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December 24, 2004
I would have thought that the day Noodle sat quietly in my lap while I stroked her neck would be the day Hell froze over -- this is a cat who ripped three keys off an expensive laptop computer in less than a second when she was no bigger than my hand. But this morning, the morning of Christmas Eve, she came quietly into my office and stood there looking at me. I picked her up and began to stroke. She sat curled against me for a long time. She just left, just now.

Tonight is the night animals can talk, they say in Northern European countries. Speak in human languages, I assume they mean: animals communicate perfectly well all year long, with each other and with us. They may do it better than we do: I am certain they do it more honestly, although I do know an African Grey Parrot who will tell a lie when it is in his interest to do so. For the most part, though, animals are honest and direct about what they think and what they want. For the most part, they don't spin the events of their lives to make others think well of them. For the most part, they don't care what others think.

We do care, though. We can spend a lifetime selling ourselves, trying to package ourselves so that we might be acceptable. Acceptable to whom? We may have forgotten to whom, or we may never have known. Just knew, somehow that the way we were wasn't good enough and that we needed to make ourselves look a whole lot better. But how do you do that? What am I supposed to be? More blonde? Thinner? Richer? More sophisticated?

The warm breath of the animals fills the air in the stable, smelling of oats and hay. The straw rustles under their hooves as they settle heavily down into it, snorting and nickering softly to one another, and tuck their legs under themselves to sleep. Everyone is safe here: the ox, the ass, the barn cats, the new human parents with their new baby.

Grace has drawn you to the birth of someone who doesn't do that -- someone who doesn't try to package himself. Someone who just is what he is and shows it. A world of quiet energy and possibility opens up -- all that giftwrapping was expensive, you realize, and now here is somebody who doesn't bother with it at all. We don't have to be wrapped; we need hide nothing. We can give ourselves to one another just as we are.
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