The wide stone steps underscore the front of the cathedral, stressing its presence. It looms gray, a cloud cathedral under a cloudy sky. Down below, below the sandy cliffs a row of sea shells sits along the beach, along the dark wet shadow of the tide. They were not left there at random. There is a certain deliberation, a nod to the great steeple above. Along the shore and up the cliff a parade of animals marches. There is a tortuous in a push-cart being pulled by a dog. There is a fox and a camel. There are two llamas. A falcon soars overhead, circling back, shrieking, his call echoing over the water. There are others too, hopping, plodding, padding along. Each animal wears a wreath about its neck, not of holly on this day when snow drifts rise high in the village and bells carol but of aster and cockscomb nestled in vines and in the muted light of early winter each is like one last summer nymph, stubborn and proud. At the top of the bluff they stop, facing the steps. A small girl sits on her father’s shoulders. She pulls his hair and kicks her feet in pleasure as the animals appear. They begin to climb the steps, the camel with knobby knees lumbering up behind a shy looking she-calf. Then there is the reindeer. He is small and the color of summer dust. His strong antlers grow from his head like the silhouettes of winter trees against a lit wall. The child squirms, pushing herself up to see. She is delighted. Her father grasps her stockinged ankles in his hands and shuffles his feet in the snow. In turn, each animal enters the church. The last to vanish into the darkness is a snake, thick and green as a sapling. The father lets his daughter down onto the ground. They walk toward the open door feet crunching in the sandy snow. They look inside but the church is deserted. The air is icy but the smell of incense hangs in the stillness. They turn to go and follow a trail of broken leaves quickly browning in the rising dusk.