Story: I Want More Light

January 8, 2023

Isaiah 60:1-6
Matthew 2:1-12

“More light,” grumbled the camel. “I want more light.”

Camels are not naturally night animals. If I lived in the desert I would be a night animal, but camels can tolerate the desert sun in ways that I can’t. They like the day, and their favorite way to spend the day is with eating.

After all the Christmas celebrating we’ve done, that might feel a little familiar.

This camel was grumpy because, first of all, he was a burdened beast. On his arched back he carried a saddle sometimes, and a load of goods on others. There was one set of bags he really dreaded. It was heavy and sometimes it clinked in a really annoying way. He preferred carrying one of these stargazers to that one.

“It’s as heavy as lead,” he’d say.

“I think it’s gold,” said another camel.

“It’s as heavy as lead,” he’d repeat, which is basically true, after all.

He didn’t complain quite as much about the other two loads, which were both lighter and smelled nice.

Second of all, the camel was grumpy because it had become a very long trip. Long trips aren’t unusual in the life of a camel, but that doesn’t mean they like them. This one didn’t like them.

“Will it never end?” he said.

“I think we’re almost there,” soothed another camel.

“Will it never end?” he’d repeat.

Third of all, the camel was grumpy because they were travelling at night. Camels aren’t night animals. This camel wasn’t a night animal. This camel was increasingly cross.

“More light,” he grumbled. “I want more light.”

“I think they’re following that star,” said another camel.

“Stupid stargazers,” said the camel. “I want more light.”

I think you can probably guess who those star-followers were, and where they went, and who they saw, and what gifts they gave that family. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t lead. It was gold.

When they left, the camel was in a much better mood. For one thing, it looked like they were taking a different, hopefully shorter route back. For another, the three loads were gone, so there wasn’t as much to carry. For another, they were finally back to sensible travel by day.

And finally, something had happened when that camel had, drawn by some unlikely curiosity, stuck his nose through a window and seen a baby receiving those things he’d carried across the miles. The gold and frankincense and myrrh didn’t seem like great playthings for an infant, but they seemed really important for a family that was obviously poor and seemed to be worried about trouble. And the child himself, well: the camel felt, just for an instant, like he had made a world of difference, and that he could do so again.

“More light,” he said as he took each step on the way home. “I think I’ve seen more light.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the recording, I’m telling the story from memory of the prepared text above. Between memory and improvisation, there’s a lot differences between them.

The image is Journey of the Magi by James Tissot – Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Public Domain, Regrettably, the artist set the painting in daylight.

Story: Don’t Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before

December 25, 2022

Isaiah 62:6-12
Luke 2:1-20

So… Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Once upon a time there was a woman named Mary, and she was expecting a baby. It was a special baby, which you’d think would mean that she’d be as comfortable as she could be when the baby was born – a nice room, plenty of helpers, that sort of thing – but instead she found herself far from home, amidst strangers except for Joseph, and putting her newborn baby in an animal’s feeding trough to sleep because there wasn’t any room in the inn.

You’ve heard this one before, haven’t you? I can tell.

Don’t stop me, though.

There were animals around when she wrapped the baby up and set him down to sleep. I mean, he was lying in their eating spot. I’m sure they were curious. A couple might have been a bit annoyed because where were they going to eat? If it had been you, would you be OK if somebody put a newborn lamb on your plate at your place at the dinner table?

A couple of those animals might have felt that way, too.

There’s some old stories – not as old as the story of the baby, but old – that say that the animals in that stable gained the ability to speak that night. It faded away in a short time, but that story says that they regain that power of speech each Christmas Eve – last night – but people never hear them because we’re all asleep.

And so the honu surfaces on the star-lit ocean and whispers to the ‘ulili on the shore, “Spread the word! God’s savior is in the world. Peace on earth, good will to all!”

The ‘ulili trots on its stilt legs until it finds a dozing saffron finch. “Spread the word! God’s savior is in the world. Peace on earth, good will to all!”

The saffron finch spreads its small wings and finds the sleeping nene. “Wake up! Spread the word! God’s savior is in the world. Peace on earth, good will to all!”

The nene takes to the sky and honks out to all who can hear, “Spread the word! God’s savior is in the world! Peace on earth, good will to all!”

On the mountain slopes, the ‘apapane awakes, and though I’m afraid that he’s cross, he flutters about and sings, “Spread the word! God’s savior is in the world! Peace on earth, good will to all!”

High above, the ‘io leaves off hunting for a moment, and soars over the bay, calling once more, “Spread the word! God’s savior is in the world! Peace on earth, good will to all!”

Now, you and I, we slept through all that. And with midnight gone, the creatures of Hawai’i have gone back to their regular voices, their everyday songs. So we have to take up the message, don’t we?

Spread the word. God’s savior is in the world. Let us bring peace on earth, and share our good will with all.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

I told this story from memory of the text above – which means that between memory and improvisation, there are differences.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Story: Fulfilling

December 11, 2022

Luke 1:46b-55
Matthew 11:2-11

His feathers were fully grown and laid upon his wings and back in shades of greyish brown, with bright white and black on his chest and wings. His wings stretched nearly three feet across, elegantly shaped and tapering to each pointed wingtip. He was kind of awkward on the ground and it took some work to get airborne, but once he caught the air beneath his wings he could stay airborne for hours. He was an ‘ua’u, or Hawaiian petrel, and he would spend three quarters of the year over the sea.

He was, in short, all grown up.

That left him, I must say, just a little cross. Flying over the ocean at night, wings beating and eyes tracking the water below for the little glow of fish or squid near the surface, he wondered what more there was to things. It was all very well to be a strong flier and a good looking bird and an effective fisher – flying fish, beware! – but now that everything was done, what was there to do that was new?

One day he found himself flying nearly wingtip to wingtip with his grandmother. It was pure chance – ‘ua’u fly solo or in pairs during their nine or so months at sea – and the two fished in silence for a while. After catching a particularly tasty flying fish, however, the grandson turned to the grandmother and asked, “What do I do now that I’ve done everything?”

“What makes you think you’ve done everything?” said Tutu, rather surprised.

“Well, look at me,” he said, and turned a circle that showed off his feathers and flying skills. “I’m an expert at catching fish,” he said, “and I know all the calls and sounds of an ‘ua’u. What more is there?”

Tutu knew that there was something more, but the ‘ua’u don’t start having chicks until they’re some years older, so she didn’t mention that. She was puzzled, though, that her grandson thought he’d done everything there was for an ‘ua’u to do even before having a family.

“Look down,” she said. “What do you see there?”

He looked down and there was a ruffling beneath the sea surface. It was a school of squid – but strangely, he’d only seen such a thing once or twice and had never fished them.

“Follow me,” said Tutu, and she gave a strange twist of her wings and swooped down over the ocean surface. He had to follow more gently, because he’d never seen that flight move before. The two swept over the school of squid and in a moment they were both feeding.

“Was that different?” asked Tutu, and he had to admit it was. “And why didn’t you follow me down the way I flew?” she asked, and he had to tell her he’d never seen what she’d done before.

“I guess you haven’t done it all yet, have you?” asked Tutu.

“But once I’ve eaten everything in the ocean,” he said, “and learned everything there is to know about flying, what is there then?”

“It’s not likely that you’ll taste everything that swims,” she said, “and there is always something more to learn about flying – but even when you get close to that, there will be other ‘ua’u around who will want to learn what you know. Sharing those things makes them new again.”

“Your life is never fulfilled,” she told them. “It may seem much the same from day to day, but even then there are new things, new challenges, because tomorrow is not just like today. Each day you are fulfilling your life, and each tomorrow you are fulfilling it a little more.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the video, I’m telling the story from memory of this text. And making things up as I go along as well.

Photo of an ‘u’au in flight by ALAN SCHMIERER from southeast AZ, USA – HAWAIIAN PETREL (5-3-2018) kalahaku overlook, haleakala nat park, maui co, hawaii -01, CC0,

Story: Easier?

December 4, 2022

Isaiah 11:1-10
Matthew 3:1-12

That year the goslings had a choice between two flight instructors here on Hawai’i Island.

I know I’ve talked about nene school before. It basically covers two topics: how to fly and how to find good things to eat. As I said, there were two flying teachers that year, and the goslings were able to choose which class to attend. One teacher was an older male nene, and he had charisma. He strutted around and hooted and honked, and you just knew that if you didn’t do just what he told you, he’d be honking right there in your beak.

The other teacher was smaller and quieter. She was well known as one of the best fliers of all the flocks on the island, but she never made much of it. You could hear her fellow teacher’s voice for miles. You hardly ever heard her say anything.

One young nene was, to be honest, pretty intimidated by both these teachers. He was pretty intimidated by flying in general. He didn’t really want to be judged by a nene considered one of the best fliers of the island, but he also didn’t want to be yelled at a lot by a big, noisy teacher. Most of his classmates, though, were impressed by all the honking and the strutting and the bravado – and maybe they were afraid that if they didn’t go to his class, they’d look like they were afraid.

When the day came to choose teachers, most of the goslings went with the big noisy male teacher, and a smaller group chose the smaller female teacher, including the young nene who was scared of them both.

It didn’t take long before he wondered if he’d made the right choice. His teacher never raised her voice, but she never missed anything, either. She could spot a single feather out of position and she always made her student fix it. Her classes started early and they ran late. Across the slopes her students could hear the agitated honks of the male teacher for a while, but then his voice would fade. They’d hear the voices of those other students, now released from their class, playing and foraging for snacks, while they were making tightly controlled – and closely inspected – circles in the sky.

“I need this to be easier,” said the young nene one morning, and instead of going to his class he made his way to the other class. Nobody minded. He joined the small crowd and watched the teacher honk at the students until they all stretched out their wings and took off. With his agitated honking behind them, they tried to form a flying V, but none of them had really mastered keeping a straight, level, and steady course. They veered from side to side, everybody except the young nene who’d just joined their class that day. He knew how to fly straight and level. He wouldn’t fly faster than the goose ahead. But he found himself dodging gosling after gosling as they zoomed back and forth across the formation.

The teacher’s honks were plenty loud, but he was saying things like, “Don’t do that! No! The other way! The other way!” Since none of the flyers knew what “that” was, or who was doing “that,” and which way might be this way and what way might be the other way, well. It didn’t help.

The teacher honked himself to hoarseness and dismissed the class early, flying off to find some ‘ohelo. The young nene watched him go, and flew over to where the smaller class was still meeting, with the sharp-eyed female teacher.

“You’re back?” was all she said.

“I’m back,” he said. “I’ve found it’s easier to learn to fly by working hard.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story was told from memory of this manuscript – by someone with an imperfect memory.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Story: As Dawn Approaches

November 27, 2022

Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14

As you know, one of the really important questions in the life of any animal – bird, fish, reptile, or mammal – is:

“When is breakfast?”

For most animals the next question is likely to be “where is breakfast?” Whether you’re a hunting animal that has to find something with meat on it, or whether you’re a plant-eating animal, the fact is that you probably haven’t gone to sleep where breakfast can be found. Even the nectar-eating birds of the ohi’a forest have to find a tree in blossom in the morning.

Still, the first question is: “When is breakfast?”

The kolea has to learn two answers to this question. As you know, kolea emerge from eggs laid in Alaska. So the first thing a kolea chick has to learn when it’s heading out on its own is when the worms come out.

In fact, kolea don’t ask the question, “When is breakfast?” because the answer is always, “When the worms come out.” So they skip to the next question, which is, as you’d guess, “When do the worms come out?”

“When do the worms come out?” a young kolea asked his mother.

She didn’t have a great answer, because she wasn’t a great thinker among the kolea. She knew a lot of things, but she didn’t put them into words. You could count on her to be right there when the worms poked their heads out of the ground, but she couldn’t tell you what she’d noticed to make her go there. If she’d been a human being she’d have been one of those amazing cooks who, if you ask, “how much butter did you put in that cake?” would reply, “About the right amount,” and not really know. And the cake would be delicious.

That’s why she said, “The worms come out when they do,” which wasn’t helpful, but she did the best she could.

He managed to find worms by following his mother around, and since she didn’t mind that worked pretty well. But then came the time to go to Hawai’i for the first time. He wouldn’t have her nearby there – or rather, here.

“When do the worms come out?” he asked.

“When they do,” she answered, and that was the best he got.

Here in Hawai’i, he settled into the new job of living on his own. Worms were hard to come by, but there were plenty of grubs and spiders and so on. He did fine. He missed worms, though.

“When do the worms come out?” he asked himself out loud.

“As dawn approaches,” said a voice from nearby.

It was a myna, which took him by surprise. Mynas usually talk to each other – or rather, they argue with each other a lot. “What was that?” he asked.

“The worms come out as dawn approaches,” said the myna, which then turned away from him to enter a furious argument with another myna about… well, something. Anything. Who knows?

The kolea thought about the things his mother had done. She’d begun moving about as the sky grew brighter in the east, and flown to grassy places that worms liked. She chose cool places with some heavy dew on them or a fine rainy morning. In the cool wetness, worms were plentiful. When the ground dried and the sun warmed everything, the worms disappeared underground again.

“As the dawn approaches,” murmured the kolea.

There are plenty of things that require more examination and thought to understand than when to find a worm. Most things have something that gives you a notion that things are changing, that something is coming. For many things in life, there’s some sort of sign: like the approaching dawn.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story was told from memory of this prepared text. And… it’s not the same.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Story: Growing Memories

November 13, 2022

Isaiah 65:17-25
Luke 21:5-19

Last week’s story was about a kolea who came back from a summer in Alaska to find Pohoiki completely changed by lava. It was a hard thing to accept that this is how an island grows. He saw a landscape that had been green and growing transformed into one that was rocky and barren.

He might have taken more comfort if he’d talked with a tree – though I’m not sure whether even a kolea really knows how to listen to a tree.

The trees whisper on the wind. They let their soft voices swirl about on the breeze like a sigh. A lot of what they say is simply, “Do you remember?” and “Yes, we remember,” and the memories float through the forest.

Higher up Kilauea, surrounding the crater we call Kilauea Iki, there are a lot of trees and they have been watching that crater for a long time. “Do you remember?” they sigh, and yes: they remember. They remember when it sloped down into a notch. Trees and bushes sprouted along the sides and the bottom. They remember when lava fountained over a thousand feet into the air and poured down into valley. They remember watching the lava pooling and the lava pool rising. They remember that when the lava stopped fountaining and flowing, the valley floor was four hundred feet higher than it had been. They remember watching parts of the flat surface crack and tilt as the liquid rock cooled to solid.

“Do you remember?” they sigh. Yes, they remember.

They remember when it was just black rock, steaming in the rain, baking in the sun.

They remember when ohi’a seeds fell upon that hot rock and did nothing. They remember watching seeds landing on the rock in a small crack and doing their level best to sprout and grow, but even the pushing of their roots could only find a couple grains of sand. They remember when the first ohi’a landed in a spot where cracking and rain had created enough – just enough – small bits that a root could take hold and begin collecting rainwater. They remember when the first of the little ohi’a plants – so small, those plants – they remember when the first of them had enough soil and water and sunshine and strength to form flowers and set its own seeds to scatter.

“Do you remember?” they sigh. Yes, they remember, and that includes the small trees, some no more than inches high, that you’ll find one here, one there, on the floor of Kilauea Iki.

The kolea, I’m afraid, didn’t think to ask the trees, and he was in the wrong place to ask them down at Pohoiki if he’d thought of it, and he may not have understood what they said to him if he’d asked.

But the trees along the steep sides of Kilauea Iki remember, and they sigh their memories just the same way they scatter their seeds: cast out upon the blowing wind.

“Do you remember?” they ask, and they answer, “Yes, we remember.”

On the flat black surface of the Kilauea Iki crater, roots crack the rock into soil, shoots stand ever higher above the stony surface, ohi’a blossoms flutter crimson in the wind, and they share their seeds and their memories upon the blowing wind.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story above was told from memory of this prepared manuscript. In my opinion, I told it better than I wrote it this time.

Photo of an ohi’a blossom in the Kilauea Iki crater by Eric Anderson, 2016. The Kilauea Iki eruption took place in 1959.

Story: Growing

November 6, 2022

Job 19:23-27a
Luke 20:27-38

This story took place a few years ago here on Hawai’i Island. I suppose it could have happened at various times here on Hawai’i Island – I would guess something similar has happened a good number of times here on Hawai’i Island.

A kolea flew back to Hawai’i after spending the summer in Alaska. This wasn’t the first time he’d done it. Like most kolea, he had a destination in mind. For four seasons he’d come to the same beachfront in Puna. For four seasons he’d had a good spot to hunt for crabs in tide pools and then for bugs and worms just inshore. There were people who came and went, but you may have noticed that people come and go in a lot of places and he came to ignore them. So when he spotted the mountains of this island he made his way toward Puna.

Toward Pohoiki.

When he reached it, he hardly recognized it. As I said, this was a few years ago, and in the time that he’d been in Alaska the 2018 eruption had sent lava flowing across lower Puna from Leilani to Kapoho. The edge of the flow stopped at Pohoiki. Mounds of a’a had turned his favorite section of the beach from a gentle slope to a seven or eight foot high wall at the water’s edge. It was still cooling underneath; he could feel the heat when he came near to try landing.

The lava flow had left some things just the same. There were still human parking lots and structures, there were trees. There were broad stretches of flat ground that he knew he could still find food in. But there was also a brand new stretch of beach made of black sand and rocks that clattered and hissed when the waves drew back to the sea.

He landed and watched the water for a while, where it crashed against the new rock and where it piled up more sand gradually on the beach.

“What happened?” he said to himself.

He may not have meant anyone else to hear, but a saffron finch replied. “Lava came,” she said.

“It’s not the same,” he said.

“No, not much,” she agreed. “It’s even changing each day. That black beach keeps getting bigger.”

“Everything’s dead and gone,” he moaned, “buried under that warm rock or getting covered with that black sand.”

The saffron finch looked at him, puzzled. “What are you talking about? There’s still grass. There’s still trees. There’s still bugs and worms to eat. Life goes on.”

“How can it, when it’s so different?”

The saffron finch thought. “Do you remember hatching?” she asked.

“Not really,” he said.

“Well, are you the same as you were then?”

“Definitely not,” he said. “I had to grow a lot and get these feathers before I could ever fly here.”

“So you grew,” said the saffron finch, “and in some ways you still grow.”

“Of course,” said the kolea.

“This island also grows,” said the saffron finch. “I don’t suppose it’s quite alive the way you and I are alive, but it grows. Where it grows, it creates space for plants to grow, and bugs to grow, and eventually for you and I to grow.”

“But it’s different and I liked the old way better,” said the kolea.

“You and I grow and others may not like it,” said the saffron finch, “but we grow in our own way. You might as well let this island grow in its own way, too.

“Because it will grow in its own way no matter what you say.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The recorded story above was told live during worship from memory of this text. Between memory and improvisation, they are not identical.

Photo of lava rock and black beach sand at Pohoiki (2018) by Eric Anderson.

Story: Beyond the Horizon

October 30, 2022

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

I don’t know how they became friends, or even how they met one another. When kolea make their journey to Hawai’i Island, they tend to find some space for themselves fairly close to the coastline. They like to look for worms and bugs and such in the grassy lawns that human beings maintain. They’re ground birds, rarely found on roofs or trees.

In contrast, the ‘apapane likes to be in trees, and in trees that grow further up the mountain. As I say, I’m not sure how a kolea and an ‘apapane ever met, let alone how they became friends. But year after year this kolea would make his way back to the Kohala peninsula and, after a good rest and a meal, take a shorter flight up the slopes of Kohala looking for a flash of red in the forest. Then the two of them would talk story until they’d caught up with the last several months.

This year the kolea found the ‘apapane looking… dreamy. After sharing the stories about nests and eggs and chicks, the ‘apapane sat and looked out over the mountain slope down to the sea and beyond. “I envy you,” she said. “You know what’s beyond the horizon.”

The kolea had told that story many times, so he just nodded. “That’s true,” he said. “Out in that direction is a very big ocean, and then there’s Alaska.”

“Do you ever wonder what’s beyond the horizon in other directions?” asked the ‘apapane.

“Not much,” said the kolea. “Except for those two big flights each year, I don’t stray far from the places I’ll find grubs to eat.”

“Well,” said the ‘apapane, turning to the northwest, “what do you suppose is over there?”

The two of them looked at a pile of clouds with a bit of bluish black in the middle. “I don’t know,” he said.

“I wonder,” sighed the ‘apapane.

“Shall I find out?” said the kolea. “I can take a flight to see what’s in the clouds.”

The ‘apapane accepted the offer, and the kolea headed off to the northwest, and was quickly lost to sight. It took nearly four hours before he was back again. He grabbed a snack at the base of the ‘apapane’s tree before joining her on the branch again.

“So what’s over there?” asked the ‘apapane.

“Maui,” said the kolea.

“What’s Maui?” asked the ‘apapane.

“It’s another island, smaller than this one, with a wide valley and a great big mountain on it. That’s the bluish black outline you can see. It’s not nearly as far as Alaska.”

The two birds were quiet for a while, and then the ‘apapane said, “It must be nice to always know what’s over the horizon.”

“But I don’t always know what’s over the horizon,” said the kolea. “I also don’t know what the next day will bring. I hope it will have a tasty worm or two, just the way you hope it will have ohi’a blossoms.”

“We both move into something mysterious, then,” said the ‘apapane, “which we hope will be a little familiar.”

“We both fly into tomorrow,” said the kolea, “with hope.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story was told from memory of this manuscript in the video recording above. And, well, embellished.

Photo of an ‘apapane in flight by Eric Anderson.

Story: Dive or Skim

October 23, 2022

Psalm 84:1-7
Luke 18:9-14

It’s a funny thing. The koa’e kea – the white-tailed tropicbird – and the noio – the black noddy – eat basically the same foods. They like small fish, they like squid. But they catch their food in very different ways. One koa’e kea had noticed this.

“That,” he said to another koa’e kea, “is disgusting.”

“What is?” she asked. The two were flying out to their fishing grounds from the ledges of Kilauea.

“Them,” said the first, “those noio. Watch them crowd together. Why can’t they hunt alone? There’s a horde of them fishing there. Then the noise. Every last one of them is screeching and calling. They’re flying low, and any bird should know that you can’t spot fish if you’re not high over the water. And most of all“ – he shuddered even as he was flying – “they don’t even know how to do a proper dive.”

“Really?” asked his friend. “What do they do?”

“Watch,” said the first, and they watched as noio after noio skimmed low over the water. The surface of the ocean rippled with the movement of the small fish beneath it. The noio dipped their beaks into the water, seized a fish without landing, and flew on as they swallowed.

“They don’t even pause on the surface to properly appreciate their meal,” he moaned.

“Aren’t there big fish down there, too?” asked his friend, who had noticed larger forms deeper in the water.

“Ahu,” said the koa’e kea, “skipjack tuna. They’re chasing the same fish as the noio. I don’t know why they’re not all crashing into one another, and why none of those noio have become lunch for an ahu.”

They watched the chaotic scene for a while, and then the second koa’e kea said, “You know, it seems to work.”

“What?” he said.

“With those ahu around, the small fish are closer to the surface,” she said, “and with so many birds in the air you wouldn’t want to pause on the surface. From all I can tell from here, none of them look like they’ll go hungry.”

“Do you want to fish like a noio?” he demanded.

“No, I’d rather dive from a good height,” she said, “and I’d rather not have a lot of other birds about because I’d crash into one when I’m diving. I’m not eager to run into an ahu under water, and one of my dives might get down to where they are. I can’t call the noio disgusting, though,” she continued. “They’re living, and thriving, and happy, and fed. That’s a pretty good life for a seabird, don’t you think?”

I don’t know for certain whether she’d convinced him, because he didn’t say anything more as they flew out to their own fishing grounds farther from shore. I’ll call her wise, though, to recognize that there’s more than one way to live a good life as a seabird, and to appreciate a seabird who does things differently.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story is told from memory of this manuscript. That is enough to cause some differences. Today, there was another presentation before the story, and, well, you’ll just have to see it to believe it.

Photo of a noio in flight (though not actually skimming the surface) by Eric Anderson.

Story: The Pueo that Caught a Pig

October 16, 2022

Genesis 32:22-31
Luke 18:1-8

As you know, there are birds and animals that don’t eat meat, and there are birds and animals that eat entirely meat, and there are birds and animals that eat either one, depending on what they find. Most of the meat-eating animals have a similar strategy about what they eat. They tend to look for something to eat that is smaller than they are. If that sounds a little bit like bullying, well, I think that’s where bullying comes from. I wish we could think of other people as people, and not as “this is someone I can bully.”

There are a few creatures that do hunt for animals larger than they are. The pueo is not one of them. The pueo flies about over the grasslands and looks for smaller things: mice, small birds, more mice, more small birds… basically, lunch.

This is the story of the pueo that caught a pig.

He didn’t mean to. He was distracted in his flying that day. Everything was nice and clear and there wasn’t a lot of wind. He wasn’t hunting with his full attention; he was mostly daydreaming in the air. Still, when he saw some grass move out of the corner of his eye, he was on it in a flash. Movement in the grass meant a mouse or a small bird. Movement in the grass meant lunch.

In this case, however, what it meant was a napping pig whose ear had just flicked at a fly and moved the grass. The pueo only discovered his mistake when he’d grabbed the pig by the top of her head. All the dreaminess of soaring about the sky vanished in a flash, as the pig woke up, felt the pueo on her head, and dashed off in a panic.

The pueo didn’t know what to do, so he hung on.

The pig tossed her head and tried to use her front feet to knock the pueo off her head, but her legs were too short. She threw her head from side to side as she ran so that one moment the pueo was pulled left and the next pulled right.

The pueo hung on. Dust was flying from beneath the pig’s feet but so were feathers from the pueo’s body. The sensible thing to do might have been to fly away, but there were so many feathers in the air that he wasn’t sure he could control his flight, and if he once fell underneath the pig’s feet that wouldn’t be good at all. As for the pig, if she’d thought about it, she could have rolled over and forced the pueo to let go, but she was startled and frightened and panicked, so she didn’t think of it.

This went on for some time until the pig ran out of energy and stopped, trembling. The pueo’s feet were tense and cramped and he still didn’t dare let go.

“Who are you?” said the pig, “Why did you do this?”

“I thought you were a mouse,” said the pueo, knowing that this sounded silly as he said it.

“What do you want?” said the pig.

“I want to go home,” said the pueo. “And I’d like to go home without your footprints in my feathers.”

“I’d like to go home without your claw marks on my head,” said the pig, “but I’m not getting what I want.”

“I’m going home without a lot of feathers,” said the pueo. “I’m not even sure I can fly.”

“What if,” said the pig, “we both get what we want? I want you off my head, and you want to be off my head, don’t you?”

“That would be best,” agreed the pueo.

The pig walked over to a larger rock, one that rose above her head. The pueo, with some difficulty, unclenched his feet and stepped cautiously onto the rock, then hurried up to its top. The pig looked up at him. He was too high for her to reach.

“Thanks for bringing me to a safer place,” he said.

“Thanks for getting off my head,” she said. “Don’t do it again.”

“I won’t,” he said. “I’ll make every effort to avoid it.”

She went home with some scratches. He went home without a few feathers, ones that would have to grow back before his flying was at its best. They went home having given one another the thing they wanted most: an opportunity for peace.

by Eric Anderson

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The story was told from memory of this prepared text. And so… it’s not the same.

Photo of a pueo in flight by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,