The saviour in the forest

A fractious late afternoon: dark skies and low, blinding sun just clearing the tops of the trees. In the clearing,  a small wooden hut sits, on whose two rickety steps sits a woman.  Her hair falls into a heavy plait over her left shoulder and she’s straining with the pains of labour.

She smiles at us, one hand braced against her belly, and asks us to forgive her lack of hospitality at this time, as though even one of us could fit in her tiny shelter. We walk on,  moving under the canopy of trees at the edge of the clearing, where another woman is waiting.

Her black skin shines in the broken light and she tells us that Jesus will soon be coming:

“Things will be different,” she says. ” It will be a time of ease, even for the children. Things that were difficult will no longer be.”

Slowly, almost shyly, she lifts up a wooden puppet: a beautifully carved boy carved from rich, dark wood; it is clear that she thinks her saviour is already here.

We look at the boy, fashioned from wood from this forest, and see that, somehow, he is both something – a coy, soft-eyed something  that clings to his mother’s skirts – and nothing at all.

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