THE FIRST ANIMAL NAMED

     When God created the earth, he made a river which flowed from the Garden of Eden over braided veins of onyx and gold.  The river split into four branches: one was called the Pison, one was the Euphrates, one flowed east toward Assyria, and one circled Ethiopia. Everywhere the rivers ran, the land was filled with living things. There were vines, spiky yucca and dry-dropping quince, mosses, papyrus reeds and citrus.  And there were creatures.  They all were beautiful.  But only two of them had names-Adam and Eve, who did not realize that they had dominion over the others.

     Then God told Adam to name the animals.   All the creatures gathered around: those that crawled and those that flew and those that swam in the rivers; creatures with four legs and creatures with two, those with bushy tails and those who could see in the dark.  They were all equal, and Adam had always been one of them.  Yet as he began to name them, he drew himself apart. And the first animal he named was the unicorn.  When the Lord heard the name Adam had spoken, he reached down and touched the tip of the single horn growing from the animal's forehead. From that moment on, the unicorn was elevated above other beasts.

     Adam and Eve rode upon the unicorn's back through the winding pathways of the garden, and all of creation lived in peace until Adam and Eve became curious about that which had been forbidden.  Then they tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge and, ashamed, they clothed themselves with woven leaves.  When God saw what they had done, he drove them from the Garden of Eden and barred the entrance with cherubs who waved flaming swords.  But the Lord gave the unicorn the choice of remaining in paradise or accompanying Adam and Eve out into the world, where there was pestilence and war, and pain in childbirth and in death.

     The unicorn looked to the angels hovering above the gate with their burning swords, and looked to Adam and Eve-and followed them.  Forever after the unicorn was blessed for its compassion, for it could have stayed in that place of ideal beauty and delight, but instead, out of love, it chose the hard way-the human way.