Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons to Luxeuil
In the dawn tranquility and the stagger of morning sleepiness, we make our way to the center of the cottages where there is this community well. Without words, we who will work today are unloading the wagon of ropes and pulleys and we’ve set a tri-pod of logs for a huge pulley. Now the plan is not just some sketch of a what-if, but it’s a true intention.
I’ve been chosen for the drop into darkness. Maybe because my name is unknown to them, I seem the most expendable person, the one whose loss could cause less grief because I’m unknown. Only my wife would care, and they don’t know her either. And just now I needn’t worry her with my own little terrors of the dark pit.
I drop a climbing rope into the well with all its knots and loops that I’ve secured above ground and tied it firmly to a long-standing tree.
“We don’t need two ropes down there,” says the fellow who would burn the Psalms and trade the bell. “Just ride the pail rope down to test it for weight.”
“I’d rather let a load of rock fail that test,” I answer back.
“It won’t fail. Are you afraid we don’t know what we’re doing?”
We can’t even see to the bottom of this hole. We’re told it’s dry. We drop a flaming torch down. The torch lays on the dry bottom until the flame dwindles in the thinness. We saw how the rocks laid to support the sides at the bottom have fallen into a wash of mud, but the walls above the washout seem in place so maybe the rock wall is holding these depths by shear strength of circle.
Dear God, stay close – you know how I fear a deep dark hole. Amen. Maybe I’m uniquely phobic because I’ve actually climbed back into life from death a few times, or maybe dark depths are dreaded by anyone. I don’t know how to compare my own fears to those of another. But I do dread. I take the rope in hand, as I step over the side of the well, locking the climbing rope between my feet in order to let myself down as slowly as I possibly can. I watch the pail of rock on the central rope pass me by. Why don’t they wait at least until I have my footing?