Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons to Luxeuil
Winter is already showing up in this land. It’s a cold morning. The women are glad to wear wool monk’s robes today. Jack is feisty in all this icy morning clarity so the donkey cart moves right along but now the cow can’t keep up tied to the cart. So I will just walk her in the front to set a slower pace. That entourage of monks and workmen is well behind us. The monks are hauling a hand-cart and the others have a mule-team with a wagonload of pulleys and tools so this isn’t anything like a liturgical procession. Any holy chants aren’t intended as prayer. Every rut along this river path catches a wheel of the workers’ wagon creating a constant whine of woes sounding like a wagon-load of baby goats back there.
Our first day on the road will soon be our first night. The winter wind sweeps from the north in gusts and swirls on the path that follows the frosty edges of creek beds. The streams and creeks are ever-forking eastward widening at every bend.
By dusk and nearly dark the caravan of monks and workers is far behind us as we stop for night. So while the women prepare to make camp in the cart drawn up under the shelter of a steep embankment, I walk back to find the leader of these men.
Now I learn that leader along with the small contingency on horseback had already given up and turned back. These workers are left here with a wagon-load of tools and only a frail loyalty to the king who sent them, or maybe they come just for the promise of a purse. And now they are more disgruntled than ever.
Four are monks loyal to God, but there is a gaping span between a pilgrimage and a band of men chosen only for their rock moving heft. And now with their leader gone I suggest a stopping place where they can circle up and make a fire, and we’ll figure this out. I can already see smoke rising ahead where Ana and Colleen have made camp. The women will eat hot porridge and sleep warm and safe with blankets and fleeces in the tarp-covered cart.
For now I help these fellows gather the wood and start the fire, and maybe hear them tell me their thoughts of this project they find they have been bound to.