And It Is Good
A Lamp in Every Corner (Boston: Skinner House, 2004).
On a day not so very long ago, in a place not so very far away, a grass seed lay waiting. All through the cold, dark days of winter the seed waited, covered by a blanket of earth. In the spring, when the air was warmed by the sun and the land was watered by the rain, the seed began to grow. It grew roots deep into the earth. It grew a delicate pale green shoot up into the air. As the days went by, the shoot grew into a firm stalk, which waved in the hot summer breeze. It grew bright green leaves that opened to the sunshine, and then grew darker green as more days went by.
It grew and grew and grew, until the seed was a tall stem of grass and was ready to make seeds of its own. In the fall, when the nights turned cool and the leaves on the trees flamed red and orange and gold, the grass plant knew it would soon be dying, and so it set free its seeds. They traveled on the wind, above field and stream and hill. Some of them slowly settled to the ground in a meadow, where they lay waiting, covered by a blanket of earth. And it was good.
Now in that place not so very far away, a small field mouse was looking for food. Winter was coming, and the mouse was hungry. He went here and he went there, sniffing his way through the meadow, ears perked, eyes open, whiskers quivering, careful and cautious always, for there are many creatures that will eat a mouse. And as he sniffed and nibbled and then sniffed some more, he found a few of those grass seeds that lay covered by the blanket of earth. So he dug them up—scritch scratch!—and he ate them. And it was good.
Now in that place not so very far away, a snake was hunting. Winter was coming, and she was hungry. She went here and she went there, gliding through the faded fallen leaves from the trees, and tasting the air with flickerings of her forked tongue. She tasted the scent of mouse, and followed the scent to the meadow. After a while, she found him. So she caught him—quick, snap!—in her jaws, and she ate him. And it was good.
Now in the sky, high above that place not so very far away, a hawk was searching. Winter was coming, and the hawk was hungry. He went here and he went there, soaring on the wind with outstretched wings, looking down to the earth far below. And at the edge of the meadow, he saw the snake gliding through the faded fallen leaves. So he folded his wings and he plummeted, straight down to the ground, and he caught that snake—snatch, catch!—in his fiercely curved claws, and he ate her. And it was good.
The days went by in that place no so very far away. The sun no longer warmed the air. Instead of rain, snow fell. The last of the leaves fell from the trees. The grass froze, and died. Winter had come.
The hawk soared on outstretched wings, lifted high by the winter winds, hunting. But he was an old hawk. His wings did not beat so strongly as they used to. His eyes did not see so clearly. His hunts did not go well. One day, he plummeted to earth for the last time, and he died. And it was good.
The body of the hawk lay on the ground all winter long, covered by snow. When spring came, the sun warmed the air, and the rain watered the land. Flies buzzed in the air. Ants scurried over the ground. Spring was here, and they were hungry. The ants and the flies found the body of the hawk. The flies laid their eggs in it, and the eggs hatched into maggots. The days went by, and the body of the hawk slowly disappeared, the flesh and feathers eaten by ants and maggots, the bones chewed on by small animals, and whatever was left provided food for bacteria and mold. In just a few weeks, the body of the hawk had completely melted back into the earth. And it was good.
Now in the earth where the hawk had melted, a seed lay waiting. As spring turned into summer, and as the sun warmed the air and the rain watered the land, the seed began to grow. It shot a pale shoot up into the air. It pushed roots deep into the earth, which was made up of the body of the hawk, who had eaten the snake, who had eaten the mouse, who had eaten the seeds. And it was good.
So remember, in that place not so very far away, and in all the places all around, there is sun and there is rain. There are seeds and mice and snakes and hawks. There are ants and maggots and bacteria and mold. There are crocodiles and humans and plankton and daffodils and mushrooms. They all eat from each other. They all live, and they all die. And it is all good.