Photograph by Susan Waughtal
An old man was upon his regular walk when he cleared the top of a gentle hill. There, at its summit, he passed a fence which surrounded a great field and manor. At a gate near the side of the road was a child whom the old man had often seen playing in that very yard.
“May I join you, grandfather?” he asked.
The boy took the man’s hand in his, and they walked on together. The old man looked about him with pleasure, upon the fields, the animals, upon the rivers and brush, and the sky, and he mused in himself about many things. They walked this way for some time, when the boy asked him:
“Grandfather, would you like me to name those birds you are looking at?”
“That round little fellow there is the wren. He has just come in from his summer home. And there in that bush is a catbird. That solemn fellow over there is the crow, with his funny caw, caw, caw….but do not laugh at him. Grandfather, he would not like that.”
The boy went on like this for some time. He pointed out one bird after another. He named them, more names, and more birds than the old man had even known. The old man felt he could see them better than ever before. Indeed, some he wanted to laugh at; some were so strange he didn’t know how to feel. Others were old familiar friends whom he loved all the better, such as the wren and the chickadee.
The child told him of their little strange habits, of many things, some which they had in common, some special to a few or even just one. He spoke of where they came from and where they would go as the season changed. And this all gave the man much pleasure, for somehow, the boy’s talk did not fill up the air with chatter or rob the walk of its precious silence.
After this, it became a regular custom of theirs. The boy would ask the old man if he could join him, and then he would take the man’s hand in his, and off they would go. He usually would narrate to him something of what they saw, though not always.
The little boy would rattle off the names of flowers, their parts, and what every part was for. He would tell the man what that flower would be like in the fall or how it would grow in spring or summer. He might point out features of the landscape and talk about them. He would notice to the old man the changing season, the light of the sun, the clouds, all that the man’s eye could see, all that his senses could sense, and all that his mind could grasp.
The boy would narrate to him such wonderful things about nature, about the world, about men, that it seemed as if they walked sometimes high above all things, even as they walked right down among them. And the old man never felt dizzy with the height or stifled amid it all.
After what must have been many years, the old man asked the boy, “My child, have you ever been to school?”
“Why, no grandfather.”
“Then how do you know about all these things, who taught you?”
“Why, grandfather, I made them all.”
The old man mused on this as the child gave his hand a little squeeze.
“As I have walked with you and looked out with you, you have opened up to me every science of this world.”
“I have,” The boy agreed.
“It is all so wonderful. Is there yet any science which you have not shared with me?”
“Look into my face, grandfather.”
The man turned and looked for the first time directly into the face of the child. And looking into his face, he beheld all things. He beheld every wonder again, and in his face he beheld something greater still, He beheld All in All.