Historical setting: 589 C.E. Luxeuil
The old Roman baths at Luxeuil, like the well I found behind our cottage, had been nearly hidden in overgrown vines and scrubby trees sprouting on tiny stems between the immovable Roman stones. Stems of saplings, fed by the sun above and the waters of earth became an untended grove of trees inside these walls. Here woods of ash and the yew broke through the cracks and shushed this place to sacred. Maybe once the Pagans came where spirits still dance; but now, by Christian order, the trees are being felled and the vines loosened from the roots to make these halls seem Roman again.
In my search for the warming fire I find something else. Where I expected to find the oratorio there is a blue lake within the walls under nothing but sky. The water is misting into the cold air making a fog over the waters. Some who see earth stuff as evil might curse this interface with warmth rising up from the underworld, seeing it as proof that the core of earth is Hell. But in my opinion, as a constant witness to the beauty of Creation, I simply say thank you God; it’s beautiful and warm.
Near mid-winter I bask naked now in these ancient baths. My aching foot is soothed. What a worksite this must be? Mid-way through the hard work of moving the walls comes this – a soft warm drift on briny, healing waters. The workers also seem to take a long mid-day break I see.
With no roof this seems nothing like the dark old Roman baths of Metz where the halls and stairways of the building are dank, where Graoully and the monsters of myth still linger in the mosses. Maybe there are times when no roof is needed and walls alone are just fine. I wonder about the plan to make this all into a Christian place for suffering monks and howling nuns. I wish they could never lay a roof over this. Of course, no one is asking me.
Now I’m called to help with the raising of the bell to the tower. I dress back into my winter fleeces with one wet boot on my left foot.
The work project is already webbed in the ropes and pulleys. The mules are yoked to take the full weight, so the men of us are guiding the bell’s ascent with lead lines.