All things are artificial, for nature is the art of God. — Sir T. Browne
There is an ocean in the land where I live. When man casts his heavy eyes heavenward, he sees the equally vast seas of the skies, and little white islands appear as he watches what appears to be a bright yellow life-raft floating through the waves. That raft was in full form on the day I headed to the zoo to see the many interesting creatures of God’s Kingdom. It is an undeniable fact that when the sun and God’s sons are at their best, his lower creatures are at their laziest. My companion and I studied the wild habitat of God, (a habitat so utterly oppressed and mistreated by humans!) The cheetah lay on her back in the small bit of shade she could find; the maned wolves, wallabies, swift foxes, sloth bears, Amur Tiger, Amur Leopard, spotted hyenas, and Chacoan Peccaries all followed suit. The prairie dogs stayed underground, the bobcat and raccoon refused to be disturbed, and the federal government kept us from petting the sheep.
But at that moment of the day when that floating life-raft was in full force above our heads, the white-handed gibbons awoke. Their cage was such that two long pole-like devices were erected, and at the top of each, the majestic creatures were perched with a dignity no judge, pastor, or politician can match from his own perch. From our vantage point, one of those white handed gibbons was perched so majestically facing the wall that we perceived he was either meditating or had been place in timeout as his arms dangled by his side, indicating either shame or reverence. The other white-handed gibbon was in the meantime playing up the crowd on the other pole. The humans stared, pointed, and gawked at the monkey, and as we watched a mother arrived with her young daughter and even younger son. There is nothing more refreshing than seeing a child observe an animal for the first time. As the mother explained to the child where the gibbon was located, the daughter put her face up to the glass. With a joy unmatched by many, she observed with fascinating wonder as the white-handed gibbon gracefully balanced atop the pole. Observing this, a smile overcame my face as I contemplated how wonder and curiosity had slowly left me through the years; how children may possess the only true key to joy in our crumbling world; how modernity had sucked the life out of the liveliest of beings.
It was at this moment that the gibbon who had been entertaining everyone left his perched like a world-class gymnast. He descended in such an elegant fashion that we all let out our surprise and satisfaction. The mother pointed out the action to the daughter; the daughter filled with laughter; I mused more; I beamed brighter. And like a mighty warrior of old, the gibbon headed toward the glass and put his face right up next to that poor princess. In one fell swoop, the young girl fell down and produced a plethora of tears, terrified for her life. The gibbon scratched himself in triumph.
* * * * *
As the yellow life-raft continued on its way, it was met with more of the white islands; the islands likewise seemed to float to each other, connect, and disperse. But the yellow raft continued on its way, not heeding the tempting islands but pressing on to its final destination.
We traveled north from the zoo in my yellow car, our own yellow life-raft. We arrived at a local park and were amused at the many fishermen who were out that day. The temperature was perfect and included a slight breeze. Without thinking twice, we parked and left our yellow raft, and I second-guessed whether or not I should grab my pipe as we began our trek, but I left it behind and we began. That area of the spillway consisted of two major bodies of water. To our right we saw men out in their canoes and kayaks fishing and enjoying the afternoon. To the left we noticed many more fisherman gathered around the banks more content with the weather than worried about their catch.
An army of black bugs swarmed our heads as we made our way to a wooded area. Staving off the tiny nuisances, we eventually left the path and headed to the banks of the spillway. The secluded area was incredibly peaceful, with only a canoe or two out in the distance, and as men are wont to do, we climbed a branch which overhang the water, sat down, and gazed at the goodness before us. After musing over love, life, and whether or not the branch would continue to hold us, we set out for our return, for I longed for my pipe and was second-guessing my initial decision to forego its company.
We hurried back with eager vigor to reach our life-raft, unsure of what was going on with the one above us at the moment. It was just as we were leaving the forest that we noticed an important-looking man wearing an ominous-looking hat, leaving an ominous-looking vehicle, and approaching our lovely life-raft. We watched as this wretched individual pulled out an even more ominous-looking notepad and headed toward our raft. We watched as he checked my plate and began scribbling furiously on the pad; we watched in horror, and our feet picked up speed with a furry equal to that of the man’s scribbling.
* * * * *
The yellow life-raft in the skies was picking up speed as we speed north in my yellow car. The lake was to our right and our goal was to reach its northern border. Not knowing exactly where we were headed nor what we were going to do when we arrived at this unknown destination, we drove quite aimlessly, and the regular inhabitants of that particular highway showed us their rage. But like true pilgrims we were not deterred and pressed on, eager to reach our destination before the raft in the skies reached his. As we drew closer, our anticipation grew with each passing moment, and then we saw it: the bridge. The glorious bridge which crossed that northern portion of the lake was in our sights, but the closer we approached the more dismayed we became. For the northern portion of that lake was nearly completely dry.
Dismayed and discouraged, we decided in some fashion to follow the lake’s western banks on our drive home. Instead of taking the main highway, we turned off on a side street, making sure that Beauty to our left was always in sight. The first road we took weaved around and picked up dust like Pig-Pen or the Tasmanian Devil. At once, the dust cleared and the road turned in a southerly direction, and as we went with it, we saw that it ended with nothing but a house, a man waving, and three very large dogs. The dogs treated us like the true trespassers we were, and my slick driving abilities were barely enough to dodge their rage. Utilizing one of the world’s swiftest u-turns in the history of driving, I maneuvered my little yellow car in the opposite direction, and we quickly pursued another route.
Heading south again we came to a small town. We made our way through the village and headed east on a gravel road, continuing to dirty my car. We met a few other drivers on the road that late afternoon, but after traveling through the thick dust which was kicked up by three different cars, we came to a secluded area overlooking the dried-up portion of the lake and parked our life-raft. Majestic white horses watched us view the area with pleasure, for though the lake was nothing much to look at that day, we spotted that moving life-raft and gloried in the scene to our west: A row of dark-green firs lined a hill which curved in a north-westerly direction, and the row of firs turned into a small cluster of firs glistening as the last lights of the sun bounced off of them. Eventually some clouds covered the sun, and looking behind us we perceived the early indication of a coming storm. But the clouds were not to last long that evening, and the sun showed herself one final time.
So I lit my pipe and had a smoke as we gazed at the splendid scene before us. And when that bowl met its end, we hopped back in our life-raft and headed home. Sure of where we were going this time, we proceeded due west. But the blinding light of that glorious life-raft in the beautiful blue sky completely obscured our view.