Historical setting: 589 C.E. The Vosges Mountains
We’ve stopped our work scribing the Rule as Ana tells me how she came to fear men. She had escaped from the pirates and now she was following a band of monks on the long trek from the sea toward Annegray.
Her story continues, “The damp of the forest and the banks of creeks with waters receding were rich with all those little things that give nourishment for life: mushrooms rising up from the forest floor, easily found because they were stretching taller than their hiding places. There were little clams and fishes in the creek, and all around the grasses had rich seed heads. Stalks of herbs told of pungent roots beneath them. There were thickets of berries for the picking.
“So at night I crept into their camp and filled their pot with a fine broth. I was thankful for the plenty. They thanked God for the miracle of the manna in the wilderness.
“One time I crept into the monk’s camp to leave the food and I was noticed by one, who said he saw an angel swoop in on wings of white and make them a pot of stew. They thanked God. I have no ‘wings of white’ as you can plainly see. But I continued to leave them the foods of these forests as I have always known of these riches. They had no knowledge of anything but blackberries. And none had ever even seen a snake before this journey. I couldn’t help but be reminded they were all very young and naïve.
“As the days came and went, winter was setting in. Some of the monks were gaining skills in finding their own sustenance even though the gifts of nature were lessening with the season. And in my own need for survival I waited until they were all asleep, then I looked for one place or another out of their view where I could curl up for sleep without freezing. One frosty morning I woke after sunrise, and found I was covered with a woolen monk’s cloak. Obviously my presence was not a secret. The robe was not only warm, it allowed me to follow more freely. They already knew I was there and when they met another person on the way I could pull the cloak around me as though I were one of the monks. It wasn’t long before I was offering my healing gifts to help them on their way.”