Historical setting: 589 C.E. At home in the Vosges Mountains
On this new day the earth is glittering pure and glazed in snow — a blank page for new beginnings. This morning we will climb the hill to the cottage we left last summer as a still sleeping dream of a home. Brother Servant is anxious to come along with us promising that when we see it, we will be surprised. When we left in early summer I had just completed the roof on the house, but we had only a frame of the stable. And now, here we are bringing a cow and a donkey with us in the wintertime so a stable will be needed. The fields were turned over and planted last spring before we knew we wouldn’t be here for the harvest. So much was left undone.
Colleen takes one look at the steep path up the hill and insists Ana ride in the cart. Ana argues that she has walked this path many times before. Colleen insists, and Ana rides. I wonder if Colleen’s worries for Ana are more informed than my own. I suppose so. Brother Servant thinks both women and the bird in the cage should ride, while he leads the donkey and I guide the cow.
Now I wish Ana wasn’t hidden in the cart cover so she could see what I see. The rising sun has spread light beams on this hilltop glistening the snow. First we see our wheat field, a smooth place in all this whiteness with a few yellow stalks of straw leftover from the harvest. But it is a well-groomed field at rest for winter. Then, rising on the round of the hilltop, there is the cottage with the end a stable completed. It’s beautifully made with shaven boards and a fine thatched roof. No wonder Brother Servant came with us glowing as a gifter.
“It’s beautiful Brother! How is it monks can make such a fine stable for beasts, then make their own beds in a ruin under a string of tarps at Annegray?”
Brother Servant glances to the ground, groping for the veil of humility to hide his joy in generosity.
He tells us, “This cottage has served us all well throughout the summer, as hospitality calls for more than we can offer at Annegray. I know Father Columbanus is aware of our need for a better accommodation in order to have an actual monastery, not just a wilderness ruin. So our plan to move to Luxeuil will be a welcome improvement.”