Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains
Awake again, the brother servant and Ana are having biscuits and porridge. Brother Servant says he will be going back to Annegray right away, and offers to help take me to a straw bed closer to the fire before he goes. That is a kindness.
I wish not to cause them trouble. Maybe I could’ve just gotten up and gone over to the bed with only a little help from Ana. But Ana is giving us so many explicit instructions all about which way I am allowed to move to protect the stitches. For one who would drop a bowl on the hearthstone, she seems way too cautious over the possibility of jostling her needlework.
Now I find this bed comfortable. The linen wrap intended as my grave cloth becomes a fine fresh bed sheet, and here is a feather pillow like my childhood days in my rich father’s villa; except there we had a roof and the winters weren’t as cold.
The monk takes the empty bird cage and has gone now as Ana moves the bench near me to serve the porridge. She has questions.
“The father’s servant monk said you’ve come with sad news about my teacher.”
“We’ve been grieving her death, and for all this time we also found no closure, only fears and worries over your safety. It’s so good to find you again and to know you are well — a grown woman now.”
“But who is it you’ve found? I’m hardly the bold, ever-daring Anatase, the child ready to take on any challenge. I’ve learned deep fears and now loss. Father Columbanus said I would be a blessing to a convent but how could I ever live under such a rule?”
“Probably all that reading you did from Brother Nic’s pages put a sour odor on the Rule of Benedict, but other communities have different rules. I think the regimes of prayers and psalms, the guidance for solitary monks learning to participate in community is for many a trustworthy structure.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. Men crave the structure they impose on women, and women already have patterns of nature to structure their lives.”
I fear we’re not discussing monastic rule anymore. Silence seems my best reply.