Historical setting: 589 C.E. A Pagan village near Tours
The custom of Largin’s tribe is to give gifts even for little things. They show joy by giving. Maybe we all do, but this practice actually marks who these people are. So midwives who arrive on time surely are gifted.
It would complicate our journey were we to be gifted a herd of these sacred white bulls they keep here. I think of Jacob driving his vast herds ahead of him as he returns to his brother. [Genesis 31] So I’m grateful they only offer one fresh cow. One peaceful cow can cross on the ferry with us and will walk nicely behind the donkey cart.
Ana and Colleen want to start back immediately to Annegray. We don’t have to visit far-flung bishops now, so surely a shorter route will be long enough. The women tell me these months into winter would be the best time for Ana to travel.
“How can three months into winter ever be the best for travel?” I ask, still naïve to the ways of women after all these years.
“If we wait for spring,” Colleen confides, “it will be too hard for Ana to travel because the baby will be due. Then if it is born here, where we must stay, we will have to wait for the mother and baby to have strength to travel, and then we might be taking the journey in the summer heat always worrying over the baby. No, Sir, this is the best time to go.”
“I think it could be that the Count will let us stay as guests here for a year or more. I can find some way to make myself useful.”
Ana speaks for Colleen, “Laz, she is not just coming with us for our own need. She has a deep longing to be with people from her own homeland.”
“The Irish of Annegray are monks, Ana. It’s a men’s monastery.”
Ana argues, “Colleen says the monasteries in Ireland are not places for withdrawing, but are communities where monks may have solitary ways, but all around people gather as a village. She has that hope and a longing to be in that kind of place.”
“Maybe all three of us yearn for community. I fear Colleen will be disappointed by the loneliness of our cottage.”
But here we are now, returning home in this season of transitions, leaves on the hardwoods flaming farewells, baring limbs to embrace winds of winter to come.