Chapter 6 – The Beginning
Sally smiled as others nodded. Then, taking a deep breath, she began her story:
It took him a while to realise he was.
Understanding dawned slowly, and with it, a sense of well-being. Heat, spreading from his chest, pervading all he was.
He became aware of sound and external warmth. And light. And shadow. And life.
He had no knowledge of any of this. There was just an increasing awareness of sensation. Of a world beyond who he was.
It was touch that first alerted him to his involvement. An insect – he never knew which one – alighted on him and crawled for a moment, somewhere on his being. Alarmed, his eyes snapped open.
And for the very first time, he saw.
So bright he screwed his eyes tight shut. But what he had seen was remarkable. He could not resist trying again. Slowly this time, peering through lashes which offered some protection, he squinted at his world. As his eyes adjusted he opened them wider, hardly able to absorb the strange things he saw.
A stone, rough-edged, irregular in shape, lay closest to him, level with his eyes. Two tiny six-legged creatures climbed over it with apparent ease, only to be followed by more, all in a straight line. Each one climbed up the same small crevice, all stopping at the top of their tiny mountain and waving antennae in the light, as if seeking for scent, for sight, for taste. He did not know. Then down the other side, moving with conviction, following the one in front, followed by the one behind.
He watched, immobile, as they disappeared into a waving forest of green vegetation, and he marvelled at how they moved.
But wait! If they could move, perhaps he could too. Had his eyes not jerked open in surprise at the sense of touch? Had he not closed them again in reaction to the light? Could it be possible? Was this not his entire existence? Was there more?
Again his being was flooded with warmth as he inhaled deeply at the idea of more. It was as if life – a Life-force – washed through him, strengthening him, feeding his body and his mind. As if some external force, separate, yet an integral part of who he was, breathed still more life into him.
He became aware of the beat of his heart as he lay in the dust from which he came; of blood – life blood – coursing through his veins. As it spread out from his heart to the furthest parts of him, he began to sense his extremities.
A finger twitched, a knee jerked, a stone dug into the shoulder which had contact with the ground. Some instinct made him draw his limbs in and push his hands against the dust where he lay. He straightened his arms, stronger with each passing moment, and swung his legs up to curl under him as, for the very first time, he sat.
What wonders surrounded him! A kaleidoscope of greens, a variety of shapes, leaves and grasses. Trees, with their tall, strong trunks, soared above him so he could enjoy the comfort of their shade.
Glorious colours dotted these plants as flowers adorned them and butterflies flitted from one to the other.
A brightly coloured beetle flew close, buzzing, its wings moving faster than he could see. As he put out his hand the beetle landed on his palm. Orange and black. It was a marvel of creation and he wondered who had designed it.
The sense of well-being coursed through his veins again, filling him with joy.
The beetle gathered itself together, crawled across his palm, sending tickling sensations up his arm, and then spread its wings and flew away into the distance until he could no longer see it.
Could he fly? The beetle had wings of gauze, delicate, patterned.
He stared, enrapt, at his hand where the beetle had landed. What was this? What was its purpose?
He breathed in, sucking air into his lungs, and with it came a renewed sense of life. Awareness seemed to course through him. He flexed his fingers. In, out. In, out. He saw four long, straight fingers of differing lengths. A fifth protruded at an angle. It seemed to be independent of the others. It moved in a different direction. He bent one finger towards it until they touched. Tip to tip. Finger to thumb.
Startled at the exquisite sensation, he spread his hand wide. He watched in fascination as the skin creased each time he bent a finger. He was determined to identify what triggered the sensation of touch.
There! There it was again. As finger and thumb came together he could feel warmth flood through him.
Gazing at his fingers, he saw delicate swirls of patterns on each one. He clenched his fist and stopped, alarmed. The outside of his fingers was different. No patterns here, but a hard covering. He ran his thumb over the back of the smallest finger across this hard covering. It was smooth to the touch and seemed to offer some protection, but from what, he had no idea.
He continued to open and close his hand, absorbed by discovering all he could, until he was distracted by a sweet sound.
Glancing up he saw a strange creature. Plain, not painted like the beetle. She had bright eyes. She fell silent and began hopping around in front of him, jabbing at the ground, pausing now and again to check her surroundings.
She spotted him and cocked her head to one side, examining him as much as he was examining her. Then she opened her beak wide and a song poured from her as if, unable to contain the praise that filled her body, it overflowed in sweet sound in an outpouring of joy.
The man, for man he was, opened his own mouth and sang.
The sound was rich and deep, unlike the song of the bird. Taken aback, bird and man fell silent and gazed at one another. The bird flew closer and landed just in front of him. He stretched out his hand. She hopped onto it, once again cocking her head as if trying to identify this strange creature who invited her into his world.
She sang again and the man opened his mouth and harmonised with her. Other birds were drawn, attracted by the beauty of the sound, until there was a chorus of praise rising to the blue sky which spread above them. And the man recognised the warmth swelling within him and knew it was Love.
The bird flew down to join the others of her kind and the man raised his other hand from the dust where it had been resting and clapped in delight at the rightness of it all.
The birds flew, alarmed by this new sound, but the man froze.
There were two! He had two! Two hands!
He brought them together again.
He stretched out his arms as far as they could go and then lowered them so his hands touched the ground, leaning forward slightly so he could watch every movement. The ground was hard, unyielding. Experimenting, he brought finger and thumb together and took a pinch of dust, raising it closer so he could examine it. The dust lay on his fingertip until a puff of wind blew it away. He repeated the action. Again the wind dispersed the dust, sending a fine cloud into the air.
Growing braver, he put his hand flat on the ground and grasped a fistful of earth. He held it up to the wind and the fine dust flew, but the heavier grains stayed on his palm. Puzzled he gazed at the minute pebbles. Perhaps he could blow like the wind in the same way he had sung with the birds.
He inhaled, filling his lungs and life coursed through him. Love warmed him. Some of the little stones flew away as the gust of his breath took them. But one or two of them did not move. What was he to do with them, these stubborn stones? He wondered if they were visible on the other side of his hand. Intrigued, he turned his hand over and the little stones pattered to the ground. He laughed in delight, the sound rolling up from his belly. He grasped more dust and again the small stones tumbled to the ground.
He looked around, searching for something else he could pick up. The stone, the first thing he had seen, still lay in front of him. He leaned towards it, caution slowing his movements. Taking care to pick up only that stone, he grasped it between thumb and fingers. It was heavier than the dust. He hefted it in his palm – and dropped it. It made a satisfying thud as it landed and he chuckled, each sound he made delighting him and encouraging him to try more.
He examined his body further. Two long legs were curled beneath him. He straightened them out. Some instinct made him want to stand on them. Rolling onto his hands and knees he pushed himself up until he stood tall on his two legs. Would this world never cease to amaze him?
From this height, he could see far into the distance where purple mountains seemed to touch the sky. They were on the far side of a lake – a flat expanse which reflected the clouds and sparkled in the sunlight.
A song rose in him and he released it in a torrent of joy.
And Love filled him. Then he knew. He knew he was not alone. There was another. One greater than he. One who had formed him from the dust.
“God,” he whispered, awed by the thought. “Abba.”
And the Love rolled within him, around him, above him, surrounding him with a sense of wholeness and belonging.
He revelled in the sensation, singing his praise to his Creator.
A noise in the long grass alerted him to another mystery. The seed heads rippled, the movement drawing closer. What was this? A strange, four-legged creature bounded out of the grass and leapt at him. He stepped back, but he knew no fear, for he sensed, in this world, there was nothing to cause him harm.
The creature’s long tongue licked his face. The shaggy animal cavorted around his feet, tail wagging, eyes shining. It made a small sound and licked the man’s hand in a display of affection which produced the same sensation the man had begun to recognise. Love.
Was this a two-way phenomenon? Could he love as well as be loved? He stretched out his hand and caressed the creature’s head. It grew still at this return of affection.
“Dog,” said the man.
And Dog lay down and rolled on her back, kicking her feet in the air, a grin on her face. Then she leapt to her feet and trotted back to the long grass. She stopped and looked over her shoulder at the man, waiting.
The man understood. Tentatively, he lifted one foot and placed it in front of the other. Right to left, left to right, as he moved forward, slowly at first, but increasing in confidence and speed as he repeated the motion.
Together, man and Dog walked to the lake.
Dog lapped at the water.
The man fell to his knees to do the same, curious about this strange substance which glistened in the light.
What met his eyes was a shock. There was another creature in the water, looking up at him. He drew back, but his curiosity got the better of him and he leaned over the intriguing element.
The one in the water did the same. Cautiously he put out his hand, inquisitive to touch. And the action was repeated by the water-man. Only when his hand broke the surface of the lake, and he gasped in amazement at the sensation it produced, did fresh understanding rush through him with the intake of life-breath.
He glanced towards Dog who was standing, gazing at him. In the lake, he could see Dog’s reflection.
This was him. This water-man was his image. And somehow the knowledge dawned, as he took a sharp breath realising he was made in the image of his Creator. Love flooded through him, tingling, sparkling, singing, in the knowledge of his recognition of his God.
He fell on his face and worshipped.
“Abba,” he whispered.
And he leapt to his feet, with his arms flung wide and shouted in a voice which made the mountains ring, “A-B-B-AAAA!”
In his heart, he heard the reply.
“You are my child, my creation. You are made in my image and I love you.”
The voice calmed and warmed him.
He looked into the lake again; at the one in the water who is the man himself.
“A-dam,” he said. “I am man. I am A-dam.”
And he turned and walked along the beach with Dog to explore his world and talk to his God.