Not daily but frequently enough that I write about it. And it is almost always at this time of the year, when I go outside to our gazebo and gaze at the stream pictured above. The stream in the middle of the desert.
Ever think about Eden-whether it was a real place?
Yes, of course, don’t you?
Extraordinary creatures like these Western Tanagers and Bullock Orioles magically appear at the grape jelly and meal worm mixtures I have learned to offer each early spring. They are back!!
The beauty is other worldly. Even though it takes the sweat of our (my husband John and I) collective brows to achieve, the end result of the streams, clear ponds and landscaping is supernatural. Our flying friends somehow remember how to get here, despite, for the Oriole, a many thousand mile flight from the far south of Mexico. And for the Tanager some impressive GPS guidance to find us from their high mountain homes. I think about Eden-whether it was a real place because here and now, I hear the echoes of paradise.
Each morning, very early, I walk to the four areas where they (Orioles and Tanagers) dine on their meals of oranges, and a mixture of meal-worms and grape jelly. Always, I hear the staccato like chatter as they wait for their breakfast in the trees in our gardens…it is not chirping, the raucous sound is unique to these birds…
While adding a generous supply of meal-worms to each containers, I ponder why this gives me such pleasure, aside from the obvious joy of seeing these outrageously colored birds amidst all of the other mostly brown, black colored birds which merge with the muted natural landscape of the desert.
It is because I hear the echoes of Eden.
Of a place where all of creation – all of us creatures were, in a sense, one. We humans had dominion but the word does not connote perversion of power or hierarchy, rather it implies a deep reverence for all creatures, an understanding that supersedes words because perfect communication can exist only without words.
A place where the meaning of that peculiar staccato chatter of these splendid creatures was clear because we understood the gratitude, the love. We understood because we felt the gratitude of each moment, the splendor and the goodness of each tree, plant and creature…the shared peace of each moment and the love for each one of us.
During the many years I lived far away from God and His Laws, I considered the Bible fantasy. The stuff of fairy tales. Pretending that I’d not sensed the echoes of Eden, had not stood alone in a wintry ski trail in awe of an immensity of being that I could touch. Almost.
And yet there were echoes of something lost. Recognizable only through fleeting shadows in conversation with a man or with an animal. Shadows which reflected something precious and compelling. Over time, that sense of loss intensified and became a search, specific and deliberate.
Taught Catholicism by Benedictine Monks, I assimilated the beliefs of St. Benedict’s Abbey: The Bible is the Word of God. None is allegory nor myth but instead is wholly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Including, Genesis, Adam, Eve, Eden and the Serpent.
In the now twenty years of belonging to the Catholic faith, I remain surprised by the numbers of devoutly Catholic friends, priests and theologians who consider my former attitudes toward much of the Old Testament as right. Eden, Adam and Eve, the Creation stories are myths or allegories. When asked if they ever feel anything like echoes of Eden, they smile politely and change the subject.
“Do you ever think about Eden- as in the Garden, the Tree and Adam and Eve? Because you know it was real?”
Encouraged by the animated, interested facial expression and nod of agreement from my listener, I continued. “That there was such a place makes total sense to me. A state where words were superfluous, where we knew what animals were thinking, where He walked with us during the ‘breezy time of day.’ And where each of us knew where we belong? And where we’re headed?
“Each time I read about Eve, her decision to eat the fruit, offer it to Adam and think about His words: ‘Yet your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.’
“I see me doing that.
“Me beguiled by the beauty of the tree or fruit.
“Me being the disobedient one.”
My friend Rebecca replied, “I know you don’t read Christian fiction. I don’t read a lot of it either. But you would like the book Havah. Havah is the Hebrew word for Eve. The novel was written by a well-known Christian author named Tosca Lee.
Wake! I opened my eyes on the milling blue, saw it spliced by the flight of a bird—chevron in the sky. This time, the voice came not to my ear but directly to my stirring mind: Wake! There was amusement in it. I knew nothing of where or what I was, could no more decipher the concert of sounds around me than the expanse of blue above. But I woke and knew I was alive. A rustle of grass, a groan practically in my ear. I twitched at a stirring against my hip. A moment later a touch drifted across my belly, soft as a leaf skittering along the ground…
Flesh of my flesh. At last. I heard the timbre of his voice in my head. Marvel and wonder were on his lips as he kissed my closing eyes. I knew then he would do anything for me…
We dried fruit and harvested almonds and pistachios. We took our meals in the orchard, joined by Adah, the fallow deer, or Chalil, the fox, who came when Adam played the flutes he made from hollow stems. The wolf, Dvash, came to lick honey from our fingers. We ate it often from the long hive we had found in the crook of a tree. I woke to the perfume of pomegranate, the bitter sap of pine, the dill and chicory growing among the heath…
Lee, Tosca. Havah: A Novel . Howard Books. Kindle Edition.