SHE KNEW THERE WAS ANOTHER woman even though she had never seen her. The companion had told her that the first one had died, but she did not believe him. She could feel someone watching her from the darkness. It saddened her to know that she was not the first. For a while she thought about ending him so that she would be the last, but it wouldn't have been the same. Instead she left the garden. Sometimes when she looked back across the sands she could see his tiny figure following her almost out of sight. But she never allowed him to catch up. It would have made the game too easy.
THERE WERE NO MORE than five of any animal. It was not something that was obvious. She only started counting them because she had nothing better to do. It came as a shock to her that there were so few. She had always assumed that their numbers were infinite. But even the garden was growing smaller. Before, it too had seemed without limits, but now she could walk across it in less than an hour. The rivers, which before had stretched to the horizon, had become mere trickles that disappeared quickly into the sand. When the serpent finally found her, she could not reject his offer.
FIRST THEY MADE the game of sticks. Then the game of hands. The walking game was the last they made before the garden left them. They took the games with them on their journey and passed them down to their generations. Whenever they were played they became a kind of prayer.
THEY BECAME DIFFERENT when they entered different regions of the garden. At first each area seemed the same, but soon they noticed that their emotions and senses were subtly changed as they passed from one region into the next. What before had been only vaguely defined areas because of a creek or hill or animal nest, now became a well-charted system of separate sections, each identified by the way in which they were changed once they stepped inside. In this way the caretaker started to organize their minds for the larger tasks that lay ahead.
He could trust the solid ground to let me walk;
He's never weak to hold my weight.
When I'm in his sand, muddy and wet,
I get pushed down. I thought I could walk,
wiggle my feet to move forward, though I couldn't budge
from his mud and almost drowned in his pit.
He could trust the water to let me see;
He never tires of my admiration.
When I'm in his black liquid, thickened to tar,
I can't even walk nor escape.
The sun dissolves my bones,
and the dehydration kill's who I am.
I need to earn the sand and the liquid's trust
before I could move with him.
I am the homeless child of Bethlehem.
Send shepherds and kings to where I am.
Send wise men too,
there seem so few,
and send the Muslim and the Jew,
the Buddhist and the Hindu too.
Send all, there is so much to do.
For I am truly homeless
and soon I'll be
torn from here and forced to flee.
So come to me
and truly give
This homeless child a place to live.
In the silent holy night,
in the flickering candle light of
days quickly turned to years
of hopes, of fears,
this I tell you will be true:
As long as one child homeless be
That child is me.
As long as one child must flee
from war or poverty
That child is you.
That child is me.
And ancient holy Bethlehem
is any time or place I am