Historical setting: 589 C.E. the path to Luxeuil
Wearing winter fleeces now, I make my way down the hill coaxing the mules through the drifts of snow on the zig-zag path, down, down to the hard-frozen creek bed. The wind is nearly at my back, sending snow dancing in swirls and twirls of out ahead into the golden light of the morning sun. Even the blank page of winter has its beauty. Thank you God.
Never having been to Luxeuil, with my only instruction to follow the creek, I have no idea if this day will be fraught with hazards. I don’t know what lies under this snow. Ana and I followed the creek the other way into the mountains last summer; but in this direction I have no idea if there are chasms or waterfalls hidden under these drifts. The mules make fresh tracks just trusting me to know.
Stay close, Dear God.
It’s a long morning walking on numbing feet. The higher hills of the Vosges are nearly behind us as the creek widens into a flatland and the ice is a thin coating over the muddy waters spreading into a shallow fan. I know it is shallow and moving swiftly because my foot falls through the ice and my left boot and woolen sock cling to my foot throbbing with cold. But just as I’m wondering where to go, I see before me great walls of stone, glistening in the snowy sunlight. Little twists of mist rise up here and there from the flat ice near the river before this place, that is the full poetry, the romance between earth and heaven. The weighty clays of earth-stuff reach deep into the blue firmament as if the earth itself rises in the midst of Creation. Father Columbanus must find this sacred, and it surely seems a place for his Christian community to thrive.
These workers waiting for the mules are those same fellows who would leave me at the bottom of a well while they celebrated. Today they’ve reached upward; they are at an apex of the tower that will hold the bell and now they need the mules to tow the weight of it onto the supports readied above. I already know the hospitality these fellows have to offer and I know I will have to fend for myself. I ask them if there is a warm place near the fire for the wools and my boot to dry. No one will say.