Excerpt from The Same Country Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)
…The ice is smooth and the sky is dark at the Donald Trump Skating Rink, just inside Central Park’s southeast border. There are great lights above the rink. Skyscrapers rise up all around us. I look up at them while the children skate. Inside the buildings are apartments worth many millions of dollars. Are they homes, I wonder? Who lives in those rooms, looking down at our abiding shepherds? One building has a crane on it that is building higher and higher floors that will rival the tallest structures in the world. The hundreds of lighted windows are beautiful yet daunting. Beautiful buildings, proud and vain, shadowed by their own arrogance and exclusivity.
I watch the children skating. They come around the circle toward me, tentative, leaning forward, hands reaching out to steady. They’ve just started to skate. They’re not very good on the ice yet, but they think they’re great. This kills me. They see me and light up, lift one hand to carefully wave and they smile. Mummy look! I nod and wave as my heart breaks for them for the millionth time today. I love you so much. I think to myself, and how I fail you every day—still smiling, still waving to them, my heart sinks further.
When I turn slightly to watch the children’s wobbly progress past me, three ducks rise out of the marsh grass on the other side of the rink. Immediately I feel their wildness, their wilderness— raw and gorgeous against the backdrop of the soaring skyscrapers. They ascend across the rink and shoot over me. No one seems to notice. And with a gasp (was that my own breath?) I watch as another group of two or maybe three ducks rise out of the small marsh. I sense the heat of their bellies as they rush above me. Like spears the color of night rising against the trees and buildings and big rink lights, and barely there yet discernable. I turn to the teenagers next to me but they are too caught up in each other to notice, when a third group of ducks rises up with a force of a beauty and breathlessness and light. Did you see that? Did you see that just now? Who are these heavenly creatures? Did you feel those heartbeats come out of the darkness? Did you wake from your despair to wonder how something so powerful can take away your pain just like that—so powerful, and yet so peaceful all at once?
A children’s book
Tortoises and chameleon have many qualities but haste is not one of them, and it was some time before they came to the shack that stood in the middle of the garden.
“Is this where the seven dwarves or the three bears live?” Haraka wondered.
“It’s a retreat,” said Chloe the chameleon. “A retreat is where you go to be alone in the quiet… to think about things, or sing a new song, or play with your toys when you don’t feel like sharing.”
Haraka was a quiet tortoise by nature, and often preferred to be alone.
“We are here then,” he said. This is the perfect home for me. He walked over to the shack and tried to lift it up onto his back.
But he couldn’t lift it, for a home is hard to carry alone.