Historical setting: 589 C.E. Along the Loire from Tours to Orleans
Preparing for our journey we have bent willow reeds over the bed of the cart to make the tarp into a roof and we’ve filled the cart with fleeces and wools and bags of grains along with the herbs we gathered where Eve’s cottage had been.
In this season of shortening days we often are in the autumn drear, but today a bright golden sunshine is sparking the trees to brilliance as the green canopy of summer has already fallen away. Great stalks of sunshine beam through the newly barren limbs all the way to earth where we go so humbly to start our journey this morning.
Colleen is a proper donkey master. She expects obedience, and offers consistency and kindness — never the whip. This donkey, with no other name than Jack which means boy donkey learns his commands in the Irish dialect from a human named simply, girl.
We pass by Tours, outside the wall to follow the river on toward Orleans. This donkey has a good trotting gait so we might easily reach Orleans in two or three days except the cow is not as quick.
Eventually we do reach the Burgundy city where there is a suitable stall for a cow in the public stable, but the frisky little Jack donkey isn’t a very welcome guest among the stately steeds. He is relegated to a shed behind the public stables. Colleen worries, but he seems fine here just to get in out of the howling winds for a good night’s rest.
Here at an inn in Orleans we learn the see of Rome has sent an envoy to bring some kind of important news from Rome to all the kings and bishops of this land. They are here seeking Guntram; but we already know he’s not here. He can be found in Châlons.
“Is Châlons found by following this river?” one asks me.
“It won’t take you all the way there. You will need to find another path when you reach the city of Sens.” I can answer, because Ana and I have been all of these places now. “And we are on our way to Châlons.” I nearly offer to be their guide, but then I realize it would be humbling for a bishop’s envoy to have to find their way to the king by following after a donkey cart and a cow.
Ana’s kindness isn’t curtailed by petty social norms. She invites them to follow us, and they are grateful.
(Continues Tuesday, October 25, 2022)