of her. They had loved her deeply themselves and from this she knew their words were true.

Living in the Way left Two feeling peaceful and happy inside. Although she had heard that there were creatures who had turned from the Way (she hadn't known any personally), she could not imagine living in any other fashion. She accepted what the Holy One gave her, whether warm sun or cold rains, for she knew that she needed both. If He gave her many fish one day and only seeds the next, she trusted that this was for her good.

And it had been good. When the weather cooled, Two always had a nice layer of fat beneath her feathers to keep her warm. Soon she would hear His voice deep within her heart, calling her to fly further South where warmer waters awaited her. In time, His voice beckoned her back North and never once did it enter her mind not to obey. He was Love and could never want anything but joy for her.

So it was with joy that Two began to plan the journey that would introduce her three young ducklings to the Great Lake. Her mate, One, had questioned whether they might still be a bit too young and inexperienced to make a flight beyond the next pond. However, Two had assured him that they were ready. She had taken them out flying and they were strong and able with their wings.

At last the day came. Two had prepared her brood, telling them stories of both the delights and the dangers of the vast Lake. She had purposely chosen a fine sunny day with only a light breeze so that the flight would not be too strenuous for them. The ducklings, for their part, were quivering with excitement and chattering among themselves.

In her brood, Two had Little One, who was a hen, and Little Two and Little Three who were drakes. (While it might seem confusing to you and I to have all members of the flock called by their hatching order, we must remember that this seemed quite natural to the Anatidae, whose ancient Duck names were very difficult to remember and even more difficult to pronounce.)

As they all lifted into the air together, Two felt proud of her youngsters. They fell into formation behind her and soon they were all high above the trees. They had followed her instructions without hesitation and knew their emergency instructions backwards and forwards. Little did Two know how those very emergency instructions would impact the rest of their lives.

For they were still several hills away from the Great Lake, when Little One began making the distress call in gasping tones. Alarmed, Two fell back to better view her daughter and saw that one of her wings was not working as well as the other. Two quickly signaled to her ducklings that they needed to make an immediate descent and they were to follow her lead.

Two scanned the unfamiliar terrain for a level area where they could quickly land. At first all she could see were the tops of trees - certainly they could not land on those! Then, to her relief, she spotted a broad winding path that cut through the woodlands. She gave her signal and down they went until all had their feet safely on the ground once again.

Little One was apologetic and embarrassed, but Two knew her first-hatched too well to believe that she had given the distress call needlessly. She poked around her duckling's fluffy body with her bill, searching for the source of the problem. The left wing seemed tighter than normal but nothing appeared to be broken. It was most likely a bad cramp and would correct itself with a short rest.

Two quacked out the good news for all of them to hear, wanting to reassure them that the journey would continue before long. However, what she didn't share was a very different and disturbing worry that she had felt as soon as her webbed feet made contact with the unfamiliar path. The path was hot and hard, not at all like the cool muddy paths of home. She was relieved that it was not black and sticky but she did not trust it - for it did not seem to be of the Way.

Thus, she started walking as quickly as she could, knowing that her ducklings would fall in line behind her as they always did. She glanced back, concerned now about how wide this path was and how long it might take them to cross it. She noticed that Little Two and Little Three had switched places, so that Little Three was in the two position. She had to smile to herself. The young drakes often did this, thinking that she would not know the difference. She chose not to say anything. What difference could it make?

The mother and her little ones waddled as quickly as they could but their short legs could only take them so fast. Two continued to feel uneasy, though the weather was still fine and no predators were in sight. The first sign that something was really wrong, however, came when she felt a sort of rumbling vibration in the path beneath their feet. Frightened, she tried to quicken her pace.

It all happened so quickly. There was a sudden, deafening roar and a swirl of burning wind - and then nothing. Everything was very quiet again but Two knew that something was horribly, horribly wrong. She turned her head instinctively to check her brood. Little One was right behind her...and there was Little Two in the third position...but where was Little Three?

In that instant, everything slowed down and seemed oddly surreal. For what she saw in the number two position was simply too horrific for Two to grasp. Where Little Three had been, there was but a flattened mess of feathers, bones and blood. All time seemed to stop and Two simply stared at that spot for what seemed like a lifetime.

What brought her to her senses was the only thing that could possibly have reached her - and that was the frightened cries of her other two offspring. They too had seen what had happened and stood paralyzed with fear. Two shook herself violently, trying shake off the stupor that seemed to be descending upon her, for she knew that she had to get Little One and Little Two safely off of this hard and unnatural path.

Mustering all of her strength, Two put one webbed foot in front of the other, knowing that this action would stir the instinct in her little ones to line up behind her and begin walking. She could not think about Little Three. She could not bear the thought that she had to leave him lying there alone in the open where any hawk or eagle might swoop down to feast on his remains. She could not think. And so she walked.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

One day within His temple...

choirs of ancient voices

raise their hymn of light

“alleluia to the Holy One

in Whom is power and might!”

yet gently does His mercy

my broken self make right –

forever may i sing His praise

as He clothes my soul in white.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


i journeyed and journeyed
to find God's home,
only to discover Him
dwelling in my heart.

He was always there, 
of course, singing to me
love songs i could not hear.
i was not listening.

too busy was my heart,
raging against the wrongs,
shouting its own silly truths
into winds of dark denial.

He sang and He sang,
showering me in flakes of light,
until at last i bowed down
in empty silence.

As He washed me,
bathing me in grateful tears,
He sang to my heart
hymns of love and mercy.

and so i came to hear Him,
ever humbly, ever joyfully,
His song within my silence,
telling me of home.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


The New Year has had a very cold and snowy beginning here in northeast Ohio. And it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Because it is so cold, the snow is the light fluffy type that blankets the world in deep white and then is sculpted further by the breath of God.

A quick run through it leaves one's pant legs covered in a fine powdery spray so soft and joyful that being cold and wet seems a small price to pay for the delight.

The sky is steely grey. The sun appears as a pale disk of light for but a moment and then slips away. Yet darkness does not rule these days robed in crystalline white. For a few days, our world is made pure and holy - as it was always meant to be.

Since my camera and I began experiencing the world together in the last couple of years, I have discovered that there is far more holiness in our world than I had come to perceive. Most of my days are spent with contraptions built by human hands. And if I do not take the time to explore further, I may forget what I know and begin believing that this is all there is.

But there is so much more. And I don't have to travel great distances or engage in great disciplines to encounter this Holiness. It is often just outside my window or a short trek from home or workplace.

Once again, I have made a short video to celebrate the beauty of God in His creation, as received by camera and me in the course of the year just past. Such joy to be able to view the seasons blend, one into another, each with their own unique way of proclaiming the Creator.

I invite you to share this short journey through time with me. See if you see what I see: every blade of grass, every insect and small creature, every flower and leaf, giving praise to the Holy One, each in its own distinctive way.

And why should they not? His Spirit permeates every cell of their beings and they live at one with Him, eternally in love with the Father and Son, in the rapturous dance called Life.

Perhaps we can learn from them. Watch. Listen...

(If you are a YouTube novice, note that you can see the images on a larger screen by clicking in the brackets in the lower right corner of the video.)