Prose Writing


The Wild Christ Nobody Owns

Prologue from "The Wild Christ Nobody Owns"

Mary was young and as innocent as a cow’s eyes. Her life had been good, for she grew in the sweetness of her love of Life. Perhaps it was this Love shining in her heart and bones that attracted angels and birthed the visions in her that came to be.

She dreamt many dreams, each fantastic and more alive than day. In one she saw a child riding on winds, laughing and swimming through music as if in a stream. In another she saw the same child with countless different colors in his hair, and with luminous eyes and smile. He held a great sword by which he slew a serpent. And the serpent was as long as the sea, and its skin as rough as desert, and its eyes like coals in the sacrificial fires of Jerusalem. In another she saw a young man with hair the color of the sun, and eyes many times as bright, who sang the stars and rivers, and breathed in water and poured out floods from his belly. Everywhere the waters flowed green life grew and trees flourished: and each tree bore a hundred kinds of fruit; and the birds that flew amongst their leaves had the appearance of women in pleasure who sang songs that made men drunk with Light and brought them into the shade of the trees. More dreams came, which she would not speak of, but would only say when all had come to pass — the things I most feared came true.

When Mary was fourteen she was given to marry a young carpenter named Joseph from Capernaum. His hands were calloused and rough, but his heart as tender as the first leaf of a seed. Then a great darkness came upon them; and after it passed they settled in Mary’s ancestral home in Nazareth, and in the first year had a son whose eyes were full of laughter from his birth. It is from here that our story unfolds.

Chapter 32 — Under the Darkening Sky - Age 15

He ran out under the darkening sky and sat on the far side of the garden where he could see the last faint glow of day. He heard footsteps behind him and the hens cackling at the disturbance from their low wooden house. James came and sat beside him. “I heard all that was said. What are you going to do?” he asked, and there was only concern in his voice.

Jesus looked at his younger brother with a grimace. “I don’t know yet. I have many questions to ask and answers to hear.”

“What are your questions? Tell me.”

“I don’t know them all. One question leads to another.”

“Such as…”

“Such as, what is my calling really? I have not needed to know it fully. I’m only fifteen and it has been enough to laugh and love and learn and be free. But now it seems I must become very clear about this in my mind. What if my freedom has hurt her?”

“But the answer is simple: just marry her. You could start your own carpentry business in Capernaum, or maybe up in Chorazin. I know you could.”

“Yes… but somehow it just feels all wrong. I have never had a dream of raising a family. I can’t imagine it.”

“What can you imagine yourself doing? What feels right?”

“I will tell you a secret, but you must promise not to tell another soul — not even Mama and Papa. Do you swear?”

“I swear by the name of Adonay and all that is sacred,” James said solemnly.

“I think I found Solomon’s Trout the day I first met her.”

“What! Are you serious? Are you sure?”

“Yes. I have been walking these streams for many years, and I have never seen a fish like this. And it came to me, James. It was like it was waiting for me to take it. When I lifted it from the water it shone in the sun like a crown of many jewels, and its eyes were like rubies. It gave itself to me without resistance.”

“And what did you do?”

“I put it back, and it swam into the green depths of its pool and disappeared.”

“What? You know the story. Why didn’t you kill and eat it? It means you are the one. You will lead our people out of bondage and restore their rightful glory!”

“I followed the freedom of Yah. That is all. The way of Solomon is not the way of Life now, little brother. I know there is a new way we must go.”

“And what is that way?”

“To know that answer is to know what I must do with my life… and about Rachael.”

James looked into his brother’s eyes, and even in the dimness of the young night he could see a new sadness in them that made him look older than he was.

Chapter 70 — Twisted One - Age 31

When they landed near Gergesa they met a crazy man who ran naked through the hills and cut his skin with stones. He screamed at them, “Who are you? I know you! You are Jesus of Nazareth!”

Jesus said, “How do you know me?”

The man drew back as if he was a beaten dog afraid of his master’s touch and said, “I have always known you. You are a twisted one, like us.”

Jesus felt a tremor of fear pass through him, and looking around took strength from the eyes of his brothers, then said fiercely to the disciples, “Lay hold of this man!” Andrew and James seized him by the arms and held him. Jesus looked into the man’s face. The man’s eyes roamed and would not focus and seemed lost in the wild swirling force that possessed him. Jesus took slow breaths, feeling deeper into himself, past the frightened little boy that made his body tremble and caused him to want to cry out, then asked both himself and the man, “Do you want to be free?” He knew his own answer, for every cell of his body sang yes, so he waited… But the man just laughed in a deranged way, then stuck his head out and wagged it side-to-side, bleating like a goat in heat. Then anger arose in Jesus and he cried out, “Leave this man, now!” With that a great fury seized the man and his body buckled with such force that Peter and John had to come and hold him as well.

Then the man screamed, “This is not allowed. You are the twisted one… I curse you twisted one!” and spit and raged.

Jesus said again, “I command you to leave this man!”

The man hissed back, “I will play your game for now,” then vomited violently. The vomit was black and foul and some of the disciples threw up as well when they smelled its stench. Then the man shook once more and with a great sigh let all his breath go and became limp as death. The disciples laid him on the ground.

Jesus came and put his lips gently over the man’s foaming mouth and blew breath into him. The man slowly opened his eyes, and taking Jesus’ hand struggled to his feet. He looked stunned and helpless as a child as he gazed around, then started to cry for joy.

Jesus let out a deep sigh of relief. He asked the man, “What is your name?”

The man answered, “Joshua?” as if it was a question.

Peter waved with outspread arms and the disciples gathered around. “We welcome you home, Joshua,” he said, and the others echoed him and began to bless the man, and sing his name, ‘Joshua, Joshua,’ with great Love. Then they took him into the village where many recognized him. With town people leading they took him to his home. When his mother came to the door she turned white, as if she was seeing a ghost. “Don’t be afraid. Your son is alive again,” John whispered. Then his whole family came and Joshua fell into their arms as they embraced him with many tears. 

The news of this spread rapidly through the entire village, and many brought their sick to be healed.


Chapter 96 — My Heart Will Die With Him - Age 32

Mary went to Salome’s house and found her out in her garden. She waited in silence for a few minutes, enjoying watching Salome working with the earth, then quietly said, “Salome…” Salome spun around excitedly and ran to her. “Oh, Mary! Mary! How I have missed you!” she cried.

“And I you! Is all well with you sweet sister?” Mary asked as they kissed and embraced.

“All is well; come, let’s have tea. I have many things to tell — and from all I have heard you have many things to tell as well.” With arms around each other they went back through the alleyway into the house. Mary sat on the low couch and sighed deeply. She felt her heart churning. It was like something was stuck in her throat, and she hoped her talk with Salome would get it out. Salome poured tea and brought out sheep’s cheese, bread and olives.

“And our sisters, how are they?” Mary asked.

“Ah, so very well. We have changed many things as we agreed,” Salome answered. “We only open men to Ruah now. Some new women have joined us, but a few have returned to their old ways for we don’t make as much money as we were accustomed to. It seems that if you want to be rich you serve the beast in man, and if you want to be poor you serve the angel.”

Mary could see that Salome was living much simpler now, and yet her house was still beautiful and seemed even lighter. “And have you learned many new things?” Mary asked.

“Of course: the work just gets deeper. My regular customers are turning many shadows around in their minds. It takes time, as you know, and much Love, but they are shining with a new joy and tell me they feel like they are growing more whole and alive. One of them is a rabbi, and he says that many people have told him he has become gentler and more compassionate, but that he dare not tell them what is happening to him.”

Mary nodded. “Of course not. And you, do you still give your body as before?”

“No, it is different now, for after you and the Master blessed me I did not wish to carry the darkness of men again. So I keep washing in the Great Love as the Master showed us and feel much lighter inside. I follow my sense of Love and what seems best for each man. We still work with ointments and our hands to move pleasure and Ruah through their bodies. Sometimes the man is at a place where his spirit is getting free, but more is needed to bring a deeper sense of innocence. Then I may open more of myself to him. But instead of work, it has become a great pleasure because of the purity of holy Presence,” she said with a smile that held many stories. “And you Mary, how does it go with you? Stories were flying all over the village that you and the Master were married.”

“Yes, it’s true!”

“Ah… he truly is a wise man. And the marriage ceremony? We heard that you just made the whole thing up.” Mary laughed and nodded. Salome sighed. “How I wish I could have been there.”

“Oh my sweet sister, it all happened so fast. We united our bodies in Love, and the next morning we just had to celebrate our joy with all. Before you know it, there was a beautiful celebration lasting many days. Things are like that with the Master: everything can be created new. In truth, the celebration has never ended. It is like I am living in a dream of Love: that all life really is only this. The Master is my lover, and with him I am washed every day in waters that shine. He sees things like a child, and yet flows with a power and wisdom that is older than stars.”

“I can’t imagine what it must be like to be with such a man,” Salome said wistfully.

Mary felt a tender love for her sister and reached out and touched Salome’s cheek. “Well, I fell in love with him because he opened me; and he opens me again and again. This is a great beauty, and I am such a blessed woman, and yet…” she looked down and sighed; then the sadness she felt welled up. “Salome, I can’t stop it!” she said. “I just feel that this path is going to lead us all into great darkness, and I’m afraid… so afraid of losing him again. When we were in Judea we saw a crucified man. It was more horrible than I ever imagined! What if…” and she began weeping.

Salome wiped Mary’s eyes with her scarf, then kissed her cheeks and lips. “Trust the Master,” she said softly.

“But he says things that frighten me.”

“Mary, there is a greater destiny at work here. You know that.”

 “Yes… but oh Salome, I wish I really knew what is going to happen. Jesus seems so happy most of the time. And I do trust him… But…”

“Mary, there is no greater trust than when we face the unknown with our heads held high, for we fear the unknown much more than the known.”

Mary sighed and nodded, then took Salome’s hands. And with her eyes shining with all the tears yet to be cried, she said, “Oh, Salome, I know that if he should die my heart will die with him.”

Salome held her, and rocked her, and let her body speak what her voice could not say.

Chapter 132 — He Is Going To Die - Age 33

The next day Phillip received word from his sister Mary that her husband Lazarus was ill and close to dying. The messenger said to Phillip, “We have been looking for you for two days. Ask your Master to come quickly.” So Jesus and his followers left to see Lazarus, for he lived in Bethany, just an hour east of Jerusalem.

Mary did not go with them. Instead she found Salome and they walked together beyond the walls of the city so they could be alone. Mary found a flat place on a ridge and sat on it, then covered her head with a great white scarf to keep off the sun. Salome gathered some sticks, then put them in the ground and took Mary’s scarf and one of her own and knotted them together to make a small tent. They sat together in its shade and Mary stared blankly out across the desert for a long while. Salome said nothing to disturb her. Then at last Mary whispered hoarsely, “There is no way to stop him. I can see it all happening. He is going to die.”

Salome thought about her words for a while, then turned her eyes on her. “You knew this day would come,” she said. “You are not a vain dreamer. This world cannot hold a soul like his for long.”

Mary looked at her with squinted eyes, studying her face. She always relied on Salome’s brutal honesty, but didn’t want it now. So she blew out breath as if she was a teapot full of steam. “But Salome, what if it ends up all being for nothing?”

“Perhaps it will. Only time will tell: perhaps a very long time. If nothing comes of it this will not be the Master’s fault, but his followers,” she said firmly, and Mary looked at her with questions in her eyes. “Mary, I have seen too much selfish blindness to have much faith in men. What I believe is that no matter what the Master does or does not do, his followers will soon twist his words and ways around and undo everything that has been shown us. Jesus has turned the world around and Love flows out. His followers will soon turn it back. I’m quite sure of it.”

“Oh, Salome… then what is all this happening for?”

“Perhaps some little good from it will endure for generations and help some children in some other land and some other time to believe in Love and in a better world. We cannot know. But if the Master dies, there will be a great temptation for everyone to flee and go back to their old ways. We cannot allow this. We cannot let all the Master has given us come to nothing.”

“What can we possibly do?”

“Who do you trust of the Master’s disciples?”

“You and Abigail, Sarah and Leah… all the sisters.”

“Yes,” she said and smiled, “but I mean of the men.”

“Oh… I don’t know. Not Judas Iscariot. Not Jesus’ brother. He is too young and thinks he understands much more than he really does. Perhaps Peter because he has a big heart, though his mind is not quick. Phillip… but he is not a leader. John and James have much to learn. I’ve never fully trusted Matthew…” her voice trailed off. “I don’t want to think about all this.”

“But you must, Mary. You understand the Master’s heart better than any of us. If what we fear happens, then you must rise up out of your sorrows and stand with them.”

Mary looked at her with unbelieving eyes and shook her head. “This is what Jesus just told me,” she said.

“Perhaps because it’s true. You must Mary. I will stand with you. We must find the strength to strengthen them until they find their way. And if they try to turn things back around we must raise our voices loudly. I know, I know, they are not used to listening to women, but we cannot let all the Master has done be undone. Do you understand?”

Mary nodded. “I don’t think I can cry anymore, Salome,” she said. “Perhaps this is some kind of strength.”

“It has been my strength for years,” Salome replied.

Chapter 146 — A Procession Of Mad Grief - Age 33

Jesus’ face was covered with blood and his eyes swollen almost shut, so the faces of the people looked as if they were reflected in broken glass. His body heaved and shook and he fell down often on his knees. Each time he fell a soldier jerked him back to his feet. He could hear the weeping of women, and saw sorrowful faces come near him then pass as in a dream. He caught glimpses of the sky and the bloody stones beneath him until someone threw himself before him and grasped his face with both his hands. It was Judas Iscariot. The guard allowed it for he took pleasure in the drama and the misery of the people. Judas looked into Jesus’ face, then at the blood on his hands and got up and backed away trembling, then ran screaming into the crowd.

Someone else came near and said, “We believed in you, Master! Why have you betrayed us?” A guard pushed the man by the face out of the way. Jesus struggled to open his eyes, for they were heavy with blood, and he saw a woman who was weeping. She had a child clinging to her breast. The child was too young to know good or evil, so looked at Jesus with innocent eyes as it sucked its mother’s breast. Then Jesus fell again and a hand lifted his face. He looked up and saw that it was John. Jesus struggled to speak, but his lips were fat and heavy. So with great difficulty he said, “Judas, what of Judas?” John said, “He is here. His heart is broken.” Jesus did not know who he meant.

Then Abigail threw her arms around him, weeping and crying out, “My brother! My brother!” but the guard dragged her off and shoved her by the face back into the crowd. Then Jesus saw the face of an angry man and another child, but this one was frightened, and trying to hide. Then it changed into the small, shrunken face of his brother Judas, pale as the moon with glassy eyes gazing up as if he saw nothing. And he was lying in the arms of Leah who looked at Jesus with streaming tears. And he saw the sky again, and a dog that was trying to lick his blood.

Then a trembling hand reached to him and touched his face. It was Mary. He looked at her as if in a dream and whispered, “I have failed you, my Mary.” Her eyes desperately searched his, trying to pierce through the thick veils of pain and touch him. “My Light deceived me,” he said, trying to shake away the blood that ran into his eyes and blinded him. And the guard came, but John’s eyes pleaded and the guard waited for she was clearly his wife. Mary said, “I will love you forever, my love.” And Jesus said thickly, as if drugged or drunk, “I could have had it all.” She shook her head and didn’t understand. Then the guard grabbed Jesus by the back of his robe and dragged him from her. And she let his hair run through her fingers until there was nothing of him in her hands but blood. Then she fell into John’s arms and covered her face with her hands.

They drove him on until he could no longer walk, then threw him in the back of the cart and took him just outside the city gates to the Hill of the Scull, for this was where they executed the criminals of Jerusalem.

Chapter 150 — A Small Gold Light... Daybreak

That night a strong wind blew, and lightning flashed, and thunder shook the city while donkey’s brayed and roosters crowed in the dark, and children climbed into the beds of their mother’s out of fear. The Sanhedrin had posted temple guards in the garden by Jesus’ tomb to keep all but family members away, for they didn’t want the crowds making a martyr of him. The guards had warmed themselves around their fires until the rain came and put the fires out. Then they huddled beneath their blankets, shivering as the rain began to fall with fury until water poured down the face of stone from the Hill of the Skull above them. In the city the streets ran with so much water that no one could pass. Then, as the sky began to gray with dawn, the rain fell so heavily that it could even have been heard deep inside the cave where Jesus’ body lay.

Mary lay close to Salome and listened. She wished with all her heart that she had stayed in the tomb and died in his arms. Now it was too late. The stone was sealed. The rain pounded and poured. Mary felt the ache of her torn arms and loneliness. She lit a lamp with difficulty and looked around. Salome awoke. “What is it, Mary?”

“I think I’m going crazy. I must go to him, now!”

“You can’t go out in this. You can barely walk and will be washed away. Wait till it is light: we will see if you are able and then go together as soon as the rain stops.” Mary sadly nodded, then looked at the tiny flame and saw his bloody face in her mind and heard his words, ‘My Light deceived me.’ She angrily blew out the lamp.

At that very moment a small gold Light began to shine in the darkness of the tomb. It grew in strength, then came and hovered over the body. Then Light reached from Light and moved the linens from his face that was stone gray and blackened with wounds and blood. The Light seemed to be carefully looking at it, as if it wanted to remember this forever. Then the Light came softly down and kissed him on his lips. Color slowly arose within him. And Light shone in his body and grew in brightness. And the Light that kissed him shone more brightly yet. Then Light shone in Light as in two mirrors until the tomb blazed brighter than the sun. And Jesus sat up and looked at his body that was only Light and began to laugh. And the Light laughed with him. He looked and saw a woman’s face smiling at him from the brightness. He said, “I know you! I remember now!”

Outside the tomb the rain suddenly stopped and the guards stirred. One said, “Something is wrong.” Another asked, “What do you mean?” The guard said, “I don’t know. I feel it in my bones as if death was approaching.” The other guard laughed at him. But a third guard said, “I feel it too. Like something terrible is about to happen.”

Suddenly the earth shook violently and rocks rained down from the Hill of the Skull into the garden. And the soldiers clung to the earth and cried for it to pass.

Then the stone before the tomb rolled back and the guards’ faces paled. Wild Innocence walked out laughing — and the Shining Woman came with him!

The guards fled.

Chapter 164 — I Will Always Long For This With You - A New Day


Then Jesus met Mary, and they walked hand in hand down to where old men and women sat in the sun. There were benches by a little square of grass amidst fishing houses next to the sea. The old ones often rested there and watched the people go by as they shared their many memories and wisdom. Jesus and Mary sat with them, and felt the warmth of the sun, and the breeze blowing on their faces and moving their hair. And they watched children go by, and people of all ages, and little donkeys with their carts. Jesus looked at Mary for a long time. Finally he asked, “My Mary, do you regret that we shall not grow old together, and sit one day like this with our grandchildren around our knees?”

She looked tenderly at him, then around at each of the old people’s faces, and saw the children and felt their innocence. Then she turned to him and said, “Yes, of course: no matter how great the good, my heart will always long for this with you. And you, my love, do you also feel a loss?”

He looked up at the sky and drew in a deep breath of the blue and said, “Yes, of course, for I love you, and I love Life and all that’s here. How else can it be? As you have said, my love,” and he touched her nose, then lips, “no matter how great the good, my heart will always long for this with you.” She sat as close to him as she could so they could feel each other breathing.

An old man with a bent back knew who Jesus was. He came over and stood before them, looking carefully to be sure. Then he said loudly, “This is Jesus who was raised from the dead.” And the old ladies looked at him with laughing eyes; and the old men nodded and tapped their canes. Jesus smiled and held Mary’s hand, and just enjoyed their presence for a long while.

Then a little lady, with creased face and clear stars in her dark eyes, came and put her hand on his knee. She looked at him for a few moments; and he looked into her and saw many stories, and much happiness and sorrow, and many people being born and dying… Then he saw all her hopes that came to pass, and many others that never got to be. And she said, “Teach us, Master. You have seen beyond the veil. What is it truly like?”

He smiled and looked at them. Each one was leaning towards him a little and carefully listening. “Never be afraid of death,” he said, “for when it comes you will be young again, and leap up from your bones and truly fly.” They all smiled warmly at him and each other.

One old man with blind eyes said, “And then I will see again.” Another said, “And I will run as fast as wind.” And another, “I will dance again, for I always loved to dance.” And a woman said, “I will kiss the face of Adonay.”

Jesus said, “In that Light, if you just make a wish it will happen. And you can fly as fast as thought beyond the stars if that is where you wish to be. And you shall know that there are worlds within the worlds, for there are no limits to the Abba’s dream. All you have learned here of the ways of Love, and the sorrows we create when we deny them, and all the grief and all the pain you bore, will serve you well when you are truly free. For how can the Abba trust you with such creative power as this unless you know what sadness is born when we turn the truth around and break the mirror of the beauty of his Being?”

An old man said, “Fly as fast as thought beyond the stars? I think I would like to take a ride like that.”

Jesus said, “As sure as death you will.”

They laughed together. And some children heard their laughter and came and sat upon their laps, for they loved the old grandfathers and grandmothers. And many sat with Jesus and Mary who looked at them and each other and sweetly dreamed. Then Jesus blessed the children, and each of the old ones, and finally he touched the blind man’s eyes and said, “Just a little more of this darkness that creates your love of Light.” And the old man nodded, for it is never wise to take from a soul its chosen way.

Then Jesus and Mary walked up the cobbled road with many children following, like they were their own that would be born… and live with them forever.


Pio and Lilly

This is the story of a magical, musical monk of a man named Pio, and a wild woman-child named Lilly, who was raised by birds and animals and is twice as free as them all. It takes place in Provence, France, sometime before the industrial revolution, when humans still lived in harmony with the sun and moon and rhythms of Nature. It is a lyrical story, fully celebrating the mystery of life in a multi-dimensional Universe full of astonishing beauty and wonders. Though Lilly is free of fear regarding all the creatures of sky, earth and sea, she is deathly afraid of mankind. Pio, on the other hand, is full of compassionate love for humanity, and as he grows in amazement at the beauty of Lilly's innocence and magical relationship with all of nature, he is gifted with the ability to heal the sick who come to him for help. As his love for Lilly grows, so do Pio’s fears of losing her and of betraying his spiritual path. Pio's obvious call to serve people, and Lilly's hatred of them finally drive them apart until the day both Pio and Lilly meet the very heart of darkness and the true reason for the deepest fears of their lives.

Chapter 1 PIO BEGINS HIS TALE (first part)



The afternoon was summer sweet, the Provencal heat just right, with a wind blowing gently wild and cool. Upon the veranda, at her loom, Lilly’s slim fingers plucked the yarn and moved the shuttle through. Her blue eyes were as peaceful as the French sky. Two children from the village sat by her, their eyes as big and open as their hearts.

”Lilly, may I try?” Jenny asked. ”I want to weave. Lilly, please let me.” Lilly put her hand on Jenny’s head to quiet her.

”Lilly, let me try. You always let others…” Lilly put her finger on Joshua’s lips and he stopped.

She swept some of her yellow hair away from her eyes and looked at them like a dove gazing down on young trees. She smiled, and started to say, ”Of course, children, you may each try…” when she noticed the old pendulum clock. It was one o’clock.

”Oh children, I must go,” she said quickly. “It’s my time to be with the wind and the wild things of the woods.”

Joshua frowned. ”Lilly, why do you have to go to the woods every day by yourself? I want to go with you.”

Jenny came close to Lilly. ”Yes, take me with you. Please Lilly, please,” she pleaded, hopping up and down as she spoke.

”Children. You know I can’t.” She looked over to Pio who was listening to them from the garden. Her eyes spoke, `Help me Pio.’ He felt her eyes and looked up.

”You are just being selfish. You never take anyone with you. I want to go!” Josh said, folding his arms stubbornly across his chest.

”Please Lilly, you shouldn’t be so mean,” Jenny said, taking hold of Lilly’s hands.

”Yeah. I bet you’re just afraid we’ll spoil whatever you do out there! What is it you do, anyway? Some kind of magic you don’t want anyone to see? We want to know,” Josh almost shouted.

Lilly stood up. Her face was tense.

Pio, who had been on his knees pulling weeds between rows of radishes, stood up. He looked intently at Lilly, his eyes alive with concern. He walked over, wiping mud from his stubby fingers onto his white apron. Placing his hand on her shoulder he said quietly, ”Lilly, it’s all right. I’ll take care of this.” Then turning to the children he spoke loudly with laughter in his voice, ”You little scalawagaly children, peace be upon you now, or the bottom of Pio’s boot!” Jenny had folded her arms like Josh and they both were scowling.

Lilly watched Pio with questions in her eyes.

”Go on now,” Pio said. ”Be our freedom. You know the world needs you to keep your time of wildness. Go, the angels and animals are waiting for you.” He moved aside the lock of her hair that was always slipping over her forehead and smiled. Lilly stared at him for a moment, then closed her eyes and stood in silence, listening.

Pio leaned against the veranda post and twirled his fingers in his beard. He knew not to disturb her when she was listening, so he just watched her intently, as if he was seeing her beauty for the first time.

Lilly was slightly taller than Pio, tall and lithe. She was wearing a white summer dress that caught small breaths of breezes and lived upon them, swirling all around her. Her long, sun-gold hair always seemed to be full of the wind, tossing and whirling every way––alive with the electric energy of her life. Her face was oval and had the clear beauty of those angels Botticelli used to paint on old church walls. Her nose, thin and gently pointed, was wonderfully French.

Lilly opened her eyes and looked at Pio for a moment. He had a concerned, yet slightly amused expression on his face. She half-smiled at him. Pio smiled warmly back at her as her eyes touched his. He loved her eyes: he loved the light of them looking upon him. Her large, round eyes were liquid in their clarity and constantly mirrored the most subtle light and color around her.

She closed her eyes again and wrapped herself more deeply in her silent listening. When Lilly listened, she held the silence of a stone, and when she moved, she moved like a joyous deer. There was nothing halfway about her. All she did, right or wrong, she did as an impulsive child would—-with all her heart.

The children started to make a fuss and Pio put his finger to his lips with a stern look. They sank back into their scowls and waited.

Pio was a short, burly man. To see his face gave one an altogether roundish feeling, being that his nose was round and ruddy, his cheeks chubby round and sun-red, and his reddish beard broadly round and quite soft. His eyes, well crinkled at the corners, were round as well, and always sparkling with light––like stars hid just behind their blue clarity. His head, which was often covered with a big, floppy straw hat, was bald on top, but the sides were covered with a thick, curly thatch of hair that twisted over his ears and tumbled down to the top of his shoulders. Admittedly, he looked somewhat like a young Santa Claus––a rough, earthy version of him perhaps, but definitely elfish. He was the most beloved man in the whole region.

Lilly suddenly opened her eyes and threw her arms around Pio, hugging him close to her. She glanced over at the two sulking children who refused to look up at her, shook her head a bit sadly, then abruptly bounded out through the gate, over a stone bridge and disappeared into the trees.

Pio watched her run as if he were watching a gazelle leaping over a tree. He seemed lost in that mysterious place where poet’s dreams are born. Drawing in a deep breath, he blew it out slowly through his nostrils towards the sky. Then he turned to Jenny and Josh and gathered them into his arms.

”Come children,” he said,  “I know you’re disappointed. I have also wished to run with Lilly over that stone bridge to find out where the wind comes from and where it goes––but that can’t be. This is the time of her aloneness; the time of her freedom. And do you think I would have it any other way? No, no, not I, children. Come, sit with me and let me tell you a story that I love: the story of how Pio met his Lilly; the story of her wildness and of her birth into the world of men. Sometimes, the greatest stories are the true ones, and once you hear my story children, you won’t envy Lilly for her freedom.” He touched each child on the tip of their nose with his finger as he spoke, and then extended his hands to them.

Jenny, being four, and more easily swayed than her twelve-year-old brother, put her hand in Pio’s. Josh paused in thought for a moment, and then looked up. Seeing Pio’s eyes full of merriment, he relented, but grunted out his disapproval as he did, then walked with Pio to the table. Pio pulled up his large wicker chair and Jenny climbed up into his lap. Josh sat down on a chair beside them and stared down at the veranda tiles, sullen, but willing to listen.

Pio filled his curved pipe with tobacco, leaned back, gave Jenny a squeeze, and began his story…

Chapter 1 PIO BEGINS HIS TALE (2nd part)

”It has been a few years now, children, before you were born Jenny, almost as long ago as the time of Joshua’s birth.” Pio said in his warm, raspy voice––a very proper voice for poetry and story telling as Lilly often said. “I was a priest, a monk, as you know, assigned to these southern parts of France. How I loved to walk the open fields, talking with the farm workers and taking meals with their families when the occasion arose. I savored my work: visiting the sick, telling tales to the village children, breaking the blessed bread and wine and speaking of holy grace to all who would listen.

”I was in love with Provence and most of Provence knew it. It was beautiful in all its seasons. Who could help but love it. Ah. Spring! Lovely and fresh; cloaked with the white lace of the almond and the merriness of cherry blossoms. How can we be glum in spring? I’d cry out to the farmers as they turned the soft soil. It’s lush in the blood and in the brain my friends, I’d sing out to those I met on the roads.” Josh and Jenny looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. They knew they were in for a long story when Pio started right off waxing eloquent.

”Did you talk in funny ways even then?” Josh asked.

”Well, I did speak a little plainer before God’s poetry got a full hold on me. I was more of a practical, methodical man in those days. Actually, I probably said something like, isn’t spring wonderful? We should all be happy. It’s beautiful and the weather feels great. Entirely lacking in imagination. A happy simpleton was what I was,” Pio said with a twinkle in his eyes, ”But I could feel something wondrous stirring in me. The music was there, but I hadn’t quite yet found the words for it.”

Josh and Jenny looked at each other again. Josh folded his arms and sank into his chair with a frown. Jenny wrinkled her nose and giggled. Pio was oblivious to their expressions. He was drifting back into the poetry and poignancy of his memories.

”They were lush springs indeed children, when the washing of rain filled the whole region with wild flowers. Then after spring came the summer’s savory smells of lavender, honey and thyme, when the wild rose bushes trembled with birds and drooped beneath the weight of their blossoms. How I loved all that sunny busyness, abundant with tomatoes and garlic and the smell of fresh bread. In the midst of it, I would most often be found sloshing a coat of whitewash on a church building, or helping farmers tend to their fields––that is, if I wasn’t hunting for sea shells on some sea shore.”

Pio laughed. ”Then, after the peaches had long since grown golden and apples were reddening on the trees, autumn would roll in with its grape harvests, and the cold Mistral winds would howl down out of the north to re-sharpen our summer-drowsy senses. And finally, children, after the last grapes were cut and the harvest celebrated, winter’s winds would drive the sap deep into the roots and rest would roll once more over Provence. Ah, winter, that was my favorite time of all: rough, cold, austere––a time well spent settling down for hours in front of a pinewood fire with a good book in your lap.

“Yes,” Pio said, savoring his memories, ”That was my season for reflection, studying the stars, and music, philosophy and the holy books.” Pio looked over at Josh who was staring down at the table and running his fingers around in circles on the wood.

Josh sighed, ”What about Lilly, Pio? When are you going to tell us about Lilly?” he said without looking up.

Pio cleared his voice and said with authority, ”Patience my boy, I’m just setting the stage.” Pio scrunched his body around in the chair and glanced down at Jenny, who had already forgotten her sulkiness and was gazing up into his face, enrapt, as little children often are at story time. He gave her another squeeze.

All the children in the area were well used to Pio’s ‘poetic rhapsodies and fits of philosophizing,’ as the older ones called them––but they loved him anyway. Unperturbed, Pio squinted his eyelids together to better concentrate on his memories.

”Children,” Pio went on, his voice swelling, ”My life was good. I desired little and had need of nothing. Those were happy years, years that felt round and complete. Not to say there weren’t also troubles and hardships. It takes many ingredients to make a good pot of Pistou, aye Josh?” Pio said with a wink. Josh didn’t look up. ”Yes children, Provence had its dark side too. There were some shadowed folk with harsh ways, some evil spell weavers and the like. I felt they were mostly harmless, though villagers more than once had swore that this ailment or that misfortune was the ill will of one of those dark, troubled ones. And there were those who, for their own sad reasons, treated a man of the cloth as if he bore some disease inside his brown robes rather than God’s good will. But how could I complain, for the good always seemed to bear more weight than the bad. To me, life was as big as the starry sky and full of a rare beauty––or so I thought. But now I know that I had never known true beauty before I met her.”

”You mean you’re going to finally tell us about Lilly?” Josh said.

Pio paid him no mind. ”I had heard stories of her for several years,” he continued. ”The folk who lived nearest the sea seemed to know the most about her. `There is a strange, beautiful creature who lives alone in the forests. She’s wild as the northern winds,’ they would say, `More spirit than human. Perhaps a sprite, or a spirit of the trees.’ An old fisherman I knew told me he had often seen her along the shore by the eastern cliffs as he pulled his nets in the early morning light. `She roams the forest alone, Pio,’ he said. `Along the seacoast she goes, singing the language of the earth and sky to the birds and beasts. They are her companions. They’re always with her: deer, pheasants, rabbits––even foxes and bears. And the sea creatures also know her songs. I’ve seen dolphin ride the waves in to her feet. I’ve seen the green-backed mackerel boil the waters before her, leaping up to be touched by her hands. Beware, Pio! I’m warning you. Stay away from her lest you be bewitched by the spell she weaves.’

”In the inland villages many of the people believed she was a sorceress, a dark one to be feared, a ghost from forgotten eras before the Holy Lord came down to the world. Others felt she was not magical at all, but merely mad, a helpless lunatic lost from humanity in her own strange dreams. `We caught her stealing from our fruit trees,’ a farmer told me. `She’s a dirty little creature,’ his wife said, `More animal than human, creeping about at night with the owls and wolves—a cursed child. You pray for her, Father.’ Yet a few of the people believed she was a blessed spirit, even an angel of God, an omen of good. `She’s awfully beautiful, Pio. No one that beautiful can be evil,’ a young farm boy said.

”When I first heard of her, I thought these were just fanciful tales invented by simple folk who live close to the roots of things, but as I heard of her from more and more people, I recognized in the voices of the tellers that urgency characteristic of a true witness. So, I soon came to believe that there was such an enchanted woman, and in believing, felt that one day God would have me find her, that He was asking me to seek her soul for Him. So at the end of my third winter in Provence, as the cold began yielding to spring, I began my search.

Chapter 1 PIO BEGINS HIS TALE (3rd part)

”Lilly was wild all right,” Pio said, leaning his head back against the chair and looking up dreamily into the sky. ”The tales were true enough. She was wilder than the Mistral winds. I found her late one afternoon. It had been a dreary day, and the sun was just beginning to break through. She was dancing on top of a high cliff overlooking the sea. I caught sight of her from a distance and my heart pounded. Her yellow hair looked like a little shard broken off the sun and dropped down to earth. I made my way toward her slowly, as quietly as I could, keeping well out of sight, and when I got close enough I hid behind a large rock to watch. For the first time I saw what the old women had called her magic. It was a spell of innocence and beauty. I watched her for a long time. She was young, and though a woman, seemed like a child. `How could such a lovely creature be anything but good?’ I thought. Her hair was tangled full of grasses and flowers; her limbs were long and lean like a doe’s; her white dress was dirty; and her face, which could have used a good washing too, was like an angel’s. The way she moved caught my mind in a spell. She seemed to be dancing to the movements of winds I couldn’t feel and music I couldn’t hear. I saw her eyes: they were blue like the sea and as alert as a fawn’s––yet something in them troubled me. Oh, they held a child’s innocence all right, but I glimpsed something else, some cold, shadowy thing darting around in the back of them.

”What happened next Pio? How did you meet her?” asked Jenny impatiently, pulling on his shirtfront. Pio put his hand gently on her head.

”She danced slowly and gracefully, Jenny, until the sun was nearly set. I watched her in silence until many birds, deer and other creatures came.”

”Like they come to her now?” she asked.

”In just the same way. They had no fear of her, but acted as if she was their own. They had come to watch her dance and to join with her, each in their own way. The birds flew to her hands when she lifted them; deer and rabbits bounded around her as she danced in circles on the grass; a hawk glided down and hovered just above her until she reached up and touched its breast. Fear and awe mingled in my heart. Who was she? Was she enacting the rites of ancient dark spirits? Was she a spell caster of the fallen ones after all? Who could have such mastery over the powers of Creation but a sorceress… or a saint?

”Night was approaching and she would soon be gone, so I knew I had to take a chance and reveal myself. Since it was time for my evening prayers, I climbed on top of the rock and took out the little flute I carried to accompany my devotions. At the sound of the first note, she spun around, startled, and her eyes emptied in fear. The animals and birds scattered everywhere. Crying the shrill cry of a wounded rabbit, she ran into the forest.”

Josh scraped his chair back on the veranda and put his hands firmly on his hips. ”Pio, didn’t you know she would run away? I would have known that,” he said angrily.

”Yes, Josh, I had guessed that she would run away, but she seemed like such a child. I hoped that her curiosity would draw her back.” Josh seemed satisfied with Pio’s answer and sat down again. ”I stayed there on the rock through the twilight, playing my flute and singing to the Holy One. She came back all right. I sensed her watching me from the shadows. So I jumped off the rock and wove her a little crown of flowers which I set on the grass where she had danced; then I continued to sing my evening prayers as was my custom, knowing the outcome was altogether in the Lord’s hands. If she was a witch, I would seek her salvation, but if she was of the Holy Maker, then I had much to learn from her.”



The tender, light green leaves of spring had grown tough and dark as Pio traveled back to the woods where he had left her. He was determined to wait until he saw her again, even if it took all summer. Finally, she came to him. Perhaps it was the birds that told her where he was.

Late one afternoon, as Pio walked along a forest path, she quietly stepped out from behind an oak tree and gazed at him. She wore a crown of pale reeds pressed down upon her hair and was perfumed with pine and crushed grass. Pio raised his hand cautiously in greeting. She appeared fragile to him. A child of the forest somehow lost in her forest home. The spell of her innocence and beauty swept over him again, and in the light of her presence his fears were crowded back into the shadows of his heart. She said nothing, but just stared at him, her eyes wide open with curiosity. A large hawk with brown feathers and a swath of white speckles on its breast landed in the tree. The bird brooded above them, looking down first at her, then at Pio with glaring eyes.

A squirrel scampered up the tree trunk and leaped into her arms. She stroked it without thought, still gazing at Pio. She seemed full of questions, but would not ask them. Then, just as Pio was about to speak, she turned and walked away. The hawk leapt out and sailed through the trees above her. Its wings made a wind that stirred the leaves.


 Pio set up camp in a small clearing and established his morning and evening ritual of prayers and readings. He knew he must be patient and continue praying that she would speak with him again. During the day he took long walks, thinking, smoking his pipe, and listening to the forest voices. She had come and gone as she willed, at times silently watching him from a distance through the trees. Pio came to know whenever she was watching him: the air filled with birds, and sometimes a little stir of ocean breeze ruffled the grass at his feet.

On the third day, Pio wove a crown of flowers and feathers and left it for her on a tree stump near his camp. She took it, leaving nothing in return. On the fifth day he left her a colorful bracelet of orange and purple berries and a small leather-bound book of prayers. Again, she took his gifts and left nothing in return. But on the seventh day he found a gift from her of a deer’s antler and a weaving of willows. Pio crossed himself and sang prayers of thanks until noon.

It was on the eighth day that the great change came. Pio saw her across a meadow, running up and down in a stream, playing with a raccoon. The air around her was thick with bees and darting swallows. He cried out to her ”Lilly, daughter of the wind, I want to understand your ways and listen to the forest voices with you. Please teach me. I will never harm you.”

She looked up, fierce with dignity, and said, ”Yes!” From that day on she began to be with him.


 Early the next morning Lilly came through the trees with wildflowers in her hands and shyly greeted him. She offered him the flowers and he gave her one of his poems.



I saw a love made free from fear

that held all wild things safe and near

within a world of flowing light

I name the marriage feast of life—

there Love’s the Bridegroom,

a child’s His wife.

And he who’s witnessed this surprise

believes in miracles––now with ease––

for light comes flowing down like oil,

all wet and golden in its toil.

How warm, how young, this mystery,

of ancient earth and sky and sea.


She studied the paper and the strange markings upon it with a certain curiosity, but asked no questions, satisfied with this gift she did not understand.

They spent the morning walking together. She was wary and he was timid. Not much was said. For Pio it was enough to just feel her presence, to watch her movements, to see the expressions of cautious curiosity and joy he aroused within her. The birds, as usual, were all around her. They always startled her with delight. She never seemed to get used to them or take them for granted. One landed on her head, its feet tangling in her hair as it fought for footing. It brought peals of laughter from her that she suppressed, glancing quickly over at Pio.

Slowly, enough trust grew between them that a more natural freedom began to emerge. By afternoon she felt surer of him and began humming strange little tunes as they walked: combinations of bird songs and lullabies. She led him to a high ridge where they sat and watched the sky for falcons and harriers.

Pio took it all in. The light had not dimmed. Creation was alive with it. Words kept tumbling into his heart: old words, alive and new. ‘Holy, holy, holy… the whole earth is filled with His glory.’

During the next few days she led him to secluded little grottoes in the trees where the deer hid at noon, and showed him the bear’s places of berries and the boar’s places of roots. Pio, being mainly of leather and brass, often tramped through the foliage like an old oak tree uprooted, frightening the partridges and the hares. She, being of sunlight and feathers, bounded ahead of him like spray on the water, her footsteps like silver bells calling the animals home.

They slid down a soft, moist bank. Lilly stopped, and climbed back up to a large clump of grass. She motioned for Pio, who with no little work, grunted up the steep hill. Lilly put her ear to the grass, listening, then whispered, ”Pushqua, little brother. It is Lilly.”

The grass swelled, then broke open as a mole thrust his tiny head out. Lilly kissed her finger and touched the mole’s trembling nose. Pio stared at her in silence. She encouraged him with her eyes and he gently put forth his hands. The mole drew back suddenly, the grass closing neatly around it as if he had only been a passing apparition. Lilly laughed and scampered down the bank. Pio followed, slipping and sliding part of the way down on his rear.

She leapt over the stones in the bottom of a canyon and bent down next to a small stream. Pio caught up and knelt beside her. She was listening again. Gently she put her hands into the shadowed waters and let her fingers flutter over the sleek bodies of trout that were half hidden amongst the curved grasses. She motioned to him and Pio rolled up his sleeve and slowly reached down. His thick hands made the fish scatter.

”Why, Lilly? Why do they come to your fingers without fear?”

She smiled with an impish grin. ”Lilly’s language.”

”Language? But I didn’t hear you speak to them?”

”Animals hear, fish hear, the beautiful birds hear Lilly. It is the language of her silence and her song.”

It was true. Her silence was so profound at times as to be almost audible. It was an emanation of the lack of busyness within her heart. It was a focused quiet, like sunlight in a mirror. Her song was her being.

In contrast, Pio felt the terrible noisy weight of himself in her presence. He heard his heavy breath whistling through his nostrils, his thunderous feet scuffing up the leaves and breaking the brush, his rough robe rustling, his heart beating louder when she drew near. He felt like a hippopotamus taking walks with an antelope, and it made him shy. But she would laugh when he stumbled, or startled pheasants, or when he shrunk back from a snake on a stone, and her laughter held kindness, not ridicule.

Pio’s heart was tender and her spirit was taking him into its gentle hands. The odor of wild lavender emanated from her body and soul and her words made him drunk with light.

”Come Pio. Mallque, ooshala, ouwaaly. Be light upon the stones—they are old and hold memories. Be gentle upon the fallen twigs—for they were once young and grew wildly. Be tender with the beautiful trees. Listen! They share their secrets gladly. Feel them now, growing slowly, slowly… The wind, like tumbling waters, sings through their leaves.”

It was the drunkenness of light that began to loose the music in him towards her and swallow up his last shyness like a flame drinks dry the oil in a lamp. He was eager to learn all he could about her and to share with her all that had happened to him since they had parted. Words full of clouds and sea spaces, rivers and wind, feathers of swans and the sharp cries of wolves filled his mind and began to spill off his tongue––words that seemed closest to her own, often mysterious, language.




Lilly lead him to a little waterfall. The day was hot and Pio let the icy water spill on his head. He brushed out his beard with his fingers.

”Oh lukoo,” Lilly exclaimed, ”Pio’s beard swells like goose down.” She sniffed him and laughed, rubbing his beard lightly with her hands in the same way she would calm a nervous rabbit. ”And it feels soft as foam.” Pio pulled away and looked at her shyly.

“Pio smells as men should smell, of sweet herbs and animals.”

He laughed. ”Perhaps Pio should not stay too long with Lilly. I might turn into a wild bear who no longer loves man’s world.”

”The world of men is evil!” Lilly said soberly.

Pio looked at her. There was suddenly something dark in her voice, like the shadows he noticed in the back of her eyes when he first saw her. It took him by surprise. He was growing accustomed to the laughter of streams in her voice––these tones came from musty holes beneath tree roots. He slipped the leather satchel from his shoulder and laid it on the ground. Opening it, he took out a knife, an onion, a half loaf of bread, two bee’s wax candles, his tobacco pouch and pipe, a little jar of honey and at last, from its resting place on the bottom of the bag, down at the foundation of things, his well-worn Bible.

Lilly quickly opened the jar of honey and put her fingers into it, then picked up the Bible. ”What is this, Pio?” she asked, ruffling open its pages as she licked her fingers, her voice brightened by the honey.

“This is my holy book.”

“Holy book? Lilly does not read man’s books. Lilly reads stars and trees and fields.”

Pio smiled and took the book from her. “Lilly, I want tell you what has happened to me since I first met you.”

”Good! Tell Lilly now,” she said happily.

”Well, the story is about Pio’s God and the world of men…”

”No! Lilly will not listen to such things,” she shouted and stood up abruptly. ”Lilly has told Pio, men are evil! That is why Lilly hides far from them forever––like Lilly’s hawk and the eagles.” She stomped over to the brook and washed her hands in it, then wiped them hard on the grass. Pio raised his eyebrows, surprised at the vehemence of her reply.

”Lilly, please listen to me. You have no idea what I have to say,” he said rather forcefully.

She looked carefully at his face. There was no anger in it. She sat down on the grass and gazed up at him, waiting. Pio nodded, satisfied, and continued.

”After I met you I returned to my work amongst the people, traveling from town to town the way I always do, but everything had changed.”

“Changed, Pio?

“Yes. At times, light shone out of everything. The sky rained light. The rocks sang. Chairs, tables, beds sang! I walked in the streets, children shouted Hosanna without a sound. Light leapt out of my fingers. Sick people were healed.”


Lilly smiled. ”Oooo. Pio is talking Lilly-words,” she said softly.

”Yes, of course, Lilly-words,” Pio said. “You know, so many images flood through me at times, and it’s like they’re hunting for words. The words flow out as the images flow in.”

“Yes, that’s like Lilly talk. Tell more.”

Pio nodded, then held out his Bible like you would hold a loaf of bread amongst the poor. ”Pio’s holy book has long spoken to the people. I was taught certain ways to understand this book, and words to speak of it We were taught laws, rules, warnings, but now, what I read seems more like wind blowing through the pages, or water spilling, or fire! Am I awakening to the music Lilly hears in the sea and trees? Is this the music singing to her in silence so that when she speaks, her words sail like seeds on the wind?”

He began rocking as he spoke. ”Lilly’s words drift down into the meadows to rest deep within the hole of the mouse and the burrow of the badger. I watch your words with the eyes of my heart. The meaning of their music dances with images that make my soul sing with light!” Pio threw his arms up as he spoke, as if he were throwing himself into the sky. ”As Pio’s soul sings so does his holy book open up more of its music. It seems to be singing to the people to wake up; to be the music of love. Water is pouring once more from the stone.”

”Ooo-ul quaa,” Lilly shouted with joy, feeling the rhythm of Pio’s words as a fish feels currents pulsating over its body in a stream. ”Pio’s silence sings! Kweeee! Bekaaah.” She danced around. ”Now beautiful animals shall speak from their silence, `Pio, Pio,’ and their hoots and haas ring with the meaning that wind-words sing.”

”I long to learn all the language Lilly knows,” Pio said joyously, ”That brings the deer, the birds, and… and has brought this light.”

Lilly was spinning around laughing, and waving her hands at the sky. Pio watched her for a few moments, and then began slowly, clumsily, to imitate her. He opened his arms wide, wiggling his fingers. He was laughing too. A swallow spun down and landed on his head.

And so it went. Pio’s musical birth had begun.




Pio was not alone in the swift currents of change. Lilly was filled continually with deep stirrings and shifts of heart and spirit. In Pio’s presence she felt as if owls beat around hidden rooms in her soul. Pio considered himself oafish in her presence, but to Lilly he cast his own robust spell: for when Pio smiled, he smiled with his whole body, and when he laughed, he shimmied and shook with a joy that was infectious. He was of iron and earth, white sails, sea spray and clouds, bird’s nests and unknown lands. Wave after wave of newness was sweeping through her. She couldn’t stop it, being lifted in the power of it, not knowing where it was carrying her. All that she knew was that this gentle, joyous little man was changing her life forever.


It grew stormy during the night and Pio awoke more than once to the sound of rain crackling like fire on the leaves. He awoke at dawn to the piercing cry of a hawk high overhead and peered out from under his lean-to of leafy branches. It was a gray and fog lay heavily in the trees. The forest was drenched. He felt a strange eeriness that prickled his skin.

Lilly did not come at her regular time. Pio waited and prayed as uneasiness grew within him. The hawk circled back over and its shrill scream startled Pio. He lay quietly, holding his breath and listening, until he was jolted upright by gunshots which rumbled through the air and shook the trees. Pio’s heart chilled with fear. Confused thoughts tumbled through his mind and he tried to clear them away. He had never been with Lilly to her home in the forest. How could he find her? He knew she came every morning from the east––the direction of the shots! He gathered his robe up and ran into the forest.

A flock of sparrows swirled down around him. Pio couldn’t tell if they were following him or leading the way. In a burst of spray he crashed through the low branches of a tree, then halted before a dense thicket of underbrush. There was no way through. The hawk cried out again, to the north. Pio turned and followed its voice. He ran along a narrow game trail that followed the edge of the thicket until he came to a meadow. On the far side of it he could see the dark figure of a man. He was bent over looking at something. Pio stopped to catch his breath. He closed his eyes and felt the pain of his soul. The shadow of the hawk crossed the meadow. Pio looked up. He had to know what he was afraid to know. His feet were like heavy stones that he drug as quickly as he could through the mud and high grass.

The man looked up as he heard Pio approaching. He had a gun cradled in his arm and at his feet lay a bleeding deer. It was dead. Pio walked over and stared at the deer, both relieved and saddened. Neither man spoke until a boy ran out of the trees. He too had a rife in his hands.

”Did you see what it was?” the man asked rather gruffly.

”No Papa,” the boy answered rather tentatively, then turned and looked at Pio, waiting for someone to speak.

”What, Padre, have you never seen a dead deer?” the hunter asked, then pulled out his knife and stuck the tip of it into the deer’s soft belly.

Pio said nothing, but bent over with his hands on his knees, staring with glassy eyes at the deer, trying to catch his breath. A strong smell of wet wool and leather arose from the hunter. The boy was fidgeting around. Pio looked up at him. He appeared to be around 15 years old, scrawny, ears too big for his thin face, one eye slightly larger than the other. He appeared to be bursting with something he wanted to say. Pio raised his eyebrows, as if to encourage him to speak. It didn’t take long.

”Well, actually, I saw something,” he blurted out. ”It was a woman, Papa! I am sure of it. I saw her yellow hair through the trees.” Pio was startled by his words and snapped straight up. He walked to the boy and laid his hand on his shoulder.

”Where was she, son? Where did she go?”

The boy pulled back from Pio. ”She looked like a pretty wild lady. Not the kind of woman a priest should be chasing after,” he said rudely, then glanced over to his father who was now pulling rolls of steaming pink intestines out onto the wet grass.

Without looking up the father said, ”Answer the Priest.”

The boy set the butt of his rifle on the ground and leaned in a cocky manner on the top of the barrel. He was old enough to have the shadow of a beard on his face and sourness in his soul. He smirked at Pio, toying with this strange priest who hunted woman. ”She looked like good game Padre. Had nice long legs. Ran fast.”

Pio felt anger rise up within him and with it an urge to rattle this boy’s brains with a swipe of his open palm. He took a deep breath, trying to let the impulse pass.

”Answer the Priest, Dominic!” the hunter said again, this time looking up from his work with a cold sternness in his eyes. The boy got the message.

”She ran along a game trail that breaks through the thicket up ahead––holy Padre!” The boy tossed his head in the direction, emphasizing the last two words with an annoying clarity.

Pio looked hard at the boy, still deciding whether to cuff him or not. The flock of sparrows that had settled in the trees overhead, swooped down and wove off in the direction the boy had motioned. Pio looked once more at the boy, felt his soul soften and said rather somberly, ”Bless you, son.”

The boy smirked and said, ”Bless you too Padre. Good hunting.”

Pio grimaced, shook his head and ran after the birds. He following them until they started chirping loudly and swirled down around a small opening in the thicket. He plunged through, the dense brush bruising and scratching him as he worked his way up a long steep bank. All the time he climbed, his fear for her grew. At the top he fell on his knees, panting for breath. He was on a ridge overlooking a vast wooded valley. The birds alit in the trees above him.

”Where? Where?” Pio shouted to them, then whispered, ”Christ, in your mercies lead me to her!” He waited again, listening to the rapid sound of his heartbeat. A sudden breeze swept up the canyon, spilling over the ridge. Pio turned his face to it and tried to loose his anxieties into the rivers of air. The trees sounded full of sea waves, and their music began to sooth his mind.

”Trust God, Pio!” he said aloud to himself. ”She’s all right!”

Suddenly the underbrush to the south of him shook and crackled with the sounds of snapping branches. It startled him. He knew that only something immensely strong and oblivious to pain could crash through that thick tangle of sticks and thorns. A rough, deep grunting mixed with high gargling squeals rang out. Pio opened his arms and eyes wide, waiting. The brush shook violently once more and a huge wild boar burst out. Seeing Pio, it snorted up the morning air and sprayed it back out its nostrils with disgust. It stood, huffing and glaring at Pio, steaming and bristling. Its dull brain seemed to be wrestling with instincts. Should it eat this Pio thing for breakfast or not? Pio waited, resigned to the boar’s decision. It pawed the ground and twisted its head, flashing its curved yellowed tusks. Its beady eyes seemed to flare with light for a moment; then with one more wet snort, it spun around and scrambled up a narrow path that lay beyond it.

Pio continued to kneel with his arms wide open. His heart was beating rapidly. Thoughts flooded his mind about how a few minutes before he had wrestled with his own instinct to swat the insolent boy and was thankful that both he and the boar had chosen mercy. He looked up into the sky and asked, ”Lord, is that boar a sign of your direction? Well, nothing to do but trust,” he mumbled to himself as he struggled to his feet and ran up the path after it. The birds followed.

He followed the path along the ridge until it came to the top of a rise. The birds swarmed down around him, bobbing and weaving in the air, chirping with excitement. On the far side of the rise the path widened and led down to a grove of tall ash trees. Underneath them was a round hut of woven rushes tucked in a hollow between three trunks. Long dried grasses thickly thatched a small roof. ”Lilly, Pio cried. Lilly!” He heard the sound of quiet crying. The sparrows alit on the branches around a small door.

Pio crashed through it. Lilly was crouched against the back wall, holding herself, huddled like a baby, weeping. Pio crawled over next to her. She turned to him and held him.

”Lilly. Lilly,” Pio said softly, holding and rocking her. ”What’s happened to you? I heard the gun shots.”

”Men are evil Pio! They kill Lilly’s family. They kill her animal friends. Lilly hates men,” she screamed, ”Lilly hates men! They hurt Lilly. They hurt Lilly!”

Pio held her for a long time until she quieted. The cry of the hawk rang out again and she suddenly glared at Pio and pushed him away. She turned her back to him and rolled herself again into a little ball. Pio started to put his hand on her shoulder but hesitated and pulled back.

He went outside and waited for a long time, watching the hawk circle high above, then followed the ridge to a grassy spot. He walked around in a circle, slowly picking some little blue flowers, then sat down to weave them together.

”Lord, I don’t understand her pain,” he prayed. “It’s your love that heals the human heart. Heal her, Lord. Heal Lilly.”

Pio waited all day, walking back and forth occasionally between the meadow and her house. The hawk had landed in one of the ash trees and remained there, glaring down at him. Pio put the little crown of flowers he had woven in front of her door. Lilly didn’t come out. As the sun sank low in the trees he went back through the forest to his camp. The hawk’s cry echoed through the trees.



The next day Pio started back to their camp. He got a ride on a farm cart and then the back of a mule to the base of the Massif. It was a hard climb up the mountain and his knee throbbed with every step. He found himself leaning harder on his walking stick as the day wore on. That night he slept under a scrub oak half way up. It was early afternoon the next day by the time he reached camp. Lilly was sitting high in a tree with the hawk beside her. She climbed down and greeted him rather coldly, noticing his limp, but not asking him about it. The hawk remained in the tree above the camp, the speckled feathers of its breast ruffled by the sea breeze. Pio glanced up at it with a scowl.

They talked little that afternoon. Lilly kept walking off into the forest then nervously returning. The hawk would leave its post in the tree to circle high above her until she returned, then would settle back into the branches. Pio rested, exhausted and sore.

That night, as Pio cooked some of the provisions he had brought, Lilly asked him what was wrong with his leg.

”I fell while crossing a stream.”

”Pio is like an ox,” she said simply.

”We can’t all flit from stone to stone like sparrows,” Pio said and handed her some bread.

”Pio is like a clumsy ox. He doesn’t walk lightly in his heart. He crushes flowers with his heavy feet,” Lilly said, her eyes beginning to burn with anger. ”And what about Pio’s work? Did Pio’s God bless the people, or was He angry at Pio for loving Lilly?”

”Yes, God blessed the people, in spite of me. He healed a little girl of her sickness.”

”Oh, so the holy Maker is not angry with Pio after all? Well then, why is Pio so angry?”

”I’m not angry,” Pio said.

”Pio is angry. His anger burns at Lilly. He shames Lilly,” she shouted, then threw her bread into the fire and ran over to a pine tree. She wrapped her arms around it, listening. After a few minutes she came back and sat down. Her face was like stone.

”It’s no good. Lilly can’t hear her silence. She only hears her beating heart and thoughts like bees swarming out to attack a bear!”

”I can understand that,” Pio said as he poured some soup into two cups and handed one to her.

She looked at it for an instant, and then threw it into the brush. Pio jumped to his feet, took his own cup of soup and threw it hard against a tree. Lilly was shocked, as if Pio had shot her. She stared at the soup dripping down the tree truck, then burst into tears.

Pio turned his back on her, huffing like a bear, then too started to cry.

”Lilly, I’m sorry...” he said to the night wind. Lilly didn’t hear, she was running down the mountain towards the sea.




Pio slowly made his way down a path by moonlight to a small cove. She was there, sitting on the beach, listening to night noises. Pio limped across the sand and sat next to her. Her eyes were staring out across the water. She didn’t look at him..

”How did you know I wasn’t some hunter walking through the night, or a fisherman passing from one village to the next?” Pio asked.

”Pio makes his own kind of noise when he walks, especially now that he limps along with a stick,” Lilly answered. Her voice was softer.

”I’m so sorry for hurting you,” Pio said, touching her hand with his.

”Oh Pio, the Maker gave Lilly beautiful things inside her, like the fragrance of grass wet with spring rain. It was the Maker, Pio! But Pio makes Lilly feel ashamed. Did Lilly do wrong when she opened her body like flowers open to the sun? But it was Pio who was the light and warmth,” she said, staring at him. “Lilly loves trees and stars and sea voices because they sing and sooth her. But Pio brought voices of mothers and children, of dogs barking and sheep crying for their lambs and it confuses her. But still Lilly opened all her heart to the song of Pio, to his thick arms and legs, to the music of Pio’s laughter and love––and the smell of bread dough filled Lilly’s nostrils... and it was good Pio, good! And now Pio makes Lilly feel evil. Lilly must be evil if her softness makes Pio sick.”

Pio groaned.

She paused for a moment. ”Pio is punishing Lilly,” she said.

”No Lilly, Pio is punishing himself,” he answered gently.

”Pio is punishing Lilly,” she said again, very firmly. ”Lilly’s mamma was right. Lilly must never trust men. Lilly must be alone with the birds and animals.”

Pio was silent. He couldn’t think of what to say. He dropped his forehead into his hands.

Lilly began rocking her body to the rhythm of the waves hissing up the sand to their feet. She held herself and began singing to the night wind a song she had known her whole life.


”Moon, moon, whose silver fingers

touch the leaves and coat the stones,

sing with me unto the dolphins

for Lilly child is safe, alone,

with her momma’s love caressing

in the hissing of the foam.

Lilly, Lilly, far from evil,

ever faithful to this poem...

Mamma sings her heart to Lilly

as Lilly sings unto the winds,

fish and birds and wilder beasts

shall be my Lilly’s only friends.

Lilly, never cease your singing

nor let your feet to village roam,

beneath the sun and stars forever,

ever faithful to this poem.”


As Lilly sang, the shadow of the hawk passed over them and the bird alighted heavily on a rock next to her. It sat, staring at her, silhouetted against the light of the moon on the sea. Pio shivered as he felt its presence. He sat with her for a few minutes in silence, thinking about her song. Then he looked up. ”Send that bird away,” he said.

”No,” Lilly replied stubbornly.

Pio got to his feet and angrily waved his arms at the bird. It stroked up into the air, cried out and was gone.

”That bird is no good. I hate you,” Pio shouted towards it in the dark.

”Like you hate Lilly. Like you hate her freedom,” Lilly shouted angrily. She jumped to her feet and shoved Pio, then took a swing at him.

Pio staggered back, surprised at her actions, lost his balance and fell over a stone. His swollen knee twisted and he gave a sharp cry.

Lilly ran to him. ”Is Pio all right? Lilly is sorry. Lilly is sorry!”

Pio rubbed his knee and sighed. ”It’s just the way things are. I’m hurt and hobbled inside and out.”

She rubbed his face with her hands. Pio struggled to stand up. His eyes glistened with emotion.

”Oh Lilly, I’m so blind. I can hardly feel anything but my own pain. I’m trying. I’m trying, but I can’t do all the changing. What am I to do?” He put his arms on her shoulders. ”God alone can help us. We need to pray together.”

She leaned her head against Pio’s chest. ”No,” she answered somberly.

He was taken back by the firmness in her voice. ”Lilly! You asked me to pray for you before the guns sounded in the marshes. So pray with me now. I’m asking you, please. The Spirit of God flows out and heals people’s bodies. Can’t He do a miracle for us? Pray with me, Lilly. We will pray for a miracle.”

”No Pio,” she said, turning away.


”You pray to Eshoo. Eshoo would make Lilly live with people like a goose that can’t fly. Lilly will not do it.”

”Eshoo would set Lilly free...”

”Free like Pio? Pio is not free,” she said, almost spitting out the words.

Pio winced at her words. ”Neither of us is free,” he said quietly.

”No! Lilly is free,” she shouted.

”Free like the hawk?”

”Yes free like Hawk. Kawee!”

”There is an evil in that bird,” Pio said firmly.

”No. Hawk is Lilly’s friend.”

”Let Eshoo be your friend!”

”Eshoo is bad.”

”Eshoo is good. I have told you that again and again.”

”Then why does Eshoo make Pio feel ashamed that he loves Lilly?”

”It must not be Eshoo. I don’t know Lilly. I’m trying to understand.”

”Pio is the only good man there is. Pio is of the forest and the sea now. Pio must stay with Lilly.” Her eyes filled with desperation. ”Lilly loves Pio!” she blurted out, then turned quickly away.

He put his hand gently on her shoulder. ”Oh Lilly. I know you love me. But I can’t turn my back on everything I believe for you.”

”Because of Eshoo. Because of Jesus?” Lilly asked. There was bitterness in her voice.

”Yes. Because of Jesus.”

”That is why Lilly hates Jesus.”

”Don’t say that! You don’t know what you are saying. You’re confused.”

”Pio is confused.”

”Yes, you’re right, Pio shook his head. ”Why do I have to choose between Eshoo and Lilly? I thought the Light was One. I’ve prayed and trusted that everything would come together. Now I don’t know. I don’t know.”

”Pio is scaring Lilly. Is Pio going away?”

”Going away? Perhaps... Yes, perhaps I must.”


”Something has to change. You know it too. I’m full of turmoil. I can’t stop what is happening in me and I can’t force you to change.”

”Stop it Pio! Pio is scaring Lilly.”

”Lilly, I can’t help you. My world is falling apart.”

”Lilly is afraid. Lilly is afraid. Stop it Pio!”

”You are afraid? Lilly is always afraid!” Pio said angrily. ”When you panic I can’t reach you. You run off into the forest to hide with the deer, trembling with their fear. You may walk defiantly under the hawk’s wings feeling its freedom, but you are helplessly part of its brooding anger and hatred… yes, hatred of mankind.”

”Who are you to say such things?” she screamed. ”What does Pio know? It is Lilly who teaches Pio the ways of birds and fish and animal fire.”

”And has Pio taught Lilly nothing about the beauty of being human?”

”Human? Pio is just as afraid of being human as Lilly is!”

He was shocked. Lilly glared at him, grabbed his walking stick and threw it into the sea, then ran up the beach into the trees.

Pio waited a long while. She didn’t return. Damp and cold, he limped back to camp, reproaching himself for his anger. He started a fire and sat by it wrapped in a blanket, troubled by her words, waiting for her, praying late into the night.




    It was cold and Lilly was shivering badly when she finally walked out of the darkness into the ring of firelight. She looked exhausted: her face was tear stained, her hair full of twigs and leaves. She stood in front of the fire to warm herself. Pio was relieved to see her.

”Will Pio walk with Lilly?” she asked.

Pio nodded as he threw his blanket over her.

They walked slowly up the mountain. Lilly helped him as best she could for he was limping badly. When they reached the top of a ridge the sky was turning gray in the east. They sat down on a large flat rock and huddled together in silence under the fading stars until the sun arose and its warmth sunk into them. Lilly’s hawk was gliding back and forth on the morning wind rising off the ridge. Lilly was withdrawn and seemed on the point of tears. Pio hurt all over.

”Oh, Lilly, ” he said, his eyes fixed on the rising sun, ”God is our life. We must not turn from Him. What hope is there for us if we can’t open our hearts and pray to the holy Maker?”

”Lilly prays––but not to Pio’s God.”

”So, now what? Do you want me to leave the church and my faith in Eshoo as well?”

She turned her shoulders away from him. Pio reached out to her, his tired mind searching for words.

”Lilly, the song you sang last night. Lilly-mamma taught it to you, didn’t she. You can’t carry her pain and anger for ever. It’s like a curse.”

”Lilly-momma’s love is not a curse! Men are cursed and Lilly will always hate them,” she said, holding back her tears.

Pio shook his head; his soul grew heavy with despair. He reached out for her hand, his voice thick and distant. ”Pray with me!” he said again. “There must be a way.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say.

She shook her head. ”Walk with Lilly, Pio. Don’t talk.”

Pio’s eyes held a great weariness. He nodded. They worked their way down the ridge to an orchard in a little valley below. The pain in Pio’s leg was almost unbearable but he said nothing about it. His soul ached more than his body. Lilly was hugging her sides with her arms, as if trying to keep her heart from breaking. They came to a road and turned, slowly following it down towards a stream. Lilly reached out and took Pio’s fingertips in hers. He pulled her to him and wrapped his blanket around them both. She put her arms around him and they walked together in silence. A few birds circled in the quiet air around them.

”Lilly, I love you,” Pio said, trying desperately to reach her, to keep her from slipping away. The dust of the road lifted up around them lazily in reddish clouds. She didn’t answer, but just held him tighter.

A dull, steady drumming of hooves pounding the earth arose in the morning air. Suddenly a horse burst out of the brush onto the road, shaking its head defiantly: the white of its eyes shown and its nostrils were flared out and quivering. Pio pulled Lilly aside as it galloped by them. A tall, rough looking farm boy ran out of the brush after it, waving a rope and shouting curses. The boy glared at them as he ran by. Lilly shrank behind Pio, her body shaking. The boy gave up the chase and turned back towards them, kicking the dust angrily with his feet.

Lilly looked desperately at Pio, her eyes full of tears, put one finger on his lips, then turned and fled into the trees. Pio shouted after her, but she was gone. He knew this time she wouldn’t come back. He collapsed on the ground, exhausted. The boy passed by him and said nothing. 



Father Superior had sent word throughout the Franciscan community concerning Pio, encouraging brothers to stop by and see him in their travels. It was in the middle of the Advent Season when the first two arrived. Pio was pruning trees in the orchard to the east of the house. The brothers walked up the backside of the orchard, laughing about something they had shared. Pio watched them from high in an old almond tree.

”Oh God, how I would love to be walking the fields in my brown robes again,” he said to himself, then glanced over to the little white house and felt ashamed for his lack of gratitude. He climbed down and greeted the brothers. He secretly wished they hadn’t come. He just wanted to be alone.

They stayed for a few days, repairing cracks in the walls of the house with liberal applications of plaster and paint. Pio forced himself to join them for prayers and readings each morning and evening and felt the occasional stirrings of wings amidst an empty temple of words. The brothers worked cheerfully. Pio kept to himself like an old troll. They noticed his mood, but said nothing.

When they left, Pio found a small crucifix on his breakfast table with a note, ”Cantate Domino.” Sing praises to the Lord.

Pio stood silently staring at the words as memories began flowing through his mind like colorful leaves in a dark stream. He saw himself as a young man, lying prostrate to take his vows and felt again his simple joy and the wondrous lightness of holiness. He heard the laughter of children who ran to greet him as he walked into villages. He was singing his praises freely again. He saw the candlelit faces of countless old people whose leathered lips took silently the soft, white host from his hands...

He spent the day in pain, lost amidst his memories. He couldn’t work. He would carefully measure boards, and then cut them too long or too short. He would leave a room to get a tool and forget which one; so he gave up, dropped his work apron and wandered out into the fields.

Wherever he went, birds scattered. The winter sky and earth were vacant. Who was he now? Had his soul left him? Was it hiding in the folds of Lilly’s dress, fearfully peeking out into the shadows of forgotten woods? Or was it howling out its remorse as a silent presence amongst the brothers of the fields and abbeys?

He tried to pray. There was no one to listen. He returned to the little white house and sat in the front yard. He took the cross Father Superior had given him out of his pocket and rubbed the wood between his fingers, staring aimlessly. Shortly before sunset, some children came by, peeking through the gate at him like curious kittens. Pio glared at them. They turned and ran off towards the village.


 The days of Advent passed swiftly. A season of joy spent in dread. The beauty of the season was like a festive salt rubbed in open wounds. Pio kept to himself, absorbed with the dark weight of his soul. His longing carried him out into the hills. He couldn’t draw himself back. He was the hills. He was the dead and naked trees. He was the old shepherds in the brown valleys. He was the sound of sheep, the raven’s grating call. He was anything or everything not himself. He looked for her without pursuing her. Perhaps she was here, near, somewhere.

One morning he came upon a large flock of sheep. The dogs barked at him, trying to drive a dark stranger back from their folds. He didn’t care if they bit him. He walked aimlessly through the frightened ewes, ignoring the shepherd’s calls, then followed a gully out into a field, wandering through broken corn stalks, walking no where. He fell upon his knees in the soft mud. He couldn’t pray. The shepherd came and stood before him, his eyes bristling with anger. Pio said nothing. A woodcutter’s wagon was creaking by on a road below the field. The shepherd shook his stick at Pio and waved for the woodcutter to stop. Pio heard them excitedly talking, ”That new man, that monk, he’s crazy I tell you...”

He didn’t care what they said.


 It was two nights before Christmas and the Mistral was howling its loneliness down the chimney of Pio’s study. He sat at his desk until past midnight, staring at a restless flicker of candle flame. He lit his pipe; it went out. No matter, Pio thought, tonight, even my tobacco tastes bitter. He went out the door and drank the wind in. He was weary; the Mistral’s strength was unabated. A glittering fire of stars showered down from the sky and was snuffed out by the black, round well of the earth. Chimney smoke from the vine cuttings of his fire curled down around him, filling his hair with dusky sweetness. His spirit wanted to soar like an eagle out amongst the shimmering shards of the face of God, but it lay bound in a cramped cage forged by his pain.

He felt a twisting in his belly: the eagle struggling to open its wings. A groaning came from the forest around him: the trees grieving old losses; voicing the agonies of the world. It was a deep, hollow sound that threatened to swallow Pio down inside of it. A chill ran through his body. He turned back into the house.

Lighting a lamp, he went to his room, disrobed, rolled into bed and drew the covers up tightly around his chin, like a child afraid of the dark. He felt exhausted. Sleep tantalized him, but would not come. The room seemed astir with shadows. Pio lay motionless, listening. Each time he became groggy with sleep he was disturbed by the wind and drifted in a restless delirium.

Suddenly, the cry of a hawk poured through Pio’s window on a dim stream of moonlight. He snapped up, fully awake, in a sweat, his heart pounding. He saw something out of the corner of his eye and turned. Light glimmered out of the night-black wall of his room––then was drunk down into the throat of darkness. The light! The holy light of God: shimmering, shadowy, gone...

Somewhere in the night sky the hawk cried out again, and its sound pierced Pio’s flesh and bones. Was Lilly near? He suddenly saw her in his mind: standing outside his door, afraid to knock, shivering with cold, longing for him. He ran furiously, half naked down the cold hall and threw open the front door.  The winter wind fluttered over his skin. His forehead beaded with sweat that the wind instantly chilled then blew as icy drops upon his chest.

A bare lilac branch scratched at a window. An owl sighed. The moon-cast shadows of trees became twirling emanations of demonic laughter. The yard was dancing with the changing forms of fiends. Through the play of wavering light on the stone wall young wolves crept along, their muzzles extended above them towards the dark of the moving forest. They suckled the twisted breasts of banshees. Out of the silver light and shifting shadows a distorted image of a hawk swooped, veering in towards him, leering, hissing with the voice of the wind––then... dissolving into a whirl of black leaves on the lawn.

Pio fell back into the house, slammed the door and leaned hard against it. He slid down into a fathomless pool of shadow and moaned. His toes hurt for her, his legs, his loins and his belly. His chest became an olive press, squeezing precious oils out of his heart. He cried out into the dark, ”Holy Christ of God––save us! Lilly. Lilly!”

Father Superior’s voice echoed through the night, ”You shall wait... And your heart shall be purified in the furnace of its own passions.”

Pio pounded his head back against the door, then arose like a drunken man and staggered towards his study. He knew it was no good trying to sleep. He had to pray. He had to find God.  He went cautiously out the side door, looking up, listening. The wind whipped leaves across his face and beat at him with his own hair. He shivered with cold and fear as he crossed the veranda, but was too numb with sorrow to care. He shut the door behind him heavily and bolted it, lit a candle, stirred the embers in the fireplace and slumped down at his desk.

The gospels lay open before him. He began flipping through them, scanning page after page. Words, words, only words: just curious black figures on a white page. He groaned and kept turning the pages. Suddenly some of the letters leapt off a page into his eyes. They were Christ’s words, ”If any love another more than me, that man is not worthy of me.”

An anger rose up within him, and with the anger, the room was full of furies. The spirit of Lilly suddenly ran into the room before his eyes and was slammed against the wall. Nails pierced through her hands and feet. An image of Christ flashed before him, his hands on his hips, a sneer of victory on his lips. The screw of the olive press tightened another turn.

Pain flashed through his heart, stunning him. Pio sat staring emptily, breathing heavily. Suddenly he grabbed the holy book and threw it violently on the floor. He spun around, groaning, trying to tear his belly open with his hands, let the twisting eagle out. In anguish he shouted to the night around him, ”Why did you let me know her? Why did you let me taste what life can be with her? Better to be at peace in the dark than tormented by a light that could be––but is not!”

Pio cursed and slammed his fists against the desk, then broke into tears and fell upon the floor, aching with regret that he should rage so uncontrollably against God Himself.

He rolled upon his face and lay on the floor weeping, ”That can’t be you. That can’t be you, Lord! Where are you?” He heard merciless laughter.

”Be gone devil! Damn you!” Pio shouted and arose to his knees throwing punches furiously at the shadows of the night until he was exhausted, then fell forward onto his hands. Spit ran from his lips onto the floor. He doubled over, shaking uncontrollably, then tipped forward until is forehead rested in the pool of it. He remained there, like a woman gone mad with the pains of childbirth, until his shaking stopped. Slowly he arose to his knees and lifted his hands upward, like a starving man reaching towards the fruit-heavy branches of a towering tree.

Pio stared at the shadowed ceiling for a long time, waiting, listening for a voice of comfort, feeling the swollen aching of his chest, then dropped his eyes to the soft yellow light of the candle fighting to stay alive in the cold currents of night air.

”Who am I, God... and where is my life now?” he shouted. ”I can’t go back to who I was. I don’t want to go forward without her. I’m afraid, Lord! So afraid. What has happened to my trust in you? I can’t live without her—and I can’t live without you.

”Save me God!” he shouted. The candle died in the wind of his breath. ”Save me God!” he shouted again into the dark. ”Save me from this strange force in me that would possess Lilly or would not live; this torment that would cause me to hate and deny you.” He lay there all night, crushed in his turmoil of fear and longing, then arose to greet the dawn with dusk still on his face.


 The snows had come, white, whispering like nuns at prayer, freezing geese in pools, birds to their branches. Lilly and her deer had followed rivers down lower and lower, right to where the treacherous valleys of the Alps plunge to the sea. There she lived amidst the groaning trees and the rustle of wet brush in the ebb and flow of mountain and sea winds.

One night, just before Christmas, when clouds covered the moon and the night air was crackling with cold, Lilly walked a ridge to a rocky point overlooking a deep gorge. She stood and felt the moon moaning, whispering in silent, silver words for clouds to drift from its face––so Lilly undid her clothes and let them slip from her body. Her skin prickled with chill. She lifted her arms, curving them up to the sky, sensing in her body seeds aching for trees, clouds aching for the sea... her soul aching for Pio.

The hawk landed on a stone next to her, watching her arching body opening its emptiness towards the empty sky. ”Hawk,” Lilly cried, ”tell Lilly again how Pio made new light shine over the world.” The hawk shook its feathers angrily. ”Hawk,” she called, her voice dying amidst the trees, ”Tell Lilly how Pio made God dance––Eshoo, pulequoo; how the words of Pio’s book were laughing like wild children, how Pio made the world smell of hot soup and baking sweets. Oh Hawk, all that warmth hurts Lilly now. Topalo, oh soo...” she said sadly, her arms waving slowly above her like thin stalks of grass in a breeze.

Moonlight spilled through parting clouds, shimmering on hawk’s feathers and Lilly’s slim, silvery body. The hawk, squawked as it gazed up at the moon, its eyes luminous with the light of night. ”Hawk,” Lilly said again, sadly, ”Pio gave Lilly a new world when he gave her his soul in his hands, in the folds of his robes; then he took it all back and filled Lilly with shame––so Lilly hates Pio! Etoo! Peesh! Hawk, tell Lilly, how can beauty make such pain?”

The hawk leapt up and hovered above Lilly, just over her hands. She stood on her toes and stretched both hands up to touch its soft breast. It let her run her fingers deeply into its warm feathers, then cried out a wild, lonely cry, tipped its wings and sailed out of the moonlight into the deep canyon shadows below them.

”Hawk!” Lilly called. She heard its shrill cry from the dark and shivered with cold. She gathered her clothes to herself and ran back along the ridge to the warmth of her fire amidst the brush and trees.


In early June she returned. The sun was hot and sharp; the Mistral wind cool and blowing briskly from the north. Many children were gathered at Pio’s for a garden party celebration and then to spend the night. The veranda was festooned with red and yellow streamers that twirled freely in the wind. Pio was with the children in the garden: joking, working, teaching them little rhymes.

Lilly came and stood outside the southern wall of the garden, feeling Pio’s joy and the love between him and the children. Her eyes were strangely peaceful but there were small creases of pain around them now. She looked weathered, like new fence wood gets after a hard winter. Walking along to where the low wall joined the potter’s shed, she slowly climbed over. Her heart was beating rapidly and she put her hand over it without thinking, as if to sooth it, to tell it to quiet. She tiptoed over to a wooden gate in the middle of a high, whitewashed wall.

”Walls,” she thought. ”Men’s walls.” In spite of her reservations her curiosity prompted her to push it open. The gate creaked a bit. She held her breath, waited until she was satisfied that no one had heard the noise, then pushed it open and peeked in. It was warm and peaceful inside: a small square of bare, hard packed earth surrounded by three white walls, bright with sunlight. The walls connected to the backside of Pio’s study with its line of tall, mullioned windows slightly above head height. A blue handled hoe leaned against a wall in blue shadows. The air was quiet and heavily fragrant. Rose bushes were planted along each wall: red, yellow and coral colored rosebuds sat on the end of young twigs. Against the white walls they looked like dollops of bright paint. She tiptoed over and smelled one, letting her fingers lightly touch the sharp thorns. She turned and gazed up at Pio’s windows for a while, and then went out.

After carefully shutting the gate she peered around the corner of the wall at the garden again. Everyone was still busy, some hoeing, some watering, some gathered around Pio who was fixing a broken beanpole. She went back to the potter’s shed and hesitantly opened the door a crack. A piercing cry rang out, startling her. Lilly looked up and saw her hawk hovering high above her in the wind.

Pio’s eyes were also searching the sky. He waited, listening, wondering. A little girl ran up to him. ”What is it, Pio?” she asked.

”Only a hawk, Jeanine,” he answered. ”Nothing more.” He went back to work, but kept listening.

A gust of wind curled around Pio’s house, blowing Lilly’s hair over her eyes. She pulled the hair back from her face and stared up at the hawk for a long while. Biting her lip nervously, she pushed the door open. A gray squirrel bounded in before her. She followed it inside.

The shed was well ordered and full of many peculiar looking tools. It felt strangely empty to her, as if it had been waiting a long time for someone. A large crucifix hung on the eastern wall. Lilly looked at the figure upon it, remembering what Pio had said about how Eshoo suffered with her.

The southern windows were smudged with dust. She went over, rubbed a bright hole on a pane and gazed out toward the distant sea. The squirrel was busily exploring a potter’s wheel that had a knot of clay covered with wet cloth sitting on its center.  Lilly turned from the window, uncovered the clay and touched it. It was cold and moist. She walked around the wheel, running her fingers along its edges, then spun it, listening to it creak.

Quietly, Pio entered. He had felt her presence, like one might sense an animal hidden in the brush. His heart was like water quivering in a full glass, ready to spill over. He moved up behind her. Lilly tensed. She knew it was Pio. She turned to him very slowly. Neither of them could speak. Pio reached out and hesitantly drew her to himself. She eased into his arms as a child might ease into a hot bath. They held each other and listened for a while to the wind humming against the shed, feeling each other’s heartbeats.

”Today, the wind smells of roses,” Pio whispered.

”No, it smells of wild flowers,” she answered, then pulled back from him, chewing on her lower lip, waiting.

Pio let her go and walked to the window she had cleared. He gazed out over the fields and prayed silently, ”Lord, help me be wise...” He felt a strange blend of old passion and new distance within his heart. His passion drew him back, through himself into her being; his distance poured his heart out his eyes, through the window glass and across distant fields yellow with haze. The huge sky was pressing its blue hand down upon the fields, pressing the haze thin, pressing Pio’s outstretched heart.

Lilly came up behind him and touched his shoulder with her hand. ”Lilly also smells the little roses in Pio’s garden. They are beautiful.”

Pio turned to her. She smiled gently; in her eyes mingled currents of sorrow and hope.

”Lilly, how I have missed you,” he said. She nodded, then turned and put her hands nervously on the potter’s wheel.

”The sky has been weeping over Lilly,” she said quietly.

Pio winced at her words: the pain of his own winter grief touched him. He watched her for a few moments, and then smiled, because she was here, in the potter’s shed, with him. He stepped on the pedal of the potter’s wheel and started it spinning, put his hands in a bucket of water, and then pressed them around the soft clay. Lilly watched closely. Pio gently took her hand, dipped it in the water, and then held it with his against the clay. She looked at Pio with the excitement of new sensations in her eyes and dipping her other hand in the bucket, offered it to him. He cupped both her hands around the spinning mass and pressed until the clay centered. Carefully, he guided her fingers, and they drew the clay up into the shape of a bowl. She moved her fingers back down, watching the shape change again.

The silky feel of the clay sliding through her fingers awakened her feelings of love and longing for Pio. She suddenly turned and rubbed his beard and cheeks with her muddy hands. ”Oh, Pio, Pio!” she cried. Before he could respond the door burst open and ten joyful children came tumbling in. Lilly’s happy expression clouded with fear. The children were like kernels of popcorn in a hot pan, hopping, skipping over the floor, exploding with excitement.

”Pio, it’s Lilly isn’t it!” they shouted. “Pio, it’s Lilly!” They mobbed around her, their hands reaching for her, their feet scuffing up clouds of dust. Lilly drew back towards the windows, struggling for breath.

With one swept of his arm, Pio gathered the children out the door and shooed them off towards the garden. ”Play children. Play! We shall come to you soon,” he shouted.

”Lilly, it’s all right,” Pio said as he shut the door and turned back to her. She looked like a bird trapped in a net, wild with confusion. ”I’ve told them so much about you, Lilly. They already love you.” Pio knew not to try to approach her when she was afraid. He sighed, and sat down on the stool studying her. ”Lord, she is in your hands,” he whispered as he picked up an apron and began wiping the mud off his cheeks. ”Lilly, you are like the moon: bright with sunlight, then suddenly shadowed.”

Lilly closed her eyes and shuffled along the side of the bench towards the wall, then pitched forward towards the door. She opened it a crack and paused to see if Pio would stop her. He didn’t move. She looked over at him longingly. Pio sensed what she was asking. He walked over and closed the door then sighed, watching her, wondering what to do. His eyes searched hers. The beauty of her face overwhelmed him. His longing for her rose up—but felt somehow crippled. The pain of winter surged back into his thoughts.

”Pio...” Lilly said, as if to encourage him to say what she needed him to say.

Pio leaned his head back, trying to clear his mind. His eyes fell upon the word “Surrender” he had carved that cold Christmas day. He remembered how he felt then as he yielded her to God, closed his eyes for a moment, and then looked intently at her. ”Lilly, I can’t save you,” he said. “If you are going to run, then run.” She winced and turned away. ”Oh, Lilly, you have been so hurt and have many reasons to be afraid, but you must find the strength to face what is in your heart. If you don’t, there is no hope for us.”

Lilly looked at him and saw the concern in his eyes, then leaned her forehead against the door and started to cry. It was like a small, fragile dam had given way to a weight of floodwater. Her body began shaking. Pio had never seen her weep so deeply before. He put his hand on her head and drew her to himself.

”Oh… oh…” she cried and clung to him, ”There is so much fear in Lilly: like the rabbit fears the fox, like the squirrel fears the snake. Pio, help Lilly…”

He held her close and felt her trembling. ”Lilly, what can I do? I would just make a mess of things and take us right back where we were before. Do you want to go back into that pain again?” She shook her head no. “Open your heart to Eshoo, Lilly. Surrender everything to Him. He alone can help you now.” She couldn’t speak. Pio felt the lost child in her. He took her by the hand and led her out of the shed. They stood together by the stone wall and held each other as Pio silently prayed. At last he lifted her face with his hand. ”Please understand,” he said gently, “I have a new life now. I’m not going to leave with you. This is where I am to be. I love these people.”

”More than you love Lilly?”

”No. Not more. Not less. Differently. Things are different now.”

”Different? Is the Pio Lilly loves gone?”

”I don’t think so, but I believe the Pio Lilly was angry with has died quite a bit.”

She looked at him curiously. ”Oh Pio, she whispered, ”Lilly’s heart runs like two deer, each in their own direction.”

”Do you love me, Lilly?”

”Like the sun and moon. Like the sea.”

”Then stay here, at least for a little while.”

The hawk cried out high above them, its voice like a distant wind whining in barren trees. Lilly quickly looked up, a frightened pain in her face. She twisted free of Pio arms.

”Lilly, please stay with me. Just try,” he said again, glancing at the sky.

”Ai yeeee!” she cried, wrapping her arms around her in pain. “Lilly wants to.” She burst into tears again. “The winter spoke to Lilly with voices of pain: now Lilly longs for Pio and the voices of new things. But when Lilly comes here, close to man’s world, something in Lilly starts fleeing, like an animal from a forest fire. Lilly can’t stop it. Lilly can’t stop it! Oh Pio, Pio, please understand.”

She turned away and stood alone, weeping. She felt as if her soul was being torn in two from top to bottom like a seamstress shreds linen, and could only long for Pio to somehow make her whole again. A sparrow fluttered onto the wall next to her and she clasped it in her hand and held it close to her, wiping the tears from her eyes with her hair.

Pio sighed. ”Lilly,” he said gently, “when I talked with my Father Superior he told me he believes that God brought us together...” She looked at him hopefully, ”And that it was God who led us apart...”

She scowled. ”Pio’s God is cruel.”

He shook his head. ”No. Pio’s God is hard to understand at times, but He is not cruel. In the winter I stumbled around blind, aching for you and for Eshoo’s light. And it’s through that pain that I’ve come into this new place, with these people. Lilly, I know God is working in His own way to make us both free.

”Free? How? When? Lilly wants to be with Pio forever, but Lilly is not free,” she shouted and the little bird flew from her hands.

Her eyes were shadowed with torment. It was as if Pio could see a malicious thief in her house, watching him out of round, dark windows, and an old anger welled up in him. He kicked the dirt and started growling and muttering, then began pacing up and down in front of her. The children looked up from where they were playing in the garden and the older ones restrained the young ones from running over to see what was happening.

“Arrrg! If I could only tear these dark things from your heart like I tear weeds from my garden—but I can’t!” he cried. Pio felt his passion and longing for her arise like an unquenchable ache of grief. “Oh God, I am undone,” he shouted. “Lilly, you know I want you to marry me and live with me here.”

She looked quickly at him, her eyes wide open with shock, then suddenly spun away, shouting, ”No! ” Her voice echoed down the valley. ”What does Lilly know of wife or house or husband? Lilly only knows what wild ones have shown her: birds making nests, swans swimming together in the sea...” She stopped, as if jolted by light. ”Lilly loves Pio. Lilly loves Pio…” she whispered and threw herself into his arms weeping.

Pio held her for a long time, rocking and soothing her. The wind lifted her hair into his eyes. Pio tried to blink his tears away. ”Please, hear me,” he sighed. “I will always love you—always! I have to believe that God wants to give us the longing of our hearts. Our life wouldn’t be what you think. The Maker will change us both, and we will do beautiful things together.”

Lilly’s eyes softened as his words flowed into the torn places of her soul. ”Change us, Pio...?” she asked nervously.

”Yes, make new things. How I want you to smell both the sweet fragrances of earth and hot bread and tea. How I long for you to hear geese crying in the wind, and the laughter of children.” Pio put his hand on her head. “This is the freedom you know is calling you: a warm, human one...

”But Pio...” she interrupted.

He put his finger on her lips, shaking his head. ”Listen to me. There is freedom in sharing our lives with others. There is freedom in bringing comfort to the lonely and dying; and it’s a free thing to birth in children beautiful dreams. Lilly, please come and see the children who already love you.  This freedom has human faces: eyes that adore you, voices which call your name, hands that reach out to hold you. This is the freedom that lies just on the other side of your dark fears. I’m going to the children now. Come with me.”

“No Pio. Lilly can’t. Stay…” she pleaded, grabbing a hold of his arms.

“No. I’m going. I don’t know what else to do. This is your choice. You alone can face what you must. If you can’t come with me to the children, then, for your own sake, go, run to Eshoo so you can stop running forever.”

“But Lilly needs Pio.”

“No, Lilly needs Eshoo. I am not your freedom any more than that hawk is. You must find your true freedom with Eshoo. He alone can reach deep enough to melt away your fears.”

She looked at him. The desperation in her eyes softened with understanding and she leaned into him… Pio held her closely, feeling her molding into the tenderest places of his body and soul. “I’m going now,” he whispered, then turned and walked back into the garden.


Jenny was unconsciously rubbing the back of Pio’s hand as she listened to him talk. Josh sat with his eyes fixed on Pio’s face, his mouth slack and open. Pio’s eyes were misty and distant. He was alone in the land of his heart’s memories. His voice was like an orchestra, rich with the rising and falling of his feelings. It was as if he was in a trance and the children had no desire to break it. Pio kept speaking...


The kitchen bustled that night with the dicing of vegetables and the cooking of breads and puddings. Lilly was so excited at times that she would stop and put her hand over her heart trying to slow it down. The children almost fell over each other trying to get her attention. Pio seemed composed enough to everyone, adding spices and vegetables to the broth, stirring it, tasting it, giving directions, but his heart too was racing wildly. He could hardly look at Lilly without wanting to cry and laugh and run right over and hug her.

Some of the children were setting the long wooden table in front of the fireplace in the living room—the ”dancing room” as Pio called it. Plates rattled, silverware tinkled, glasses chimed, water gurgled into glasses as the children worked together. Others were moving chairs around, scraping them over the tile floor. All were filled with happiness, jostling each other joyfully, skipping around. The girls especially were attentive to the strange beauty and shy excitement in Lilly. They came up to her, one after another, to tell her how best to cut a carrot or slice a tomato. It was all so new for Lilly: so many new smells, sights, and sounds. And the wonderful faces of the children. She glanced at Pio from time to time, but her heart was so full of him that she dared not look too long or she would forget everything else that was happening––and she didn’t want to miss a thing.

The full moon was rising over the forest to the east. She could see the silver shine of it glinting off the tile roof of Pio’s writing hut outside. The light was delicate and cold and so familiar to her. She could smell the damp forest around them as she looked out at into the night––but here all was golden with lamplight, smelling of warm bodies and full of laughter.

Pio lit a large fire in the fireplace and everyone sat down at the table: Pio at one end, Lilly at the other, and the children wiggling and chattering on the chairs in between. Pio rang his glass with a spoon and the children settled down.

”Most honored and distinguished guests,” he began, roughly clearing his throat. The children stirred again with laughter. Pio lifted his hand to signal quiet, then continued. ”This is a momentous evening, for this is the first time that our little white house has been blessed with the presence of a great lady. Therefore, I would like to honor her and this evening with a little poem before we eat.”

With that said, Pio stood up, took a paper out of his pocket and leaned it a little towards the fire so he could better read.


“Now the forest voices are singing,

on this most adventuresome night,

a song to honor their lady

who dines by our firelight.

This one who’s part of that mystery

which makes the stars twinkle and shine

in the skies and the eyes of a lady

whom nothing but love shall confine.

And I am of men the most blessed,

on this most adventuresome night,

for I feast with this beautiful lady

in the innocent love of her light.


Pio looked up at Lilly. Her hair and skin shone golden with the firelight; her large blue eyes were round and peaceful. Pio smiled, his eyes squinting tight until tears ran out both corners down his cheeks. The children looked around at each other hesitantly, then at Pio. Pio opened his arms and cried out, ”God bless us all! Eat little ones. Eat. Then we shall make music and dance till our legs drop off.”

Immediately the hushed spell of Pio’s poem was broken with much laughter and the sound of spoons clinking into bowls and tea gurgling into cups.

Such a night it was: Pio playing his accordion; the children dancing and spinning around together on the warm hearth stones; Lilly dancing with the children as graceful as seaweed moving in ocean currents. It took a good time before the children started to tire, but when weariness finally slowed them down Pio took Lilly into the kitchen and helped her make a pot of hot chocolate.

”This is to lull them to sleep, Lilly. It always works,” Pio said merrily. For the first time of countless times to come, they served the hot chocolate together, each child getting a large steaming cup, and most of them getting seconds.

”A story Pio, a story!” the children shouted as sleepiness began to soften their eyes. Lilly tossed pillows on the floor and the children scrambled for them as Pio scrunched into his rocking chair, got out his pipe and started to weave them a tale. It was a story of strange times, when giants walked the earth and every rock hid a gnome, every tree an angel. Lilly got up and wandered around the room as Pio talked, running her fingers over the books in a large book case on the eastern wall; then along the wall itself, feeling its strange confinement; then gently touching the leaves of the potted plants in a window sill. A thump against the window made her look up. She threw open the window and let in a small gray owl. The children started to rise up with excitement, but Lilly quieted them down with her words.

”Now man-children, I must be teaching you the way of birds and beasts. It begins with tree song, with deer stillness in your souls. Hush now like stars, like stones, and listen to the tale that Pio tells.”

Pio lit his pipe, shook his head a little, always amazed at Lilly, and leaned forward towards the fire. ”She’s got her dignity back for sure,” he thought happily to himself. His eyes shone with firelight as his voice rose and fell to the rhythmic music of his words until the last child was asleep. Then Pio and Lilly carried them, one by one, to a huge goose down bed in the sleeping room. After they laid the last child down they stood together in the center of the room in silence. It was a beautiful room with windows covering the whole west wall and the ceiling made up entirely of glass.

The room was radiant with moonlight dancing around, reflecting off mirrors and the brass curves of candlesticks. Pio wanted so much to tell Lilly that this was the room the monks had built especially for her, but he sensed it was still too soon. He watched her take it all in. The little gray owl winged its way noisily through the doorway and landed on her shoulder.

Lilly looked at Pio lovingly. ”May Lilly sleep here with the children?” she asked. There was something so regal about her at times. She looked altogether queenly bathed in moonlight with the owl upon her shoulder.

”Of course. You are free to stay as long as you like,” Pio said quietly.

”Lilly would like to sleep here, next to the little girl who gave her the pea in the garden.”

Pio smiled and touched her face lightly with his fingers, then left the room, humming a joyful tune to himself. Lilly swept the owl with her hand up towards a rafter where, with two flaps of its wings, it landed and settled for the night; then she carefully crawled over several children and slipped down beside the little girl with dark hair. It was the first time that she had ever slept in a bed other than one of straw or leaves and moss. Even though the roof was of glass and let her gaze up into the night sky it felt so closed, so peculiar... Perhaps it was that, other than the owl, there were no wild things present. Or perhaps that the night noises were muffled and she couldn’t feel the wind.

The walls seemed to be squeezing her spirit, and it frightened her a bit. She sighed, then felt the softness of the goose down mattress with her whole body and wiggled down deeper into it. The smell of the children was strong: the sweet chocolate fragrance on their lips mingled with the smell of sweat from their dancing. Human smells. Wonderful smells. She laid still for a long time with her eyes wide open, feeling, smelling, listening, and then gradually slipped into sleep.