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Post #32.9, Thurs., May 19, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Ana tells of her meeting with Father Columbanus. “The intended healing from my fears had been a dismal failure. All the ancient legends of woman and snake would make me the obvious perpetrator of evil in this. So I’m pretty sure the young monk used the notion of woman as temptress as his defense and yet he was sent away into the custody of a Benedictine abbey more accustomed to training the very young. The father told me this to assure me he had not taken the side of the youth and he was opened to hearing me state an allegation against the young monk. But I only said that he was very young and his intention was to do a good deed. 

         “The father argued with what I thought was my kindness to not lay blame, and told me that by excusing his lust I was denying the youth his responsibility and in that way I was condoning it. He added that, had my fears been quelled, we would have shared in our delighting in the error and we both would have sinned.

         “I didn’t resist making my confession.  But what to do with me then was at issue. A women’s community would expect a virgin so the rape by the pirates alone would be a discredit, though my training as a physician would probably be a more favorable recommendation, but maybe my training in pagan medicine would be against me. And I don’t know if being literate would have carried any sway either way. In the end the father weighed all the options and offered these walls on these back hills of Annegray. The eunuch, Brother Servant, was assigned.

         “Now I find that this isolation does indeed fulfill the curse of the pirates, that I would never be a wife or mother. So here I am distanced from any possibility of family and have only my fears to haunt me.”

         We work at the inks for a while in silence because there is no better answer to Ana’s story than my silence. Dear God help me silence my thoughts that I could better cure her fears than could a young monk. But of course any prayer to ask not to think of something is only answered by thinking more of that thing. So I am thinking, I could have done so much better than a young monk at this task because I already know well the value of patience over lust. But my mind right now is the battlefield between lust and patience.

(Continues Tuesday, May 24)

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Post #32.8, Weds., May 18, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Ana is telling me a terrible story, I would try not to listen if I could. She has been released from the hold of a young monk, by the flailing of her knee.  She tells me she was surprised he released her, as he fell. I can understand what she doesn’t know.

         She continues. “He fell to one side taking the robe that covered us, so there I was naked and unhidden looking skyward and into the faces of a circle of silent monks who probably heard my screams and were standing all around us looking on.

         “The young monk was terrified and burst into tears. Through his anguish he was sobbing that he was sorry, until he got his wits about himself then he just blamed me. He said it was my sin alone. I had tempted him. The monks said nothing at all. They simply wrapped him in his robe and took him off to see Father Columbanus. One covered me with a piece of my dress as they were leaving.

         “I drew the robe up from the ground and pulled it over my shoulders, and I just sat there for a very long time. At first I was sobbing until clarity came over me like a wayward splash of sunlight. Then for a very long time I whispered psalms I knew, then I said a prayer, over and over again, ‘Dear God what can I do?’ It went from plea to curse and then back into a plea, then I felt someone near me. I turned, expecting to see the farmer of this meadow, or maybe the gardener on whose land I was sitting. It was the servant monk, and he had a proper linen woman’s tunic for me to wear when I went to answer for my sins before Father Columbanus.”

         “Did you meet Father Columbanus in person then?” I asked.

         “Yes. I found him to be very thoughtful and kind though I am sure the story I told made no sense to him. Both the young monk and I were given the privacy to make a confession only to the father, as the Irish Rule allows. And apparently what I told him, and what the young monk had said was the same thing. Neither of us told a better tale. But which of us sinned wasn’t at all clear.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #32.7 Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

Please take care. This post was not written for children to read, even for good readers.

         Ana is telling me a story I don’t even want to hear.

         She continues, “I hadn’t known there was ever a physical sign that would tell of the virginity of a man so I guess he needed to tell it for it to be known. What he really meant by telling me that, was he was offering his purity to me as a sacrifice of himself for the Christian sake of my rescue.”

         I know Ana is looking at me for a reasonable opinion. I mean, I’ve been a man nearly a century longer than the Christian religion ever was, so surely I would know about this.  I turn back toward our worktable to repress my grimace. What can I say?

          “So, by your silence I guess you know what happened.” My silence agrees, and she continues.  “We removed our robes, mine a blanket on the cold ground, his a blanket on his back. He tore away the loose pieces left of my dress on me, so we were both naked between the wools. The young monk, pure and virgin poured his eyes over me like I was some creature he had never seen before. And that affirmed to me he was indeed a virgin. He told me again it was his holy mission to risk his own virtue to save me from my sin.”

          “So there I was, laid out on a borrowed monk’s robe, naked and waiting for the white snake of the druid blessing to go seeking the snake’s den of legend. If I could only be fearless I could be helping this young monk become my savior. But as he proceeded to find a tempo for his flushing checks to brighten I could see nothing but the reddened laughing faces of the pirates. In my mind’s eye he was, himself, transfigured into the very pirates I wanted most to be rid of, so I fought and screamed!  I was frantic, but he cupped his hand over my mouth so no one would hear my screams. I could hardly breath. He groped my body for a place to put that tall virgin phallus he seemed to have acquired so suddenly. I squirmed and fought to free myself, but he pressed my shoulders tighter to the ground so only my legs could move freely, and my thrashing knee gave me a power I didn’t know I had. He crumpled into a writhing ball, releasing me.”

(Continues Tomorrow)

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Post #32.6, Thurs., May 12, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Ana continues her story. “Before this rape happened I could see a man’s good health and physical being as a thing of great beauty. I always considered human beings to be wonders of Creation. But then, after the curse I could see nothing but a filthy disgrace of the beauty of life. I thought I would always have to be alone until I saw the procession of chaste monks to follow.

         “The young monk listened to me with a great intensity. Then he offered a prayer asking God to rescue me from the curse of sin. I hadn’t thought of it as a sin, because a sin seems like it would be a choice for me to avoid a temptation and I had no choice. I was captured. But maybe he meant the pirates’ sins. Whatever, I thought. Yes, I would want God to release me from my fear. Amen.

         “He said we should meet again, and talk some more. Perhaps we could find a place distant from the others so no one would notice and have a bad thought about us together.  I wondered how there could be a bad thought about a holy monk talking with a needy woman.

         “We were already reaching the hills near Annegray when the young monk took me with a strong grip around my wrist and led me to a place in the wilderness he called a ‘secret place.’ He said as a child he was afraid of many things, but his father taught him that the true cure for fear was to face the fear and do that which fears you most; do it until you no longer fear. Does this make sense to you?” She asks me.

         I answer, “Some fears protect us from danger. So I guess it isn’t a recommended cure for fear. It could be dangerous. Usually in my own fearful times I ask God’s guidance, and it reliably comes to me in the familiar words. ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear’ [I John 4:18a]. But in this case that kind of easy scripture answer seems ill advised. So maybe God answers these things without words but from the depths of our most intimate consciences. How did it come to you?”

         “It was indeed, very intimate. The monk told me he was a virgin.”

(Continues Tuesday, May 17)

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Post #32.5, Weds., May 11, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Ana continues her story, “I wrapped a swelling ankle for a young monk and he set about befriending me, Christian-to-Christian he would say, and we talked about our faith in God. But you know how those conversations can turn. Pretty soon he was telling me of his childhood and his calling to follow Jesus into the wilderness. He considered it a testament to his moral character. I didn’t remind him that even the disciples Jesus picked out for himself weren’t really that upstanding.”

         I laugh, but wonder how she knows this. She must be doing a close reading of the gospels on her own.

         “Ana,” I ask her, “How did an apprentice to a pagan healer learn so many things of the disciples and also the doctrines of the church?”

         “Of course I learned from our reading lessons, but then, when you were gone for those years Daniel often took me with him when he and Count Bertigan had work to do at the King’s castle. King Chilperic had a library of books – the gospels, and other writings, Augustine and those bishops from Alexandria and the far away places.”

         “Really? No wonder Gregory of Tours and King Chilperic debated the need for Trinity. He was reading books. So go on. What were you telling me of the band of monks from the island of St. Patrick?”
         Ana continues, “I told that young monk with the swelling ankle way too many things. I told him I had been stolen by pirates from my home, and when I escaped they raped me and beat me so that I would, as they said, ‘never be a proper wife to any man.’ I thought it was a threat that my body would never heal from the rape, but I easily recovered physically and I was soon relieved from the fear that I would birth a baby pirate. What I didn’t know about then was that the pirates had put me under an evil curse of fear. It was a terror of the phallus, and a fear that even my own physical obligation to receive the phallus had been skewed from love to fear. I realized they were right. I was cursed with their evil, never to be a wife or a mother of a loving family. Now I can’t even imagine lying with a man without the faces of the pirates coming to my mind. Their horrible laughs and lust haunt me even in my night terrors.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #32.4, Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The Vosges Mountains

         We’ve stopped our work scribing the Rule as Ana tells me how she came to fear men. She had escaped from the pirates and now she was following a band of monks on the long trek from the sea toward Annegray.

          Her story continues, “The damp of the forest and the banks of creeks with waters receding were rich with all those little things that give nourishment for life: mushrooms rising up from the forest floor, easily found because they were stretching taller than their hiding places. There were little clams and fishes in the creek, and all around the grasses had rich seed heads. Stalks of herbs told of pungent roots beneath them. There were thickets of berries for the picking.

         “So at night I crept into their camp and filled their pot with a fine broth. I was thankful for the plenty. They thanked God for the miracle of the manna in the wilderness.

         “One time I crept into the monk’s camp to leave the food and I was noticed by one, who said he saw an angel swoop in on wings of white and make them a pot of stew. They thanked God. I have no ‘wings of white’ as you can plainly see. But I continued to leave them the foods of these forests as I have always known of these riches. They had no knowledge of anything but blackberries. And none had ever even seen a snake before this journey. I couldn’t help but be reminded they were all very young and naïve.

         “As the days came and went, winter was setting in. Some of the monks were gaining skills in finding their own sustenance even though the gifts of nature were lessening with the season. And in my own need for survival I waited until they were all asleep, then I looked for one place or another out of their view where I could curl up for sleep without freezing. One frosty morning I woke after sunrise, and found I was covered with a woolen monk’s cloak. Obviously my presence was not a secret. The robe was not only warm, it allowed me to follow more freely. They already knew I was there and when they met another person on the way I could pull the cloak around me as though I were one of the monks. It wasn’t long before I was offering my healing gifts to help them on their way.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #32.3, Thurs., May 5, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

I’m listening to Ana tell of her fear.

          “I was raped by the pirates because I tried to escape but quickly discovered we were moored at Aletum, an Island; so I was easily captured back. I wasn’t raped because I was alluring. It was a punishment rape, like how ancient wars ended with sodomy. But I did escape on the mainland and there I saw a band of Irish monks who seemed Christian wandering into a wilderness of which they knew nothing.

         “They debarked from an Irish ship and started on their journey into the depths of unknown forests looking for Father Columbanus at Annegray. I followed after them, torn and tattered as I was.  I’m trained to heal people, so I expected my wounds would heal. But I’m still haunted with terror.

          “The monks were all freshly shorn and dressed in their dull robes and like one body together they chanted psalms of thanksgiving for their safe journey. Then they turned toward the wilderness said by rumor to be filled with wild beasts, bears and wolves, even snakes and wild boars. They prayed for fearlessness. I stayed at a distance from them so I wouldn’t be noticed but I chanted the psalms with them, and I prayed with their prayers for courage to continue. They kept telling one another God was with them so no one need fear but I think they felt fear.

         “The bruises from the pirates’ fists still blackened my face and I felt like some bloody monster of death. My dress was bloodied even though I’d tried to soak it clean at the briny edge of the sea. The dark stains were deep wounds beneath. I had no mantel to cover the rips in the cloth so my breasts couldn’t be hidden. My attempt to bind the dress as though it were a wound only made it look more revealing. Even these breasts were no longer virgin pure; they were bruised and hurting. I tried to stay a distance not to frighten them, but close enough to be safe and warmed by their fires and prayers.

         “While we were still near the briny waters, I caught an eel. I was finding the abundance of the wild autumn harvest but the monks were looking for pots of porridge already made up for them.”

(Continues Tuesday, May 10)

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Post #32.2, Weds., May 4, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Note to followers: This May chapter is NOT intended for children.

         My mind is still on the list for making this a farm: a roof and a donkey and a shed and maybe some goats and hens. All the years that I’ve lived with little I’ve never really started a life with nothing but a seed and a blade.

         Today our work is in the inks. Ana was assigned more pages for copying rules to post for the pilgrims. But here conversation blunders the holy quiet of a scriptorium.

            Ana says, “Probably other women who have families aren’t under the spell of fear as I — or maybe some are. I don’t know if this is mine alone or if it is a shared terror.”

         “What are you afraid of Ana?”

         “I’ve fallen under a fear of men — men, created and loved by God in the same way as I. Yet I’m afraid in the way one who believes in pagan magic under an evil spell.”

          “You are one of the strongest and most courageous people I know. How can you be cast into isolation by a fear—made a prisoner here. Is this about your wonders of beauty and wisdom?”

         “So you think so too, that I‘m irrational and over impressed with my own attractiveness so that I assume every man is groping after my breasts. Now I’ve said it!”

         What can I say?

         She goes on, “At least you have the good manners to look up from your work and listen to me. But maybe when you mention beauty you are also thinking it would be a great kindness to plant your so-called peach pit in the furrows of my fertile field then suddenly I will know sex is a true metaphor for holy love and my all my fears will suddenly be vanquished!”

          “Ana, how can I offer my human compassion broadly enough to understand what it would be like to be a woman who was brutally raped by pirates?” I can only plead ignorance.

         “I’m sorry for my outburst Laz, surely it’s a sin against Creation to assume all men are rapists. Do you suppose procreation got twisted into the ‘original sin’ by some terrified woman who had been raped?”

         “It was actually the early church ‘fathers’ who claim to have invented that sin. But maybe they knew…” [Footnote] I know she isn’t asking me to tell her the history of Christian doctrine.

[Footnote] Original sin? It was Origin, declared a heretic for a similar reason, then Augustine wrote it using his amazing way with words and it became indelible. It isn’t a Jesus teaching.

(Continues Tomorrow)

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Post #32.1, Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         “This is the day that the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” [Psalm 118:24]

         I thought I’d send that on the leg of a bird.  But on this new day I can say it to her. She’s here. I’m here. We are sipping tea at the hearthside under no roof. No roof could contain the width and breadth of our hopes. 

         We’ve been clearing away brush, moving rocks, turning earth for the garden and we share the weariness of starting all things new.

         Ana’s physician’s fingers have rubbed the work ache from my shoulders, but my thoughts are not all that utilitarian in appreciating this kindness.  I imagine touching her, and I imagine her touches in return for mine.

         Yesterday we hauled a heap of thatching and logs up the long hill from the creek. I intend to set to work making some nesting boxes and a new perch where birds can land along the high shelf of this room with only sky.

         I surmise, “If we had a donkey we could more easily haul supplies and water from the creek up the hill, but if we had a donkey we would need an animal shed, but to build a shed we would need to haul supplies up the hill.” My big plans for starting everything new seems an endless circle of things to do first.

         And Ana already has a plan. “It’s the season for planting right now and we need to plant a field for grain.”

         I contend, “We need seeds and tools, and a wall to keep out the wildlife. We will need lots of things before we can plant a field.”

         “Come. I’ll show you.” She goes ahead of me, down, over the edge of the hillside passed the garden we’ve started, and I see that while she was alone here she’s already marked off a field and stacked rocks to be the wall.  And while I was heaping up the thatching she has already pulled loose the grasses in by the wall and planted two rows already. She is only using the little child’s sickle to do the work while I’m sitting by the fire listing the tools we will need.

         She explains, “They’ve brought me seed for beans and barely from the monastery and if we plant right away we’ll have food this winter when we have to stay inside, then we can build better tools for next year.”

         “Yes, I can see she knows the priorities.”

(Continues Tomorrow)

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Post #31.12, Thursday, April 28, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         There, breaking through the brush at the trail, in the spring breeze is all the lightness of sunshine — it is Ana.

         “The servant told me of your thoughts. I ran ahead of him to see you and to say I’m grateful, I’m so happy…”

         I lay down the saw in the heaps of brush and go closer to her for the perfect silence – a gaze with no word spoken.

We stand here just … just looking, until the servant catches up, and he is here with us too.

         “I see you’ve already told him, Ana.”

         “Told me?” I ask.

         “I was hoping you’d come back.” She said. “I didn’t know there was a rule. And you aren’t even a monk, how could there be a rule?”

         “It is as you said, the rule made by men for woman can too easily be oblivious to the nature of women. No wonder we get into tangles.”

          I happen to have a twig in my hand. I just notice I am still grasping onto it. It was with the brush I gathered to thatch the nesting boxes. I laid the tools aside, but I still have the twig. Now Ana is looking down at the twig in my hand so I hand it to her. “It is the way of birds, you know.”

         She takes it from me laughing with her creek-sparkling blue eyes. We both glance at the servant. She explains, “It’s probably not a bird thing for cages, but the wild wrens and the doves know well what it is.” She brandishes the twig. She looks the twig over very carefully then tells me, “It is a very lovely twig.  It is by far the best twig ever offered to me, so let us now just fill the house all up with twigs and sticks and call it a nest!”

         “Thank you God, for simple gifts.”

         Says the servant brother.  “I’ll just walk back alone now and I will let the father know the rule of Ana has been breeched and also we may soon be able to send all of our messages off to Ana on bird’s legs. I will bring you a pair of squabs that will always come home to your house when they are of an age to fly.”

         Brother servant goes on his way, and Ana and I drag the thatch and sticks all the way up the hill to the house with no roof – yet.

(Continues Tuesday, May 3)

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Post #31.11, Weds., April 27, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         “Brother Servant I know the rule of Ana is to not even know of her, so I will say nothing at all of her, but I will silently follow you on the path, and when we reach the creek I will stop and cut thatch while you go on ahead.  She won’t even know I’m there.”

         “Somehow, Ezra, I can clearly see you are inching ever closer to breaking the rule.  And what if she doesn’t want birds living there?”

         “Then I will just repair nesting boxes here or if she changes her mind, then maybe there — wherever they are needed. I’ll gather the supplies at the creek.”

          Brother Servant notices, “Inching ever closer… But I figure, since all your construction skills are human, and you don’t seem to have the gifts known by birds with beaks for weaving grasses I will have to supply you with a saw and a blade. You may walk with me as far as the creek. Then I will continue on up while you go about gathering brush and sticks.”

         He’s right. I guess I’m inching my way ever closer to breaking the rule. But in fact, I’m really not bound by any rule here and I could just go up there as I please, but then Ana might feel I’m forcing myself onto her and she wouldn’t want me there, even if all I did was build a roof for her house. And by breaking the rule they have here I would not only close myself from her, I wouldn’t have this place to return to. Cages and rules constrict both bird and man but they may serve a worthy purpose.

         Dear God, let me find the limits to my own freedoms in the many ways of love. Amen.

         We set out on this new morning, I with a saw and a blade, and brother servant with a bird in a cage.

         Now here on the banks of the creek as Brother Servant walks on I find all the materials anyone would need for cages and roofs, broom hedge for thatching and pine poles and hazel branches for building. He’s gone on ahead up the hill with the bird in the cage. The sun is rising higher, and already I’ve pruned a new hole in the brush for sunshine to pour through, and it makes blue sparkles of sky on the water, once dark.  I have a heap of thatching cut here already.

         Now I hear someone romping through the thickets on the path.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.10 Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Brother Servant took my request to the father for Ana to have birds.

         He tells me, “The father wants to know if Ana would like birds so I will have to ask her.”

         I need to find a distraction while I wait. I offer, “In my youth I apprenticed with a carpenter. Possibly I could make new nesting boxes here?”

         “Really Ezra, we have higher priorities for repairs.”

         I can’t think of anything else just now. “Maybe I could repair this dilapidated aviary here. Apparently the only thing that keeps the pigeons here is their domestication. I ask.  “With only a few tools, a saw and a blade, I can easily build a new aviary. I’ll use the scrub along the creek – the broom and willow, hazel wood and pine — and the birds will have fine nests of thatch and sticks and it won’t take the supplies we need for the important repairs.”

         Brother Servant isn’t impressed. “Birds already do that task quite well and they never borrow a saw or a blade from us. Ezra I know you are making plans to take birds to Ana. That seems to be all you think about. Just give me a chance to go and ask her.”

         “Yes, of course.  But maybe if you have some chores I could help with, you could go up there sooner?”

          “Alright, you may walk with me to the creek and start gathering these supplies while I go ahead and ask her.”

         “Oh thank you!” 

         Maybe I could make a note of the joy I feel just now.  It would fit on a bird’s leg and it would have a tune she could play on her flute, “Praise God!”

         Here in the midst of these chanting brothers only verses of moaning laments lap gently one onto the next like wavelets turning over on an evening shore. They are a whole dark sea, and here I am a loud splash joy just waiting to be shouted. Thank you God!

         “Thank you Brother! I really think birds could give Ana a chance to know she is beloved without her having to navigate the treachery of men’s lust.”

         “You’ve thought of that, have you?”

         “She told me she has fears.”

         “Please don’t forget, Ezra, here we may only speak of an unnamed angel of the wilderness. It is our sacred duty to forget whatever lustful thoughts we may have.”

         “Of course.”        

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.9, Thursday, April 21, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. Annegray in the Vosges Mountains

         I’m waiting to hear if Father Columbanus would consider having pigeons trained to return always to Ana so we could send notes to her and she wouldn’t feel so alone. When words to Ana have to be like words to an angel all she hears are our woes and petitions. It hardly seems kind to speak to a person as we would an angel. She should also know people care for her.  And maybe even the angels want to hear that.

         Made as we all are in the image of God maybe even prayers to God should be our kindest thoughts and gratitude. In fact, maybe I should make my prayers as love notes. Here is my love note with gratitude for “Green.” 

         Dear God, Creator of all that is and was, thank you for embracing earth in green. Thank you for this season of new life, winter grasses, green now in earth color, standing on frail stems as messengers of new life after the colorless withers. Green earth gulping first sunshine, exhale of plant breath to life-breath for us who live among the critters and beasts. Breath as spirit, metaphor for life and life again, crossing the mystical line between heaven and earth green is the tangible reality of the invisible infinity of blue.

         Thank you God for your love poured out that surprises even tough-knuckled humans with little joyful finds of mushrooms popping through the forest floor to breech our longing fast of winter. Thank you for an earth that lets us know of your love as it is in heaven. And may our human choices be generous also, to care for even the birds and maybe the frogs and snails as well. I love you too, Amen.

         Brother Servant has returned.

         “Ezra, I’ve taken your request to Father Columbanus to consider. I thought he would ponder over it and wait to answer. He has so many other concerns to deal with. But no. He told me right away even as I was standing there. He asked me if it would be a burden for me to set up the new cages and roosts. I told him it could be done.  Then he asked me what messages you were suggesting. I told him that you thought anyone could send little psalms or notes of encouragement, and that you suggested Psalm 118:24.  He smiled so brightly his eyebrows went up and his forehead wrinkled. ‘But first,’ he asked…”

(Continues Tuesday, April 26)

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Post #31.8, Weds., April 20, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. Annegray in the Vosges Mountains

           Again when we stand for the chanting of the psalms and I look down the row passed the elder monks and to see Brother Crathius, he once more leans forward and makes eye contact with me. This time he is prepared with a nod of recognition rather than shock. We share in knowing that the stiff joints of the elders he is attending, and my strange circumstance of life and life again are both ways of restoring usefulness after suffering. This is all about the hard flexes of healing. Creator love is the constancy of new life and healing – hallelujah anyway.

         A pigeon flies over, and lands on the wall top.

         On this new day, Father Columbanus is back at Annegray and the servant monk has returned with him. I tell the Brother Servant about my idea to take some baby birds to Ana so she will have a roost there, then we can send her messages.

         He asks, “What messages would anyone send to her?”

         “Today I would like to send her ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!’ [excerpt from Ps. 118:24]  But I, or any of us could send her little words of encouragement, maybe just a kind word or maybe any phrase like that from a Psalm; She could know people are thinking of her. She would hear that others of us aren’t just thinking of our own benefit of her gifts, but we also value her as a child of God. I think that matters to her.”

         “You know, Ezra, you are not supposed to imagine her as a woman. And this sounds to me like a ploy to break that rule.”

         “Really I’m just thinking of her nature as human being. I think she would appreciate nurturing the little birds in her home. It would be helpful for her in many ways. But of course, I do realize you would be carrying birdcages in both directions up and down those hills. It would be an extra task for you. I can understand that.”

         He offers, “I will take your idea to Father Columbanus.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.7, Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. Annegray in the Vosges Mountains

            Now we are in the halleluiah season after Easter. The prayers of resurrection seem awkward for pilgrims among us who have come only with the heavy chains of Lenten suffering. The Irish monks celebrate Easter using a different calculation than the Roman pilgrims so the rhythm of the days is already disturbing for the monks from other abbeys. Now on this day the brothers of the Annegray choir call, “Christ has risen” and the response from the pilgrims is a nearly sorrowful, no I mean actually a tearful response, “Risen indeed.”

         The Jesus teachings of love for neighbors and enemies alike, the notion of God as full spirit of universal love, the wisdom of a Creator of all beauty, life and light, seem as though the halleluiahs would be a rightful norm not just some irrelevant afterthought to the constancy of suffering.

         I glance down the line of pilgrims, and there is Brother Crathius with the elder monks from his community. We are standing very near together here and I see him as leans forward also and takes notice of me, then pales with the shock of it. For a moment I wonder if it is my dress as that of a commoner in the midst of monks. But with all the halleluiah’s from the risen Christ I realize he had not anticipated my healing to go so well, and now he sees me as a physical face of resurrection. Maybe I am that as a physical sign like a dandelion seed I wander always into tangible life to be a metaphor for the spiritual forever.

         Shall I pass a message down the row to tell him of my strange circumstance, that I am simply a metaphor for the unseen nature of spiritual continuance? A physical resurrection is simply magnificent healing.  Doesn’t everyone know healing?  The spiritual truth for which I am a sign is the resurrection of the Christ, the universal Spirit and we all share in the Resurrection we celebrate today. Having no ink or parchment at this moment, and with such a long and complicated note I would have to make explaining it, I choose not to pass a note down the row to say in so many words as this whole story tells, that I am yet a living and healed man.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.6, Thurs., April 14, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         My thoughts seem always on Ana. Confessing the sinful distraction would give me another chance to say her name aloud. And by this time my tonsure is hidden in the curls of a layman and my thoughts of Ana are simply part of my gratitude. Thank you God for Ana. May the seeds of spirit floating free fill her garden. Now I’m thinking of Ana gathering dandelion leaves.

         Last I saw her she was bedazzled by the rich spring greens just appearing up from the earth planted only by God without any human farmer intervening. The bitters of springtime seasoned her porridge and gave us new strength to till a garden patch where none has ever been. And in this time of year even long established gardens have yet to grow, so anything stored over from another year’s gleanings are long gone. Without the wild plants this would be a hungry season.  Yet she found them and she was amazed. The more you pull them out, the more will grow. It’s the pattern of abundance.

         When the Brother Servant was sharing the meal at Ana’s house she mentioned her appreciation for dandelions just as we were eating them.  I called it abundance but Brother Servant called it grace. Grace is the pouring out of God’s wonderful gifts even when we don’t ask — unsolicited, unplanted by us, unpaid and free. The metaphors of nature speak to all of us who would take notice of so many things that grow wild and sweet with no farmer’s plan to make a harvest. Thank you God for these riches of this earth you have spread before us all, grasses for the beasts, and seeds and roots and bitter leaves for humankind.

         And this metaphor for grace holds another verse of God’s own poetry, to speak of resurrection.

         It was said “a flower which unlike other flowers that wither and fade as they die, mysteriously blooms again. As it dies, the dandelion blooms into a ‘beautiful white globe, like a full moon, luminous, airy and mystical… At the very moment of death, in a silky silent explosion, multitudes of white parachutes are released, each parachute carrying the sacred message: freedom is life.’ The dandelion, in its death sends itself into the world in freedom, spreads itself everywhere in ways no one has been able to control…” [Footnote]

[Footnote] This blogger’s personal note: my cousin, Rev. Dr. Carol Ann Munro shared this quote as a benediction at a memorial for another family member whose spirit we all knew continues, well-mingled in the creative froth of Universal Spirit. It was such a perfect metaphor of resurrection I asked her if I could offer it again here. She said it has a source: (Hays, Edward, Sundancer Foster of Peace books, 1982, and continuing.) Thank you Carol.

 (Continues, Tuesday, April 19)

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Post #31.5, Weds., April 13, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         I stand here among the pilgrims for the chanting of the psalms. I know that many who dedicate themselves to obedience in Christ assume grief and suffering are the virtues that make them holy. I’ve known some use suffering to nurture their own ability for empathy and for all human suffering, while others just seem to exacerbate their own personal pain as the ritual itself. Some of these suffering Christians seem stuck in the Lenten agonies, intent on some kind of unannounced race to out-do one another in suffering pain. Surely I am missing something here.

         Isaiah spoke of a “suffering servant.” [Is.52:13-53:12] Maybe it was a metaphor for the suffering of the nation of Israel. It was an unwinding of the Israelite history after the captivity by the Babylonians. Then Christians used the same verses to make Isaiah’s Suffering Servant seem a prophecy of Christ. [Romans 10:16; 15:21](Footnote)  And sure enough, Jesus suffered so that was the needed proof that one man was the holy savior of ancient prophecy.

         Whatever may be said through twists and contortions of holy relic in wood chips, somehow it’s become a notion that human pain can be a portal to a God who suffers. In these strange times the brutal showpiece of political execution has become a sacred symbol. How easily the message of the love of God, the whole of Jesus’ teachings, becomes no more than a decorative frill on the reliquary. So I wonder are Christians keeping the suffering and loosing the servant?

         Now here I am in my mystical belonging with my human friend Jesus, ‘the way and the truth and the life,’ as I knew him to be. And I am leftover, a physical sign for the spiritual gift of life forever. Self-sacrifice is something I could never attain, always buoyed back into health and life by the simple love and beauty of it all.

         Just now Brother Crathius hurries by with a long bench (oblivious to my presence here as a healed man). He’s discovered that the Rule of Columbanus has a nearly hidden detail that excuses the sick and elderly from standing long hours for the chanting of Psalms.  He can fulfill his assignment to care for the monks he was sent to look after by taking them a bench to sit down and ease their hurting feet and knees. No, maybe we aren’t missing the servant after all in the subtle gestures of caring for one another.

Footnote:  Brettler, Marc Zvi, and Levine, Amy-Jill “The Bible with and without Jesus,” How Jews and Christians read the same stories differently, (HarperCollins) 2020. Chapter 9.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.4, Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. Annegray in the Vosges

The keeper of the birds told me there is a “Rule of Ana.”

         “It is forbidden to speak any notion that this ‘Ana’ you have called by name as anything but an angel.”

         “I understand. I know this rule was made for her safety. May I be respectful.”

         “It is forbidden even to think of her as a woman.”

         “Of course.”

         I have a thought just now. I try to make a new topic of it. I ask the monk if they raise the birds here.

          “Yes. We may have more hatchlings soon.”

         Apparently I am allowed to ask about the birds.

         “Are they hard to care for?”

         “They are very much like chickens.”

         “I see no roosters.”

         “Yes you do. You just don’t know which are hens and which are cocks, they look alike to someone who doesn’t know.”

         “Of course. Do they all carry messages?”

         “What are you thinking? Whatever does this matter to you?”

         “I’m only thinking of angels now, you know, the wings and all that.”

         Try as I might, I can’t stop thinking of this idea I have. What if Brother Servant could take Ana some birds of her own to raise, and make their home at her house?  Then, she can receive messages from us, and she will have several birds that always come back to her in the same way the birds now fly away from her to come back here. She will have a community of birds and when one is carried here, it can fly a message to her from us.

         The monk reads my silence. “No more thoughts about that holy angel; fill your mind with the sacrifices of Lent, nothing more.”

         When someone says “don’t think of…” I always think of it, even if I wasn’t already thinking of it.  I can’t intentionally, not think about something. Dear God, please check on your holy angel Ana just now, while I try to forget her.

         But even when someone says the name Father Columbanus, I think of birds, because his name means these families of pigeons and doves. And when I think of birds, I think of this idea and then I think of Ana.

         I’ll speak to Brother Servant about this when he returns.  Perhaps Ana could have some fledglings.

         The keeper of the birds reads my silence once again.

         “I told you, don’t even think of her.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.3, Thurs., April 7, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Annegray is a ruin of a fortress.  Like Ana’s house it has very sturdy stone walls. But here pieces of a makeshift roof are only in the places most needed. With skins hoisted over here and striped tenting or woven waxed cloth over there it has something of the feel of a desert market place but where I would expect to see camels and displays of merchandise there are just solemn processions monks.

         I see another bird fly over like the birds in the boxes delivered by the servant monk to Ana and I wonder if she is sending a message to us here. Now I’ve seen how messages move here more quickly than even a horse could travel from wilderness places up and down the hills and back to this monastery. Maybe someone at a distance is in need.

         No matter if we value solitude or treasure companionship we are always bound to one another by need. Sometimes it’s our own need, and sometimes it’s our care for another. So the solitary wilderness times when Jesus set this example of the Lenten fast he was attended by angels Mark tells us. [Mark 1:12] Father Columbanus goes to his solitude attended by the Brother Servant. Maybe that is because of his legendary discovery of a bear in his cave, or maybe it was an awareness of responsibility for his community of monks, whatever his reason, the father takes the Brother Servant to always maintain the connection between solitude and community.

         When the fetters of responsibility for others are of our own choosing the name of that goodness is love. Neighbors, partners, obligations, enemies, companions, it doesn’t matter our assigned relationship, when belonging is empowered with empathy both beauty and grief hold us in love’s arms.

         But now I’m thinking of Ana, and maybe I’m always thinking of Ana. Were I a monk it would be a distraction from prayer and probably a sin. Maybe I am required to stay away from her because it is a worry that others don’t know me and certainly don’t trust me. But I’ve made no vow to stay here and I’m thinking Ana is all alone and isolated by the fears of … of what? And yet I stay here. As a child she welcomed opportunities to be with people, but here she is with her companions limited to the creatures of the wilderness. She must feel a terrible emptiness. And now I too am here, not there.

(Continues Tuesday, April 12)

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Post #31.2, Weds., April 6, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. Annegray in the Vosges

         “We’d nearly given up hope for finding Ana until I was on this journey to Annegray and I learned from this servant monk that Ana may have been captured by pirates. That’s why I sent the child’s garden tool with this man. If it was our missing Anatase she would recognize it and we would both know she was found.”

         “So you were a monk at Ligugé?”

         “Yes Father.”        

         Now I’m dismissed to the join with the other pilgrims keeping the hours while the father is going on to his solitary place for a Lenten retreat. It seems there is nothing that would stop me from just returning to Ana but that would betray the frail and hapless thread of trust the father may have in me as an obedient as monk.

         I’m assigned to a guest room for pilgrims. This place was an old Roman fortress so it has walls and boundaries, but very little accommodation with actual rooms for guests. I’ve read this Rule of Columbanus we follow here. So I know most of the hours I spend here will be in the oratorio chanting the psalms with the brothers and other pilgrims.

         A bird flies overhead where we have no roof.

         There is a monk tending the birds in this little room next to the oratorio.  As a bird lands on a high rail this keeper of the birds takes it in his hand and removes the message, then places it into the aviary where it is safe from predators.

         “Could I ask you about this?” I have lots of questions.

         He answers, “I’m just the assistant here. The brother who keeps these birds is away.”

         “Is that one of the birds that Ana had at her house?”

         “How would you know of Ana?”

         “I was taken there for healing when I was near death. I am of the family where she was an apprentice in healing. She was kidnapped from our family so I was glad to learn now that she’s safe. We’d been searching for her.”

         “No one but one monk and Father Columbanus are even supposed to know of her. So you should say nothing more about this. As far as we are concerned here, she is nothing more to talk about than a holy angel.”

         He calls it “The Rule of Ana.”

         “And there should be nothing to say to any holy angels that can’t be said in prayers.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #31.1, Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. Ana’s house in the Vosges

         This morning the servant monk arrived with a mission to take me to meet Father Columbanus. Finding the Celtic Father was originally the purpose of my quest before I learned Ana was somewhere to be found. But now, as the monk is telling me to come meet the father it seems more of a requisition than an invitation. Apparently I’m being called before him to explain my intention in staying with Ana well beyond my healing time. Before we leave he asks Ana of my fitness for a walk into the valley and up again. Of course I’m able and shouldn’t I answer for myself? I can easily go two kilometers and return by evening. But the monk suggests I may not be returning. She goes into her room with a roof and doesn’t watch us leave.

         Father Columbanus has an unobtrusive authority as I have known to be the demeanor of desert fathers of ancient times. His assurance springs from a silent root.

         After a prayer the servant monk introduces my circumstances here as one who was found with pagan hunters, injured and in need of a physician.

         “But I am not a pagan, good Father. I’m a Christian who set out to follow the pagans because they knew of this place.  I was hoping to find you as I had heard about your journey here from St. Patrick’s island.

         “Father,” Brother Servant intervenes, “when we found him he had been wounded by the pagans; they called him a thief and he sent me with a child’s garden tool saying he knew the young woman you have secured in solitude. His bent dagger was supposed to assure her. At the time I believed him to be one of the pirates who kidnapped and raped her.”

         “But that is not who I am, Father.  I am called Ezra, after the Ezra who is the patriarch of the vineyards on the Loire. I am of that family. The child Anatase was borrowed for her childhood to be apprentice and blind guide for that other Ezra’s sister, Eve. Eve was a practitioner of healing even though she was blind.

         “While Ana was yet a child I went on to Ligugè where I was a monk and scribe for some years. The monastery now has no need for its scribes so when the tragedy came to my family I returned to the Loire. Eve had been brutally slain and Anatase was missing.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.15, Thursday, March 31, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         “The Rule of Columbanus is a shorter document than the Rule of Benedict,” she tells me clearly intending to change the subject.

         “So these are easier rules?”

         She smiles at that silly question.

         She explains, “It takes fewer words because all that obedience and fidelity is to God and not the bishop or the abbot. There is much less detail about wayward varieties of monks and proper outward appearance.”

         I see from the copy we are given it begins right off in the place where The Rule of St. Benedict puts off until “IV. The tools for good works.” mentioning the biblical commands for love of neighbor. [Footnote1]

         This Rule of St. Columbanus begins, “…First of all we are taught to love God with our whole heart and with our whole mind and with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves; then {come} works.” [Footnote2]

         Ana adds, “I imagine you and the old monk Nic would have preferred this Celtic Rule.”

         “Ana, you have such a gift of memory, even for these tiny details of our opinions.”

         She explains, “It was so important to me then to know the things that linked people together, things that mattered to people… So of course I remember our reading lessons with Nic’s pages.”

         I still have my question, “Let me ask again because you seem to be evading my questions about your isolation here, giving me only theoretical answers about managing groups of monks. But your loneliness seems so important to you that it is unspeakable to anyone but God. Is that true?”

         Tears well in her eyes. “It is true that I care not to speak about my circumstance here. It’s my own fears that isolate me here forever and ever. You can’t blame it on the monks. They would only help me if they could.”

         “I’m asking this not to make any accusations but to learn if I’m actually welcome here as you allow me to believe I am; or maybe I’m an intrusion into your longing for solitude.”

         “You are welcome here.” She goes quickly into her private room said to have a roof, where she can shield from me her deep sobbing.

         “I didn’t mean to quake the dam.” I apologize as Ana returns to our worktable drying her eyes.

         She has completely regained her composure as the Servant monk arrives at her door.

[Footnote1] The Rule of St. Benedict, Translated by Carolinne White, Penguin books, p. 17.

[Footnote2] The Rule of St. Columbanus (Regula Monachorum), Translated by Terrence G. Kardong, “St. Columban: His life, rule, and legacy” p.1retrieved as a pdf  8-20-21

http://www.companyofjesus.org › Rule-of-Colum…

(Continues Tuesday, April 5)

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Post #30.14, Weds., March 30, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         The monk explains that in Lent there are more pilgrims than ever at Annegray. He thanked Ana for the seeds and wild roots and flavorful herbs and for instructions for the kind of root cellars used in Gaul. So now, he says, food was already set aside for guests. He says they need more copies of Columbanus’s Rule so this servant brings more velum ends and ink.

         The servant monk says to me, “Surprised we all were to find Ana is such an able scribe. Even in these times of good health all around she is still useful.”

         Ana rises from the table to stir the pot. Her lips are pressed, holding back tears. I know this isolation here, serving people she never sees, is a deep hurt.

         After the servant is on his way I find I can be more useful with the daily chores washing the bowls and readying the pot. Then she sets the table with velum, ink blocks and blades and brushes.

         “Ana, how did they discover you are a literate woman?”

         “Well, you know the messenger birds only fly one way, so to ask something of me they send the servant monk here with a wax tablet. It’s a tablet like the one Brother Nic used to teach me letters.  When the servant brings news that someone is in the infirmary in need of an uncommon cure, the symptoms come scratched in the wax. Then I press the wax down and write the instructions for the remedy and send it back with the proper herbs. But now they want true writing. I’m not practiced with the inks but here they are in need of Rules for guests so I become the scribe.”

         As I watch Ana spend her hours and her days caring for a group of strangers she never sees or touches nor even does she know by name, I ask her if she finds this isolation a blessing or a curse.

         “Do you welcome your solitude?”

         “Such is the way of all goodness, light and warmth of fire, love and even life itself…” She answers, “It is both blessing and curse.”

         “How is such isolation a blessing?” I ask as we scrape the blocks of ink into powder and trim the dried and stretched calfskins.

         “The complaints old Nic had of The Rule of St. Benedict were structures to serve as practical solutions for controlling an unruly mob of boys using punitive earthly measures and threat of hell. And now you ask me if ‘community is the curse’?”

 (Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.13, Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         Close to the heart in these mountains deep in its valleys, the Black Forest cradles an eternity of ancient lore. Turned as yarn on the spindles of storytellers are romantic legends of fairies and princes, commoners always reaching justice after cruelty, always turning things upside down as was Mary’s song sung again in the Gospel of Luke. [Luke 1:46-56] But with the bad news I bring, it seems for Ana what had become a dream of a happily-ever-after is just more ashes to sweep from the hearth.

         I try to understand. “So you have to stay all alone out here in the wilderness in a house with only a half a roof, on account of the possible indiscretions of young monks?”

         “You make it sound restrictive. I’m grateful for the safety of this circumstance.”

         “Really? But here you suffer the consequences for other people’s sins.”

         “Did your buddy Jesus tell you life is fair?”

         “No. Of course not.”

         “Maybe it was the old monk, or maybe it was you, yourself who taught me the Jesus answer. The only way to get perfect justice is to become the one who feeds the hungry and clothes the naked and cares for the sick and imprisoned, and never even try to find the equal measure of it all. Here I am much happier setting my sights on serving others and not worrying over my own allotment.” [Matthew 25:21-46]

         This angel of Annegray has a few things collected and ready to send on to those monks: wild seeds of forest herbs for spring gardens, roots and mushrooms to give delicacy to common porridge, and a page of writing, rolled up packed in with all these little finds of nature. She prepares whatever she can to remind monks they are the warp woven into the beautiful Creation with the weft of Holy Love.

         “So it’s not a rumor. You actually are the attending angel here in this wilderness.”

         Thank you God for this window on devils and angels.

         The servant monk comes on foot with a bag of things for Ana, and he puts the things she’s sending to Annegray into his bag. He takes the empty bird box down and replaces it with the bird he’s brought with him. He asks her something in a whisper she freely answers aloud.

         “Don’t worry about Ezra. I’m not afraid of him, even though, as you noticed, he is quickly healing and becoming quite strong and healthy. Maybe he can help me with the scribing assignment.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.12, Thursday, March 24, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         Ana and I are stumbling over steep cobblestones of reunion. Her dream of finding her beloved teacher alive and well, welcoming her back is dashed, and instead she gets handed a man with a wound.

         She breaks into my silence with words, “Of course you have nothing to say. I shouldn’t pour out my own sorrows on you Laz, you need to rest now.”

         At this waking earth and heaven are new again. Old patterns of woes and hurts fade to pale in the morning light. Ana still plays a child’s song and on clay flute. She puts it aside and ruffs the hearth with the bristles of her little broom. It’s a tidy room that has no roof. Rains come and go, sun makes mist of the damp, now it is all glittering new.

         At least today I have strength enough not to be a constant trouble for Ana. Thank you God. She is preparing for a visit from Father Columbanus’s servant who brings her supplies and assignments and keeps her posted on events of Annegray.  Then he returns to the monastery with, as she says, “whatever one would expect to receive from an attending angel. It’s in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus went off and fasted and prayed those forty days of forever in the wilderness, with wild beasts, tempted by Satan and ministered to by angels. [Mark 1:12]  So Father Columbanus set foot in this wilderness as a ‘desert father’ in imitation of Jesus surely expecting the wild beasts and angels and devils. I choose not to be a beast or a devil, so I simply make my effort to attend them as angelically as is humanly possible.”

         “So you made the choice not be the tempter?”

         “Apparently, the temptations that come to monks in these current wildernesses are not the kinds that afflicted Jesus. Jesus had to contend with temptations like: using his superpowers to help others rather than showing off by leaping off cliffs, or choosing between all the power and wealth in the world or love for God and neighbor. That’s what it says in Luke, you know. [Luke 4:1-15]”

         “I know.”

         “When it became obvious that even the most devout young monks could yield to the base and simple temptation of lusting after sex simply by having a woman present, I was relegated to this distant cottage and the eunuch was assigned as messenger.”

(Continues Tuesday, March 29)

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Post #30.11, Weds., March 23, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         I’ve always imagined finding Anatase and it would be a happy reunion, abundant gratitude and endless hopes fulfilled. I’ve done nothing here but stare into the deep sky and I feel like she’s blaming me for all her hurt just because of my gender.

         “Sorry Laz, I didn’t mean all men seek to own and manage women; its just the ones I know of – I mean in these times.”

          “It’s okay Ana, I understand I’m a lot of trouble for you and I bring only bad news. I’ve come here shattering your hopes. 

         I yammer on, “For me it’s so good to see you strong and well, grown to be such a beautiful and wise woman.” I can see this was another wrong thing to say but I have no idea why. “What did I say, Ana?”

         “Beautiful and wise you say as though you caught a glimpse of sea at sunset. Wise and beautiful is my anathema!”  It’s always these conspicuous holy gifts that cost me any possibility of a good life with a trusted and loving family. Wise as a small child, my own mother feared me because I was longing for learning. She sent me away and it was only by God’s grace that Daniel borrowed me from the pagans so I could taste the virtues of family in my teacher’s service.

         “And beautiful you say, so the men I would loathe most lust after my breasts and ravage and rage to find a place to plant the phallus without the slightest nod to my nature and even to their own natures, as God’s good creation. So for that gift of beauty my teacher never even saw, she was slain and I was taken from that one loving home. These perfections I was born into seem to be my curse.”

         My answer now is a long and hungry silence of words. It is my unspoken prayer of thanksgiving for Ana and her beauty, and for the healing I’ve been granted here by her wisdom. Maybe it’s the spirit of her teacher that pangs my longing to be her trusted and loving family. Or maybe I’m excusing my own lust for her lips and her breasts by thinking of my own virtue.

         Dear God, I find here that my own sexual desires could be an earthly metaphor for holy love. But it is a complicated maze. Is that by holy design? Probably it isn’t my place to know. May I receive your own rule, as Ana already knows the rule for women just by her very nature.

 (Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.10, Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         Awake again, the brother servant and Ana are having biscuits and porridge. Brother Servant says he will be going back to Annegray right away, and offers to help take me to a straw bed closer to the fire before he goes. That is a kindness.

         I wish not to cause them trouble.  Maybe I could’ve just gotten up and gone over to the bed with only a little help from Ana. But Ana is giving us so many explicit instructions all about which way I am allowed to move to protect the stitches.  For one who would drop a bowl on the hearthstone, she seems way too cautious over the possibility of jostling her needlework.

         Now I find this bed comfortable. The linen wrap intended as my grave cloth becomes a fine fresh bed sheet, and here is a feather pillow like my childhood days in my rich father’s villa; except there we had a roof and the winters weren’t as cold.

         The monk takes the empty bird cage and has gone now as Ana moves the bench near me to serve the porridge. She has questions.

         “The father’s servant monk said you’ve come with sad news about my teacher.”

         “We’ve been grieving her death, and for all this time we also found no closure, only fears and worries over your safety. It’s so good to find you again and to know you are well — a grown woman now.”

         “But who is it you’ve found?  I’m hardly the bold, ever-daring Anatase, the child ready to take on any challenge. I’ve learned deep fears and now loss. Father Columbanus said I would be a blessing to a convent but how could I ever live under such a rule?”

         “Probably all that reading you did from Brother Nic’s pages put a sour odor on the Rule of Benedict, but other communities have different rules. I think the regimes of prayers and psalms, the guidance for solitary monks learning to participate in community is for many a trustworthy structure.”

         “Maybe that’s the problem. Men crave the structure they impose on women, and women already have patterns of nature to structure their lives.”

         I fear we’re not discussing monastic rule anymore. Silence seems my best reply.

 (Continues tomorrow)


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Post #30.9.1, Friday, March 18, 2022

The Bridge to “Once We Were”*

Historical setting: 589 C.E. A Roman Ruin

         What is it about ancient times that lets Roman bridges stand firm on old roads long after the empire has fallen?

         History, we know, is nearly always skewed by the perspective of now. The same hymn attributed to Saint Patrick several centuries gone, comes with two different stories. Was the Patrick of this legend a warrior or a pacifist?  Whichever image of courage defines his heroism depends upon if you are standing next to Jesus when he heals the severed ear of the Roman guard [Luke 22:50-51] or if you are a monk safely sheltered in the Sixth century by a Merovingian King who wields a mighty sword. The names of heroes become facts of history, but the nature of hero, and the values driving the story are mere temporal gasps in the snare of time.

         If our longstanding bridges to the past were only paved with facts of names and dates, battles fought and treaties signed, telling history would be easy. But history is most truly told by the storytellers. They know the human hearts of all of those who crossed over on the frozen rivers with Detriech or Attila, or lived in the ruins of Rome with Chilperic or Columbanus. And they might tell you who were their lovers and their friends.  How were the common people saved from the despots? What were their prayers? Did they plead with a god they’d never met in person, or did they pitch tents for a transfiguration?

         Old bridges are surely a path into the old ruins. Is it any wonder the bridges into history are so often feared and forbidden?  What if we found we were the same human species as the ancients? Its easy to say the throngs following Jesus must have been illiterate, or at least not as brilliant as we, so Jesus was talking down to people when he told us to love our enemies. Of course we believe we are smarter than that now. But what if we aren’t?

         What if by knowing our history we recognize ourselves as despots and masters, slaves and serfs, haters and lovers, fighters and pacifists, winners and losers, liars and prophets…  What if knowing history requires confessions and restitution and peace making?

         Crossing the bridge to “Once We Were” is indeed, a fearsome dare. Dear God stay close. Guide human eyes to see what is true and then let us love others as we learn to love ourselves anyway, any way.

            *[Blogger’s personal note] We first sang “Bridge over Troubled Water” plunging into the unknowns of marriage ahead, imagining a roiling and rollicking dangerous future as we were promising away our fears.  Today these five decades of marriage are comfortable nostalgia that smells like a wet dog after a passing shower. Good to be with you today Tom remembering all our dogs and bridges of years past.

(Lazarus story-line Continues Tuesday, March 22)

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Post #30.9, Thursday, March 17, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         “I once heard the ancient legend of Patrick told by a pagan druid. The pagans accept myths of shape-changers and, in fact, all varieties of magic of which Jesus knew nothing.  So when I heard the druid legend it seemed all about the magic.

         “Celtic Pagans wanted to rid the Island of Christians so the pagan priests gathered an army to ambush Patrick and his monks in what Patrick thought would be a peace negotiation. The druid’s men lay in wait until nearly dark, then they heard a strange lowing sound, like the lullaby of peaceful cattle lowing softly to their calves. Then the pagans saw a huge heard of deer walking slowly through the wood. There was no war that night only a peaceful passing by of monks in song.

         “The next day it was said, Patrick and his followers won a fearsome war against the druid’s army. But these followers of Patrick were pacifists, so I suppose the battle was mere legend.”

         Brother Servant added, “In the monk’s story Patrick and his followers were shape-changed into a band of wild bucks, leaping and dashing antlers against the attackers to win a war against the Pagans and Ireland for the Christians.”

         “But I still believe, even if they changed into antlered bucks they would pass by peacefully in prayer, in Jesus’ way. The prayer is called ‘Patrick’s Breastplate’. Do you know that song?” I asked the Brother Servant monk.

         “Of course I do.”          Brother Servant chants it to me in a whisper, [Footnote]                 

         [Footnote][The Lorica, called the Faed Fiada, or Deer’s Cry* attributed to Patrick, for protection  (Seumas MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race, 1921 Koneky & KoneckyOld Saybrook, CT (4th Rev. Ed.) p. 114. MacManus’s note regarding this English Translation – This Dr. Sigerson’s rendering of the hymn is in the same measure, metre and rhythm of the original.)]

(Continues Tomorrow (Friday) with a special post)

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Post #30.8, Weds., March 16, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The cottage in the mountains

         Brother Servant and I are talking quietly. Ana is resting in the next room.         

         He tells me, “Ana has been anxious to hear what has become of her teacher and her home by the Loire. She saw smoke rising behind her as she was being abducted, and she fears the worst.”

         “It was a great loss.”

          He tells me she’s had no closure though she grieves.

         I can say it to this fellow more easily than I could tell Ana, “Her blind teacher, Eve, was killed swiftly by sword. As she heard Anatase screaming she wandered into the darkness calling after her and she was struck down. As they carried Ana off the marauders torched the house.

         “Eve was buried in a family place by her mother’s grave along  with Anatase’s gift of pages of herbs. It was a gift she had given her blind teacher when she was yet a child offering something to touch and smell of the garden the teacher most loved. Loosing both Eve and Anatase was is a terrible grief for our whole family. We didn’t know if the kidnapping was by a pagan tribe or pirates, so we searched among the pagans simply because we knew where they were. I feared if the pirates had taken her we would never find her.

         “Coming from his own island you must know well, when St. Patrick was stolen by pirates his family never saw him again.”

         The servant answers, “You know of St. Patrick?”

         “I’ve thought of him often as we’ve been searching for Anatase. My prayer was that she would feel God’s presence with her always as St. Patrick had known it.”

         “It’s amazing to me that even in this barbarian wilderness Patrick is still known.”

         “Not by all, even in these times. I learned of that island when I was a shipwrecked there, but I saw the footprints of Saint Patrick everywhere. So here in Gaul when the pagans told me of a Celtic Christian who had a following of Irish monks I set out in search of Father Columbanus. I found some pagan hunters who know these mountains and I hoped they would guide me to Annegray. You see how that worked out. One of them mistook me for a deer. I should have remembered the Celtic weakness for ignoring the distinctions between deer and Christians.”

         “How do you mean?” he asks.

         “Surely you’ve heard the legend, coming as you do from Patrick’s island.”

 (Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.7, Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. A cottage ruin in the Mountains

         Ana answers the door of this place with the sky as its ceiling and she welcomes Brother Servant. He’s come with a cart and a wrap of linen apparently to gather up my remains for burial.

         She invites him in so I choose to keep still here and just play the part of the table I’m lying on.

         Brother Servant sits down on a bench and Ana offers him a biscuit and some tea.

          “It was a very long night here. I lit torches all around so I could see to work, and I was able to learn a great deal about mending a deep wound. And now by God’s grace alone he lived through it all.”

         Brother Servant comes near.

         Ana offers the prognosis, “He may yet get his strength back. But I think it would be dangerous for him to be taken too soon for a long  cart ride back to the infirmary at Annegray.”

         “Would you like me to stay here then?”

         “That won’t be necessary.”  

         “Do you feel in danger should he become stronger and rise up?”

         “I’m safe with him. He was my teacher’s family, and I knew him when I was a child. In a waking moment now he has already remembered me. I’m pretty sure neither of us will need to report for confession while he is healing here.”

         I hear a bowl drop onto the hearthstone and shatter and Brother Servant goes to help her pick up the pieces. Helping her seems to be his assignment always.

         “It’s been a long night for you, saving a man and then making fresh biscuits.”

         “I seem to be clumsy from sleeplessness.”

         “Would you like me to keep watch while you get some rest?”

         “Thank you that would be kind of you.”

         “I’ll finish slicing the carrots for the porridge pot.”

         “Thank you, Brother. You’ll just have to stay for the noon sup then.”

         As Ana goes out through the door by the hearth I ask Brother Servant if she has a room in there, “with a roof.” He seems surprised to find I am aware, and assures me that she does sleep under a roof. Now he has moved the bench closer, so that we can talk in whispers as I seem to do this day.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.6, Thurs., March 10, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. The ruin of a mountain cottage

         At this waking cold sunshine finds no roof over me. The deerskin is a warm blanket.  Looking around the room there are walls and doors and even a window, just no other ceiling but the sky. There is a shelf near where the roof would be where the bird cage sits. It is surprisingly warm for a late winter’s day, and now I see that on the wall at my head is a grand hearthstone, blazing with a well-tended cooking fire.

         Anatase in a simple flaxen dress and tattered surplice apron comes in a door near the fireplace and she tends the fire. She dips from the caldron into a tea pot. Her flow of golden hair surely belongs on a child I remember.

         I close my eyes again to try to remember another day and put this all together. I had nearly found the child. The taller monk, and the shorter monk were on the seat of the donkey cart. But when we came up from the valley only the servant monk and the bird were there. The servant monk got down to walk the donkey up the climb back into the sunlight. I remember how I hoped …

         She is right here, a woman now, her long fingers reach around my wrist for a thump of life. I choose to keep my eyes closed simply imagining the face of a weathered and weary woman with the familiar sparkling eyes and smile – the precocious child who already knew how to read but who pretended to let us teach her anyway.

         “Good morning, Laz. I hear they call you Ezra now. I wish I could say my surgeon’s skills saved you, but of course, healing is a gracious gift of the Creator of life herself. I have a bowl of tea for you, if you can take a sip now.”

         I can’t speak to answer. Dear God, thank you for this beautiful morning. Amen, So be it. Were this really true, I would lust for a  forever of these mornings. But as dreaming, I dare not open my eyes for a waking.

         “Ezra? Laz, look at me now. I have some tea for you. It would be good if you could take a sip.”

         “It is good. Thank you, Ana…”

         “It is just Ana, now. I’m called Ana.”

         “Thank you Ana.” What more is there to say, but everything of all these years.

         I offer, “Ana, I will build a roof for your house.”

         She smiles, “Maybe another day.”

 (Continues Tuesday, March 15)

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Post #30.5, Weds., March 9, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         Brother Servant comes with a donkey cart. He also brings the good news that the rumored ‘angel of Annegray’ is indeed Anatase.

         He said, “She took the little sickle and pressed it close to her as a treasure. I told her you had the dark hair and eyes of a pirate. She seemed delighted. She calls you ‘Laz,’ after the bible guy Lazarus, because you were from a town near Jerusalem. That matches what you said.”

         Thank you God. The ropes are loosed from my ankles, and I feel empowered climb into the cart. I’m surprised it demands so much strength just to move.

         Brother Crathius notices my nose bleed. “This is a very bad sign. It means the wound was deeper than the bandages could cover, so this bleeding is from the depths and nothing can be done now to save him.”

         A bird in a cage is set in the bed of the cart so Brother Crathius can have the seat next to the brother servant. The bird just stares at me.  The long ride is somber and silent. Brother Crathius is let off to follow the pilgrim route then the cart continues on into a deep valley and up a steep rise into fresh sunlight.

         Here we stop. Anatase touches my face laying her fingers on my neck for pulse as Brother Servant sets the birdcage off the cart and offers to take me on to Annegray for prayers and burial.

         “No wait,” she says. “I can see why you would be so certain of his death. But this death is a terrible hurt for me first hoping then loosing. And I believe this may be my holy calling to give purpose to my sorrow.”

         “May God dry your tears,” answers Brother Servant.

         Anatase explains, “I’ve read about it and studied it but I have no experience with these deep wounds from swords or arrows. I would be unpracticed were there ever a war. Please put him on the table so I can practice mending this kind of wound with scalpel and stitches.”

         “He is probably already with God.”

         “I know. But it would give purpose to this death, that my skills could be honed to save another person on another bad day.”

         Dear God, stay close.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.4, Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         At this waking I see the contents of my travel bag spread out on the ground and Anatase’s sickle is missing. Brother Crathias is still here, and I am lying on my back on a fleece with only my ankles tied now.

         “Good morning, Pirate. Brother Servant will return soon with a cart from the monastery to take you somewhere you can’t escape from in case you really are a pirate. But I don’t think you’re a pirate. You’re teeth are good.”

         “Thank you. I’m definitely not a pirate.”

          “But you know lots of young women and boys have been kidnapped by pirates to be sold for wives and slaves off in distant places where they can’t be found again. That is probably what happened to the girl whose child’s toy you happened to have. It seems unlikely the same woman you lost would be the one they found.”

         “Coincidences happen. Anatase is strong and clever.  And of course there is that possibility of synchronicity.”

         “Yes, Good Pirate, but you might have had a better chance to free yourself had you not given Brother Servant such a unique item to prove your hunch.  Because if she’s not that woman then it will prove you really are a pirate and things could go very badly for you.”

         “But the truth is I’m not a pirate.”

          “I think Brother Servant mentioned an old quarry pit behind the tattered fort of Annegray where they can keep you captive until Father Columbanus decides what to do with you. I know about Annegray because I was there last year at Lent and I saw that it is a ruin of an old fortress that the Irish monks only pretend is a monastery. It has lots of scary hiding places.”

         “I know,” I can speak more easily now, “I’ve even heard rumors from the pagans it is a haunt for the creatures of the underworld. But I wondered with beasts and rumors, and a hard climb to reach it, why would it be so popular for Christian pilgrims?”

         “Christians give no thought to the fears of earth, at least they shouldn’t say it aloud if the do fear, so being haunted surely adds to the challenge. And tattered and hard to reach is what sincere Christians gladly accept to assure the significance of the spiritual challenges they have taken on. And then, of course, Father Columbanus is beloved.”

(Continues Tomorrow)

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Post #30.3, Thursday, March 3, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         As the two very different Christian monks continue explaining themselves to one another I gather both a terror and a glimpse of hope. Brother Servant explains why he was chosen as servant because a trusted eunuch was needed.

         “I serve as a messenger back and forth between Father Columbanus and his followers when he is in his solitary wilderness place, but I also am messenger for a woman who followed some monks in a clandestine way. She is in hiding now, never trusting a man and always living in fear of pirates. She was raped and beaten by pirates that captured her on the River Loire. She’s followed that little band of monks all this way from the port at St. Milo and here she trusts me alone among men for her peace and solace.

         “I’m always alert and watching for pirates who would be searching for her. I think we should bind his hands and feet in case he would be able to get himself up.  We must assume he is a pirate unless he can show us otherwise. First we should check his bag for a blade.”

         Dear God, thank you for amazing synchronicity.

         The servant monk kneels here and draws my hands behind me — a terrible hurt to the wound. I try to plea while I can speak. “I’m not a pirate, but I am from the family of Ezra, who owns the vineyards on the Loire. There was a pirate abduction of a girl, surely a woman now; she’s named Anatase. She was apprenticed to a healer in my family.”

         The servant monk is listening as though we share some knowledge of a truth. I tell him more, “I have proof that I am from her teacher’s family. When you search my bag for a blade you will find one. It’s a small hammered blade, a legionnaire’s dagger forged into a child’s-sized sickle. Take that to the woman who was abducted and ask if she has ever seen it before. If she is Anatase she will tell you it was made into this tool as a gift for her when she was a child – it was given her by the monk who taught her to read. His name was Nic. She will know this. Please tell her we’ve been searching for her.”

         With wrists and ankles bound I’m turned again and I can’t speak.

 (Continues Tuesday, March 8)


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Post #30.2, Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

         When I wake from this faint Brother Crathius, it seems, has never ceased his chatter and all the while he’s bandaged my wound and set me in a position that allows me to catch my breath.

         As they are starting the fire he tells the servant of Columbanus that he was chosen by his abbot to accompany the pilgrims on this Lenten journey to Annegray because the brothers from his abbey on this pilgrimage are elderly and have stiffened with age and from years working at the benches of a scriptorium.

          Brother Crathius explains, “I was sent with them prepared with herbs and oils and wraps to comfort them on the climbs; but as it turned out all this walking to reach the mountain trail had limbered their joints and, like a true miracle, they can continue the long climbs without the constant care of a physician. So by the Grace of God and with the help of Christ I am free to answer to this need.

         He just talks on, “So, you see Brother Servant, some miracles happen by magic and wonder, but often a Christian miracle is simply noticing the patterns of pain and an awareness of an unlikely synchronicity such as finding a physician with supplies in his bag, just when an angel for God speaks of need.”

         “I’m well aware,” said the servant to the physician.

         Another comfort in my healing is the cool damp cloth Brother Crathius washes over my face.

         “Brother Servant, take a look at this thief. His dark eyes, and swarthy hair… he may be Persian.”

         “No” I need to explain, “I was born in the east near Jerusalem, and I’m a Christian in these times.”

         “See how he defends?  Could he be a pirate?” The servant asks the physician.

         “Pirates are rarely so far from the sea, and with no deep river or  channel to the sea in this place it would be unlikely.”

         “No.” argues the servant. “Some monks who have come up from the sea to Annegray warned us so we’ve been keeping watch for pirates who might have followed them.”

         “Why? Why would pirates follow holy men? Is there some treasure they want?”

         The servant explains, “My service to Father Columbanus is to watch in the wilderness when he is away in solitary for prayer and fasting. But my other task these days calls for a trusted eunuch.”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #30.1, Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains

                 Winter night won’t linger as dusk very long. The hunters are anxious to return to their base camp by dark so they leave at the first sight of the monks. I think the two Christians plan to stay with me here for the night then drag whatever is left on to a proper death or maybe a healing in the morning. Thank you God for sending Christians.

         One has a fire start but their traveler’s bags are probably as sparse as my own, which I still have and I also still have my fleece. It was across my shoulders under the deerskin at the time of the so-called accident. We also have that deer hide I’m partly laying on, though it is surely bloodied by now. But it could be lashed to a frame for a night shelter for the three of us.

         The taller of the Christians has the tonsure of the Irish monks as I had expected to see, knowing that Father Columbanus came from the Scoti with his followers.

         He kneels down here by me and asks if I would like to make a confession. “The hunter who sent the angel to find us with the message said that you were a thief who had stolen an arrow and taken a fishhook from the fairies. We, who follow Father Columbanus accept private confession if you have need for absolution.”

         “Thank you” I find I have a breath to speak now, though very softly, “The arrow was returned. But please pray that the fishhook can be used to feed the hungry.”

         The other monk, the shorter fellow shorn in the Latin style asks, “Do you want me to witness his confession with you Brother?”

         “Thank you Brother Pilgrim. That won’t be necessary, because the Rule of Columbanus follows the way of St. Patrick who advocated for only private confession.”

         I can see that the difference between these two is more than height and haircut.

         “Now Brother Pilgrim, you may collect the bramble for our fire while I offer him a quiet absolution.”

         “I have a name. It’s Brother Crathius. And it may be by the holiness of Christ that you selected me from my fellow pilgrims for this mission.  You see, I am a physician. So while you gather brambles I shall see to wound.”

         “Very well, who am I to argue a true calling?”

(Continue tomorrow)

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Post #29.12, Thurs., February 24, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

          “Auldouff? This is no deer. Couldn’t you see it was Ezra?”

         “What?  You mean, this isn’t a deer?” Auldouff is still holding the bloody arrow he just withdrew.

         “No you idiot, it’s Ezra. How is it that you pulled the arrow, without even noticing it was Ezra you shot?”

         “You can put him out of his suffering with your blade.”

         “I can’t kill a man. He is looking right at me. We’ll suffer a Christian curse if he dies. Believe me Christian curses are far worse than any fairy pranks. Their underworld is Hell.”

         “The Christians don’t know him. They won’t notice.”

         “This is what we have to do. One of us should stay here to scare off the vultures and wolves, and the other should find the Christians.”

         “I’ll go for the Christians because I can tell them it was simply an accident.”

         “Be back by nightfall. These hills are surely haunted.”

         Dear God, did you mean to send those Christians of Annegray into a place with a fearsome darkness? Please stay close.  Waking and sleeping I don’t know of hours passing.  Heinrique is using his blade to whittle a stick. He is sitting near but looking out across the hills. I can’t tell if the darkness that is settling in is my vision alone or if it is already dusk. A wolf howls from a distant hill and Heinrique pulls his fleece closer around his shoulders. I feel the chill of fever drawing my life and releasing it as though I no longer need warmth. I’m remembering now the child’s flute, the little practice tune that played for me in an earlier time and danced me back from death to life – the peaceful meadow of healing herbs where my children, each in their own way, were candles of love and kindness.

         Awake I am again, and Auldouff returns breathless, having run ahead of the Christian monks he found.

         “Heinrique! Good you are still here!  I have to tell you the horrors of it!  The howling banshee was right in my path. I saw her even in the daylight, I saw her. I told her we needed Christians to come, so she went away and sent them to follow me.” We hear the wolves howl. “Listen, she is keening for his death right now!”

         “It’s only wolves, Auldouff. It’s alright now. And I see the Christians are coming.”

         The darkness is on all of us.

(Continues Tuesday, March 1, 2022)

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Post #29.11, Weds., February, 24, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         Today, we set out again for the hunt. And again, all I really want is to find that group of Christians they say are in these hills. On our first venture into the mountains I did see a cairn marking a trail for pilgrims, but I haven’t seen any other person who might know more of this than these pagan hunters. I was told the place where the Irish father and his followers have a community is a ruin of a fortress called Annegray.  If I would see another person at least I could ask for direction. These mountains are a forested wilderness and I can’t even guess how vast.

         Auldouff is a good distance ahead of us, Heinrique is still within my sight and here is a meadow with some deer grazing. Maybe Auldouff was right about a deer disguise.  I seem to be able to move in fairly close to them even though they are alert to danger and listening in my direction. Then again, I guess Heinrique was right, as soon as one sniffs the air they bolt – leaping away in ever direction as fast and far as they can. Just now Auldouff rises up from the brush ahead of me, with his bow drawn, first aiming and missing a deer then notching another arrow and aiming straight at me, eye-to-eye, as though I were a partridge in hiding. Surely he sees I’m not prey. But he releases his arrow straight to … it must be close to my heart, I can’t catch my breath. Now here I am lying like a slain creature wrapped in the skin of the animal who once met this same fate.

         Auldouff calls Heinrique to bring his blade because he thinks he’s wounded a buck. Auldouff comes nearer and he sees I am conscious so he says it was an accident. “You looked just like a deer to me, though I’ve never seen one face to face like that before.” He reaches to draw out the arrow, and I plead for him not to, but it is too late.  Now there will be so much bleeding.

         “I had to get my arrow back. Heinrique will stop the hurt. Don’t worry Ezra.” He backs off.

         Heinrique is here now, and Auldouff is at a distance. “What have you done, Auldouff?”

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #29.10, Tues., February 22, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         We leave the camp for the steeper walk into the hills ahead with a buckskin we use for shelter slung over my back because Auldouff thinks the deer won’t fear us if they don’t see our clothing. Since my tunic and cowl are of brighter colors Auldouff thinks I need a disguise. I don’t mind the extra weight, it’s more warmth on this frosty morning.

         I guess Auldouff’s theory of a deer’s point of view is something like God noticing the first sin in the garden because the people were wearing clothing. [Genesis 3:7-10]

         I’ve learned that one of the rumored magical features of the Vosges is that the animals of this wilderness might give up their wild ways and follow certain people. It’s said by Christians and maybe pagans too that Father Columbanus tames wolves and he even ousted a bear from her cave. [Footnote] And maybe Auldouff expects me, a Christian, to run with the deer and tame them for easier kill.

         Heinrique argues that deer pay no attention to our fashion. They sniff the air for predators and they stand very still and twitching their ears to listen for us. Either way, I am creeping through the forest wearing a heavy buckskin trying to keep completely silent and downwind from whatever makes these deep hoof prints in the mud.

         Suddenly, ahead of us a huge buck leaps up and Auldouff’s arrow knocks it to the ground. Heinrique uses his sharp blade as clean as any rabbi would for the slaughter. We return to our campsite with the kill. The creek is thawing already and we can’t depend on the cold to keep the kill, so we must work now to soak the hide and set up some spits over a smoky fire to prepare the meat, then we will cover over the smoker with the wetted hide before we head back for the hunt. The brothers are hoping for another hard freeze this winter to save us all this work with the next kill but the season is already changing.

         I’m getting a bit impatient with the hunters, I think because I have come here with a different purpose than they.  And our differences are weighing on all of us.  I am pretty sure these hunters would gladly leave me with the Christians if they could.

[Footnote] Sellner, Edward C. Celtic Saints and Animal Stories: A spiritual lkinship, (NewYork: PaulistPress) 2000 .pp.52-54.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #29.9, Thurs., February 17, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         Today we’re hunting partridge for food and feathers. Heinrique studies the mud patches where the meadow wears thin and he studies the earth along the barren mud banks of the creek looking for partridge tracks. Auldouff plunders through the brush hoping to stir them from sheltering places close to the ground.

         Heinrique speaks, “This whole bevy of partridge must be onto us by now. They’ve moved on or else they’re hiding too well. They just don’t forget these fellows with arrows coming often, picking them off one at a time.”

         We walk on following the creek into a piney wood as the earth slopes more and more from meadow toward mountain. Auldouff blunders on ahead. Heinrique is on his slow search for detail and I am a distance behind noticing the beauty of this nature. It seems winter hardened and stripped bare anything that once lived to set this season’s empty silence. Then I notice a quivering stalk in the grasses by a fallen log, and on closer look I’m staring straight at a large partridge staring right back at me too close to me for it to fly, trapped by his own shelter, completely depending on my human numbness, possibly blinded by its rote stillness. But my one arrow makes us a feast. As I am gathering the bird Auldouff has just stirred a flapping bew ahead of us, and in an instant several partridges are perching on far distant branches. By the time I’ve caught up with the brothers they’ve wasted several arrows missing the birds.

         Their pattern of hunt, now that we have one bird, is to set their base camp here before we begin the climb into the mountains where they will find the larger prey they seek, the deer and the boar. So here we spend a few days hunting up a few more birds, preparing arrows, and making a sledge to haul some yet unseen great kill back to the tribe and to lighten our travel of these buckskins and fleece we’ve brought for shelter.

         My prayer at this fireside is silent. Dear God, my prayer is for the spirit of that other life that stood perfectly still and looked me in the eye, that I made into food with my arrow. Let me remember the life gift as we are all living with shared spirit. Thank you God, Christ, Spirit, whatever names we make to sort it all out. Amen.

(Continues Tuesday, February 22, 2022)

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Post #29.8, Weds, February 16, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         I lay my fleece under the thatch roof of the hunters, Auldouff and Heinrique, while the thief, who is now known to these people by a name is welcomed into the shelters of the women of this tribe. And the white berries of the mistletoe ritual affirm the magic still works for them.

         This new morning the hunters pack light travel bags and take up their quivers of arrows. I have my bag, and only the one arrow that was probably in these quivers before it was offered to quill the evils of the underworld in the gift of rabbit. It is no secret I am ill prepared for the hunt. Leaving on the same path the thief and I followed yesterday we find our bows still hanging in the limbs of the tree. Of course, Auldouff nudges his brother for a rude remark about the greenwood stick I’m calling a bow.

         “I can learn from you Auldouff, how to make a proper bow, and I will listen carefully to your instruction for making the arrows. One of you must be an excellent fletcher.” I humbly yield.

         “We both are.” answers Heinrique,

         “But how would you know an arrow from a stick?” adds Auldouff.

         “I know because this arrow that I found while following your tribe was probably the work of one of you, and it is an excellent arrow.” I string my greenwood stick, and notch the arrow on the string, then I draw the bow and the arrow takes a quick straight path precisely into a piece of dead wood. They’re surprised and possibly impressed. But with nearly six hundred years to learn many things and lots of time to practice each thing, one would suppose I would have outgrown my need for such a prideful display of my talents. But really, aren’t we all waiting for me to show off a bit?

            Heinrique and Auldouff each take a turn testing my bow. It really is nothing more than a green stick, and I choose not to explain that the so-called ‘magic’ is simply years of practice.

         This day the other two don’t walk ahead of me. I seem to be accepted now as one of the hunters as we search a very specific target for our first day out. Heinrique says we are hunting partridge today, for food we can carry with us, and feathers for making arrows.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #29.7, Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         The village is just ahead. It’s a nestling of thatched round houses common among Celtic people. I’ve seen these also on the Island where Bishop Patrick set his Christian communities. There is a wide swath of these people it seems.

         Here I am looking for those hunters assigned by Guldilyn to mentor me in hunting and hopefully to help me find the Vosges Mountains and the Irish Christians. The thief will, no doubt, be looking for loot here in this village to add to his burden. He is already wandering away to meet the women. Wait a minute. Now that may be a perfect synchronicity, the answer to my selfish prayer of how to rid myself of this thief. First I should speak to their druid.

         Here he is, still in his ceremonial white robes — like the weasel changing his coat to white for the winter.

         “Druid Balfour…”

         “So it is you, Ezra! We trusted you, but you ran from your duty. I thought you drowned but Guldilyn said you’re an able swimmer so you meant to run away.”

         “I can explain…” And maybe I have a defense because I was brought up in a Jewish home where the marriage bond is sacred; so of course, I’m not of a presence to plant my seed amid the last women of this pagan tribe just to insure its continuation. And yes, “I escaped.” But he has no interest in my explanation. He interrupts my thought.

         “We didn’t take you in just to give you hunting lessons. Of course you have a duty to our tribe!  We gave you shelter and you gave us, what?”

         “I understand. So now I’ve brought you this other man. See him there near the well? He’s already eyeing your women, and he has a whole sledge of treasures, gifts you yourself would give to elves for good luck. He will enrich your tribe. But let this be our secret. You will need to work your magic on him. Guide him in your ways, and surely your fertile daughters will bear lots of beautiful children maybe with his golden curls.”

         The druid takes a long moment to ponder, then breaks into a jovial smile, a welcoming grin it is, as he grips my shoulder, and calls forth the hunters. They are instructed to take me on to the Vosges.  Thank you, God.

(Continues tomorrow)

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Post #29.6, Thurs., February 10, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         As I hang my bow with the others the first breeze of early spring turns the winter drear to mist; so now behind us in the eastern sky is the great bow across the heavens. First it seems a vision, with pale, surreal shades of tender color. But the thief sees it too so I know it is a thing of earth. It is both mystical and tangible. The rainbow marks a place where the things of earth cross over into the untouchable mystical. Thank you God.

         I’m driven to song – and there are so many ways to sing of the rainbows.

         The thief never joined in singing, even in the chorus; he only scowled at me.

         My defense, “I thought that song just needed to be sung.”

         “That’s the trouble with you, you’re always just singing out loud. It’s very odd.”

         “It wouldn’t be odd if two of us were singing. Singing is a privilege of shared wonder. It’s very ancient.”

         We walk on in silence toward the village.

[Footnote] This lyric is offered here with the writer’s permission. Happy Birthday, today, Mariah.

(Continues Tuesday, February 15, 2022)

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Post #29.5, Weds, February 9, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         It’s a long slog in the cold rain. The thief complains incessantly about his load only reminding me he is indeed a thief with a sour attitude. If I choose to help him drag this excess he will rob me while I’m doing his work.

         Now we come upon a tree still winter-naked but draped in the bows of hunters or warriors. Each bow is well made, well-tempered ready to be strung for the hunt. I suppose this means we are very near the pagan village.

         Without even a wonder the thief leaves his sledge and runs to the tree to gather up the loot.

         “What are you doing?” I ask with accusation.

         “I’m harvesting bows, Ezra, man. This is the strangest fairy gifting I’ve ever found!”

         “I don’t think this is meant as a gift to quill the evils of the underworld.  I think we are very near the village and this is where they hang up their bows.”

         “Why would they hang their bows on a tree outside the village?  That makes no sense. What if robbers come to their village?  They would need these.”

         “You mean one robber, don’t you?”

         “Okay, one robber and a Christian. How will they defend themselves?”

         “I think the hanging up of the bows is an ancient symbol of peace.  They don’t bring their weapons into their homes because they are telling any visitors they are unafraid. Weapons are a sign of fear. [Blogger’s note]  Hanging up weapons is very ancient sign of peace.”

         “So they leave their weapons on a tree for their attackers to be armed when they are not?”

         “Well, yes, it is a statement of courage.”

         “It has to be a trick.”

          “I can see why you would only see a threat or a trick. It’s a different kind of power than simply flexing muscle and taking things by force. It’s the peaceful dare not to fight. I see it as a sign of welcome; it is the accepted vulnerability of peacemaking as dangerous as it may seem to you.”

         The thief still thinks it’s a trick, but apparently he’s decided not to steal these and he’s putting them back. I believe it’s a sign of peace, so I hang my bow on a low branch, also.

[Blogger’s note] This notion that weapons—guns in modern example– are a sure sign of fear has been proven in American courtrooms when a shooter is exonerated because he cried and said he was afraid and so he killed people. Weapons speak of fear, not of power, not of courage.

 (Continues tomorrow)


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Post #29.4, Tues., February, 8, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         I ask the thief, “Do you know how to soften a skin for shoes? Its how I made my shoes.”

         “Why? I can just demand your shoes from you. So what gift did the pagans leave here? Did you already steal their fish?”

         “There were no fish and the crows beat us to the rabbit so I hunted this new rabbit for both of us.” Silently we eat. There is no good night when we only worry what the other will take.

         “Good night.”

         Awake under this red morning sky in the shivers of a cold winter’s rain I gather my things and I see where the thief sleeps near the fire in a fine shelter of skins and fleeces. He already has shoes, so his envy for mine won’t be solved by my generosity. And he’s hoarding a huge heap of useless booty.

         The rains leave me longing for springtime as I go quietly on my way. Softness hints in a bog where I stop for rest and find a grub for the fish hook and some fern heads barely unfurling just under the leafy mat. Later I will share this feast of fish and fern.

         He catches up and now I see how he travels. He tows his booty on a sledge. And he looks at my little traveler’s bag and accuses me of hiding a stash.

         “Is your bag heavy?” he asks.

         “Very light, though I’ve just added a fresh fish and some fiddleheads we can share for our supper.”

         “So you did steal the fishhook. I’d like to have a look in your bag and see what other gifts to the fairies you’ve stolen along the way.”

         “No.”

         “You have a fine bow I see. Did you find that left as a talisman at a pagan campsite too?”

         “Speak for yourself. I cut this bow from a sapling maple. It’s still greenwood, hardly taught enough to be useful. Since I plan to follow the hunters into the mountains I may need a bow in time.”

         “If it isn’t a good bow, then how did you hunt the rabbit we ate?”

         “Maybe the rabbit was slow or had bad eyesight and he didn’t see me until I was very close. Maybe we ate a slothful rabbit. Maybe we will be slothful now.”

         “Not I, I’m only slowed by this heavy load and you haven’t even offered to help. How do you claim to be a Christian?”

(Continues tomorrow)


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Post #29.3, Thurs., February 3, 2022

Historical setting: 589 C.E. when Brittany was forest

         Asking prayers aren’t forbidden by Jesus. But as I think of these things I recall my own asks for food or shelter and often I pray and ask for someone else’s healing. God who speaks in shared love sometimes answers with the coincidence of that thing I ask being given immediately. Often God answers my prayer by giving me empathy for others with my own need, so by acting on my love for them, both needs are met. At times my asks teach me through kindness from others. And sometimes God’s answers seem delayed, ‘wait and see.’

         Dear God, Thank you for your always answers. May I find in your love signs, not magic, always and ever. Amen.

         This new morning is the February tease of spring. The thief is still here this morning. He is trying to catch a fish without a net or a hook. So I have time to go on alone over the top of this hill and arrive at the next campsite of the pagans well ahead of him. The noontide sun is barely edging westward when I arrive at the next abandoned campsite.

         Again, the coals are still warm and a gift for the fairies was left. This time it would’ve been a fresh rabbit with the arrow but the crows are already gnawing at the meat. Now the arrow with the iron tip is another useful thing to add to my riches — the fishhook and the line — that child-sized sickle I found in the ashes made from Nic’s blade — all little iron gifts to let me survive without community in this wilderness.

         By the time the thief arrives it’s nearly dark. My things are hidden in a scant shelter I wove from brush in a place out of sight. And I’m waiting by this fire turning a new rabbit on a spit. I can share the meat with this man, and I’ve already set aside the skin so he can make his own winter shoe.

         He blames me, “I’m so late coming because I was looking for you!  You just seemed to vanish into thin air, along with all your goodies – your fleece, and your warm shoes.”

         “And I thought, good thief, that you had no regard for those who vanish into thin air – the elves and fairies and such.”

         “You’re nothing like the myth of one of those, Ezra. You are Christian; Christians don’t vanish; they elude.”

         “And so I did, and so I shall.”

(Continues Tuesday, February 8, 2022)