I mumble something. Mr. Gryphon is right, of course, but I am looking around the impossibly lush garden we have the good fortune to be in. I look to and fro. The warm breeze and sparkling air are so perfect that I pause from my searching and take a deep breath.
"Is this your new garden?" I cannot ignore him any longer.
"No, sir. This is Paradise, a walled garden located in Eden. Judging by the good weather the Fall of Man has not yet occurred." Our attention is caught by a lion leisurely walking by. Mr. Gryphon's claws start to extend, but I stop him by putting my hand on his arm. "He won't hurt us. He can't. Everything is in harmony here."
Sure enough a small rabbit crosses his path. The two beautiful animals greet each other by touching noses before moving on. I decide to follow the lion a little ways behind. He pays no mind. The garden opens up before us. I feel it in my bones. A longing and an aching in my heart. Tears come to my eyes, but don't spill.
"Feel that, Mr. Gryphon?" My voice sounds a little watery.
"No, but I see you are affected," he says. He is watching me closely as we walk along the thick carpet of grass.
"It is the eternal longing, Mr. Gryphon. All of mankind longs to return home regardless of your religious beliefs. That's what this place is home of the soul." I sniffle. He pats my hand and I give him a grateful hug. It's good to be with my trusty friend once more. We walk on.
The garden opens up into a little glen and I feel my breath catch for in front of us are two spectacular trees. One is huge and is laden with apples. They are brighter than jewels and so overwhelming I can't take my eyes off them. I just want to stare and stare. The tree next to it is also laden with fruit, but not as showy. It is handsome and it glows with a quiet majesty*. I know what trees they are and I long to eat, but I don't move. An apple, I think. I've already fallen, I tell myself. What would happen if I had one now?
Just as I'm considering finding out the answer to my question Mr. Gryphon gently draws me back into the bushes. "Someone is coming," he says close to my right ear. We both crouch down and watch.
An ornament-like snake rolling gracefully along enters the glen on the far left side. Its colors shift and shine. Behind him a stunning young blond woman follows.
"That's Eve," I whisper, "Looks like we're in Book IX of Milton's book." The snake slides gracefully up the tree and begins to talk to Eve. They are so far away that we can't hear them.
"Snake there, 'the subtlest beast in the field,' is possessed by Satan so he can tempt Eve into eating the apples."
"What's wrong with eating apples?" Mr. Gryphon has had to sit down so he won't be visible.
"They are from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God has told them they can do what they like here except they can never eat from that tree or 'ye will surely die.' Eve eats the apple anyway and Man Falls and becomes mortal. It's a long, drawn out affair. I'd rather not watch it all, if you don't mind."
"We can do whatever you like, Miss Turtle."
"I am happy to see Snake, though. Surely Satan in this story is one of the greatest, most fascinating characters in literature. Milton was pretty far up there even if he wrote the whole thing in verse. I used to think it would be the greatest story I'll ever read, but I think it's number two*. We'll see."
We move slowly away from the glen leaving Eve and Snake to talk. "Better get our stroll in now before the weather changes. That should happen pretty quickly." We walk back the way we came. Birds are singing in the trees. "By tomorrow Paradise will be empty with nothing but the glorious plants, and the Cherubim who will be guarding it," I say.
"Did you know that gryphons were considered one of the origins for Cherubim?" he says.
"I had no idea!"
"This might hint at my former life, Miss Turtle, a subject you and I have never discussed."
"I'm intrigued. I didn't know you had a former life. I would not have guessed." The flowers are heavily fragrant, a rabble of butterflies float by on the sweet gentle breeze. The sun and the blue sky I glimpse as I look up look as though they were made for only Mr. Gryphon and me. I want to ask him more about his former life, but I decide to wait and enjoy this place for now. The garden and earth as it is now will change and Man will begin his real adventure once he leaves this perfect place.
"It's not a bad thing, Falling, no matter what they say. I'm sure of it," I look up at my good friend and we smile at each other. We continue through the garden slowly and easily. We walk under a cherry tree. The flowers are floating down on us like soft snow. Some are caught in my hair. Mr. Gryphon gently brushes them off. He hands me a small, perfect pink blossom.
"A souvenir for you, Miss Turtle."
"I don't think we can take that with us."
"It's all right. Trust me." I thank him and slip the flower into my pocket. "It will remain perfect forever," he says. I look at him more closely. The earth and grass smell green and warm. I wonder if he was an angel in his former life.
"That would make me a guardian, eh, Miss Turtle?" he says, reading my mind as he sometimes does.
"I suppose so. It makes sense. Odd how things are coming together like this."
"Odd indeed." We speak no more. The earth, sky and universe gives a great groan for the Fall has just happened." We will only have a little more time before the weather changes.
This past Saturday I finally finished reading "Paradise Lost" by John Milton. His tale of Man's Fall is wonderful, poignant and hopeful. A beautiful story. I highly recommend it even if isn't an easy read. It was published 1674 and language takes some getting used to as does reading in verse. At least you don't have to worry about translation.
*the Tree of Life.
**my humble opinion is "The Epic of Gilgamesh" will take the top spot, but I still haven't read an actual translated version of it.