Historical setting: Pyrenees Mountains, 6th Century C.E.
This campsite we made in the haste of rising water will serve us well for a few days while the wools dry and the small furs we have gathered can be soaked in herbs and scraped and pounded clean for use or trade. A newly formed spread of the creek into small ponds is now filled with some large fish trapped in the flood so we feast on fish.
Nic offers August his suggestions for remaking the robe. It’s obvious August feels misunderstood. August takes a pause before responding to Nic and leans in towards the campfire poking at the flame with a twig.
“If it’s suitable for a man, it’s suitable for me,” August says.
Nic misses the point completely and offers a naïve soldier’s thoughts on remaking the robe into a garment he explains as “more suitable for a woman.” He lays out the fabric on the ground with a cinctured waist and strangely bold pockets for some imaginary gigantic breasts between the arms as only a chaste soldier could imagine a woman.
My loud laugh at Nic’s idea of woman is clearly inappropriate as neither Nic, nor August thought a strangely breasted monk’s robe was funny. My guffaw, and August’s silence and clenched jaw lead Nic to offer his defense.
“But you’re a woman!” Nic is clearly confused.
August answers with empathy for Nic having encountered this kind of ignorance before and maybe even with less accepting company. “Only my body is of a woman. I’ve been living a man’s life since I was a child and have always been more comfortable this way. Tailoring my robe into a woman’s garment would make others see me as how I am physically defined, not who I am as a person and how I see myself. Aside from the complications of living a monastic life as a woman, people would treat me much differently if they perceived me as such. That is not what I want. Regardless of my body, my soul is a man’s, and I give grace to God each day when I affirm that.” [footnote]
Nic offers his pensive awareness. “I surely know what it is to have the soul of a monk clad in the armor of a soldier. I just never thought of the soul of a man, a stone carver, a monk with the physical person of a woman. But clearly it is so, Brother August.”
[footnote] Thank you Vic Heitzman, for writing August’s words into this conversation.