Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons to Luxeuil
It’s dusk and we’ve stopped at a cottage in a cluster amid these fields and vineyards. These people are hospitable to our cow, donkey and mules, but they haven’t much concern for the eleven of us humankinds. They won’t hear a word of our plan to trade food for tools because they fear for their own winter stores so early in the season. All they really want are some small sturdy pails for hauling water the distance from the creek because their common well has gone dry. And what is worse the creek will soon freeze over.
“The well never froze,” they complain.
Now the snarliest of our four barbarians steps forward. He’s the guy who wants to burn the Psalms, and dump the bell so we can trade the mules.
“I have a plan!” he announces.
I listen with trepidation.
“These farmers have that huge well-pail they can’t carry back from creek. We will drop that into the dry well with a man in it who will dig out their well. Here is this fellow who walks the cow and travels with women.” Yes, that would be me. “He will go down and dig, then with our ropes and pulleys and our sweat we will heft up the bucket to remove the clogging earth and send it down over and over again with rocks to line the wall — until the well is deep enough and flows with water, then we will take our pay for the day’s work in food and fleeces. You’ll have water, we’ll have supplies; everyone is happy, right?
“First thing in the morning.”
The plan is made. We all sleep this night in the haymows over the stables, sheltered and warm. But I can’t sleep tonight thinking of that terrible task. Why me? But also I should ask, why not me? Someone has to do it.
Dear God, you gave me this strange way of life and life again. I know you gave it to me as an earthly sign of spiritual life. But before there is ever-new life there is always a cold darkness –a cave, a dark burial, a time under the earth. So let this plunge into darkness be a blessing for this whole thirsty village. Dear God, stay close, you know I’m afraid. Amen.
This morning the peasants in the cottages have provided hot porridge for us as we prepare for sinking a deeper well.
(Continues Tuesday, November 15)