Post #19.10, Thursday, April 22, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The healing room of Eve’s house

         Nic tells of the day of the disaster.

         “So, you probably don’t remember that day of the horror when you died so dead down in Bordeaux. Brother Joel and I were sitting on the bench outside the guesthouse, and from that distance we were watching the outside of the wall under construction. Shollo and Kairn and a couple other construction workers were on top of the wall using the new winches we mounted up there the night before. We could see the large arm of the crane swing closer to the wall, and the ropes through the top pulleys were taught. Then we saw the huge stone rise up to the top of the crane dangling just past the wall, as the winches were turned and it was brought closer, edging, barely onto the bed of mortar prepared at the top. Everyone from the ground was shouting higher, higher, but from where we were we could see the crane arm itself was not really high enough, and suddenly there was a loud crack like a thunderbolt overhead, then the whole earth shook with the deep thud of the rock fall. One of the winches we had secured just the night before went tumbling from the wall.  The men who were working the winches flung themselves down the ropes like monkeys from trees.

         “I feared for what I would see when we got to you, but Brother Joel asked me to walk with him as he practiced with the crutch. I told him my fear that you would have been struck by the falling debris.

         “He said, ‘God be with his soul.’

         “I said, ‘God be with every part of him!’ I had to be distraught to argue with Brother Joel. He wanted to preach me the value of soul in times of stress. Like I wasn’t already wracked with prayers! The spoken ones could have been mistaken for curses.

         “August was shouting frenetic orders to everyone as though anyone were listening to a little fellow in a gigantic monk’s robe. The crane was in a million pieces all strewn over the whole area of the wall, and the huge stone was just where the crane wheel had been. The other tread man was sitting on the stones aside, in a bloody tunic waiting for first aid. I knew you had to be under the stone and there seemed to be no concern at all about moving it off of you.”

(Continues Tuesday, April 27)

Post #19.9, Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Eve’s house

         A small bench has been brought into this room and Daniel and Ezra bring a frail and aged man in and he is seated on the bench. He is clear-eyed in a monks robe; the fringe of his tonsure is pure white, not the silver of the Nic I remember. His hands are shaking like a choir director who has lost the tune. Eve brings his cane and places it near his hand. He thanks her with a very soft voice, and when he turns I see this is indeed Nic.

         “Nic!” I think he didn’t hear my voice. I am not sure my speech was actually a word, but I am sure I made a sound. He looked at me as though he’d heard.

         So softly he speaks, “I don’t hear well now, and apparently you don’t speak well either. So it’s best I do all the talking. How strange a paradox that is. But it is the blessing of old Simeon that I have lived to see you alive again.

         “I have to say, your death is the strangest journey we have yet traveled together. And I do see your rising now to be a promise for us all. Isn’t that supposed to be the purpose of this life gift that you suffer with forever, to be a physical metaphor of the spiritual resurrection? Oh, excuse me. I fear I’m reaching for the sermon and I’m not ordained for sermonizing.

         “It was as you thought, that Ligugé was a monastery whose abbot would accept a man of age, an old soldier to be among the monks. He let me keep a horse for a while also.  I took my sword and my father’s iron tunic and had them melted and hammered into tools for tending your daughter’s herb gardens here. I learned that from the prophet. I know it was intended as a metaphor, ‘to hammer the swords into plowshears.’ But I chose to take it literally, so that the peace it speaks of may be of earth as it is in heaven.  It is not just the spiritual peace of becoming a monk. As my sword was hammered into better purpose so have I been.”

         If I could be heard speaking I would tell him that he is sermonizing again. And I’m waiting to hear him unwind some stories of these years I’ve been missing.

         He reads my expression.

         “Oh, you would rather hear me tell you what has happened while you were dead than listen to a sermon. Of course.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #19.8, Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Historical setting: At the family graveyard — 584 C.E.

         At this waking fresh light floods all around as Ezra and a younger man are at work taking down the low arch of reeds that is this sepulcher. This younger man must be my grandson Daniel. Here he is grown to be the powerful young man who can help his father with this vineyard when I was not here to help when it was needed.

         Thank you God, for generations that come to keep the cares.

         Ezra is speaking. “Now Papa, without the structure we can better see to cut you loose from the rags.

         “Colleta has already stitched a tunic for you. It is of bleached linen she was saving for something blessed and holy.  You will surely look like an angel when we get you all dressed in it. That was what she wanted for you.”

         If I could answer I wouldn’t know what to say. But apparently, I have the gift today of showing expression with my face.

         “He looks to wonder at that, Papa.” Daniel says.

         Ezra assumes, “Maybe it is a pained look and we are hurting him removing the linens. Are you alright, Papa?”

         I can smile today.  Each of my pale and frail limbs lie uselessly in place in the form of a man longing for the fullness of life, and what is here on this hill is a cold breeze. Now I see I was carefully brought here to this place near Susanna. This is where I would leave flowers for her. I hope I’m not too late to thank Nic as this kindness was surely his doing.

         Thankfully the white tunic doesn’t suit me. They came back with a quilt for a wrap and the wagon. Now it is Daniel who carries this broken man that I am into Eve’s house after a very short wagon ride.

         Thank you God, for keeping this family.

         I’m spread onto a bed.  I believe this is the very bed-stand and side room I built here for Eve to use when she takes in patients. She was a healer even as a young woman. In those years after the plague I was left in the plague pit outside of Tours. Eve and Ezra, who survived were ill and sent to the pagan hag of healing near Tours. When they were well Ezra was taken to learn the work of tending grapes, and Eve learned midwifery and the art of the healing. The old woman left Eve an ancient book of pagan remedies, and the scars of pox that had taken her life.

         (Continues tomorrow)

Post #19.7, Thursday, April 15, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         At this waking the new light of morning is splashing and surging in clear patterns of brightness throughout the whole weave of the wattle.

         Anatase is here with a cup of water again, and her flute.

         Dear God, thank you for this wonderful waking. 

         She tells me, “Daniel has returned from Poitiers with your  monk.” I sip the cool water and it feels so good that I can swallow it today. The child chatters on. “But the old monk is very frail now, so Daniel and Ezra are taking him to my teacher’s house. Then they will come and take you down there to see him.  I have to tell you a secret that the old monk told me when I first came here so many years ago.  It’s something only I know and that’s why it’s secret.  He didn’t want me to tell it. But this is what it is.  He feared he would be dead before your waking so he wrote some pages for you to hear.  I’m supposed to read them to you in case I’m still here when you wake, which I am. But then, he isn’t yet dead either so now I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with the pages.

         “I must say, you did much better at sipping water today. I will tell my teacher you have already learned sipping. She will be pleased. And she said I am allowed to play my flute for you today, unless I see you close your eyes. That will mean you don’t want to listen and I’m supposed to stop.”

         Now, I guess I must pray I don’t blink. I so love to hear the music. She’s getting more proficient at the little tune every day.  Now her fingers speed over the beats of the dance faster than any dancer’s heel can flurry. But now she has chosen to pick through her five notes for a new tune she doesn’t yet play. She’s collected the proper notes, but making a tune of it is a dreary repetition. I would sleep, but if I close my eyes the music will stop. So, this bliss of dreaming is inside out. The goodness and music are on the waking side of dream.

         “Sorry the music was not to your liking. I will leave now.”

(Continues Tuesday, April 20)

Post #19.6, Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         “He looks to be a living man, dear Teacher. Shall we unwrap more of him?”

         “I don’t know what we should do. Maybe he would like to sip water.  Go, Anatase, and fetch a cup of cold water for him.”

         There is a scurry of leaving but Eve is still here.  I focus my eyes on her face. I see she has lost her sight.  I wonder if she knew of this blindness when I last saw her as a young woman only pretending to know reading and reluctant to marry.  But here she is a healer and now a teacher. How I wish I had strength to reach out my hand and touch her and I would tell her she is beloved. It’s her hand now that gropes for mine.

         “Papa, maybe you can hear me? Your hand is warm as living after all these years. You told us of your gift of life and life again, strange gift that it is. We only marveled in the wonder of it never thinking of the long waits through deaths and all the griefs you know in lifetimes of losses.

         “The God-things you taught me in childhood are my secret now, Papa.  People these times choose their quests for healings between the miracles of the Christian saints or the ancient pagan science. I know you would say God loves us all; it isn’t one or the other. But this world only knows choices, not fullness.  Since I’m not a saint so if I choose to be a healer I must be of the pagan variety and I have to keep my God prayers hidden. But I do pray to God and I very often thank God for staying close. I’ve prayed for my strength and life to last into this day, knowing nothing about how your waking would be except that it would come. And now I see by your frailty your healing will need to go on a bit longer before you are the full strong man we’ve waited to see walk from this tomb all aglow.”

         “Aglow” she says? Does Eve notice I’m smiling? Have I any smile at all to give? She doesn’t even seem to notice the clasp of my hand around hers. I’m sure I will one day move again but I don’t expect to be “glowing” ever.  I hear the child coming back.

         Eve offers, “Papa, would you like a sip of water?”

         The child tips the cup. “It is a cool sip of water.” She says. I can’t swallow. My chin and beard have a cool, fresh drenching.

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #19.5, Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         At this waking I hear the voice of the child.

         “I see the wheel is over the opening again. But don’t worry, Teacher, I can roll it back easily. I always roll it off when I come here to practice my flute.”

         I hear them rustling. I feel someone very near.

         “Here, Teacher, you can touch the edge of the opening then crawl in through this space. Now Ma’am, if you reach out your hand you will touch the broken man. Don’t be afraid. He’s very gentle.”

         Gentle? She says I’m gentle? I can’t even move. But I feel the touch. The firm hand of a healer touches my head.

         My daughter Eve’s clear voice is as always, the deep whisper of calm, “It seems he’s wrapped in linens is he not, Anatase?”

         “Yes Ma’am he is all wrapped in ribbons and ribbons of linens. Only his hand is unwrapped and that doesn’t seem as broken as they say he is.”

         “The monk must have wrapped him like this when he made the sepulcher. We should unwrap the linens.  Oh, dear little Anatase. I hope it isn’t a frightful sight for you.”

         “How does that concern you Ma’am? I am a student of healing and I am your eyes, so do you think I would be fearful of seeing a death now? If I haven’t had to turn my eyes away from new birth then why would I not be able to see the face of death? And anyway, do you not feel his gentle living spirit with us now? Maybe he’s not in death at all just now.”

         “I do feel my father’s spirit near us. But that’s not unusual for one who grieves as I would have grieved had my father died forever dead. But Anatase, the deaths of this man are not usual deaths. And I‘ve never removed linens like this before. Even I don’t know what to expect.”

         The child explains, “The hand that has been unwrapped seems like a hand of living person. Here, reach your hand to touch it.”

         “Oh, yes, this hand has flesh and warmth and life. Let’s take the wrappings off his head.”

         My eyes see a blur of bright lights, sun pouring through the spaces in the rotted away daub on the wattle of this tomb, and here are two human faces a blur. It is Eve, sparkling and silver-haired now, and a child with long yellow braids.

        “Please, Anatase, what do you see of his face?”

        “He has a black beard and sparkling dark eyes. I think his eyes are like yours Ma’am. But I think his are eyes that see, because he was casting his gaze all around and now he is looking right at you and now at me.”

    

 (Continues tomorrow)

Post #19.4, Thursday, April 8, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         This is my son Ezra; now he is crouching in this small place next to me. I feel his spirit with me. Maybe he is lifting a candle. I feel the warmth of a pale light. He touches my hand with his own hand.

         “Papa, can you hear?” Yes! This is Ezra, he calls me “Papa” so surely the woman I heard was my granddaughter Celeste, a grown woman now.

         Ezra speaks to me,  “Have you a mind and a soul and a life after all these years of waiting in death?”

         I can’t answer.

         “Let me loose the rags that wrap your hand so I will know if your life warmth has returned.”

         My fingers are freed.

         “I’ll send Daniel for the monk who is waiting for you, Papa.”

         Ezra has never been much for talk so it is a shear blessing that he speaks to me now, though, I suppose he doesn’t expect that I can hear him. And I do have feeling and touch in my hand. He touches my hand with his. His hand feels dry and gnarled with age and hard work. Now he’s gone, and I’m alone again.

         I think of the day we went out to prune his grapevines and I was ready to burn all the old wood particularly the dry and gnarly vines seeming to be spent. Had he not stopped me it would’ve been a terrible destruction. These old stumps he told me, are the root that feed the new vines, not to be mistaken for the useless debris of last year’s harvest that we do mean to burn.

         Dear God, thank you for sending me a son who values keeping the ancient root around, anyway. Amen.

         If I could speak or move or even imagine that I had a being I would answer him, but he hears nothing from me, and now he is gone.

         Who is the monk who is waiting for me? It would be someone who would know my secret of life and life again. Only my family who is here knows of this, and of course my elder patron, retired soldier. My hope is that it could be Nic, maybe now a monk as he had hoped he could be. And surely he must be very old in this new time, a generation now passed.

 (Continues Tuesday, April 13)

#19.3, Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         “Anatase, Anatase, you naughty child! You know you are not to go near that place! We’ve been looking for you everywhere. You have to tell your teacher when you leave the house. She was so worried when you weren’t in your bed.”

         Now the voices of woman and child are gone.

         Do I know the voice of this woman? When I hear the particular bend of the words I picture my son’s first daughter Celeste. But I believe Celeste is a child. She is the older of Ezra’s children and she is the bossy one of course. Possibly it happened that this voice of woman is Celeste and the years have passed by me in this death.

         And what of the wheel with its crosses, and the great stones shouting out for the Christ of us?  What of the unfinished wall rising for church? And how would there be a tomb made of wattle and daub? And where is the “here” that I am in this tomb that surrounds me?

         “Its alright Papa!”

         I hear that voice again, of a woman, Celeste shouting just outside this wall.  “I found her Papa, and I sent her back to her chores.”

         And a man answers, “Where was she?”

         This is surely the voice of Ezra my son.

         Celeste answers, “She was here in the graveyard, Papa. She was inside Gran’papa’s sepulcher.”

         “Why? What was she doing in there?”

          “She said she was playing her flute for the broken man.”

         “Why?”

         “She said he likes to hear it.”

         “Why does she think he can hear?”

         “Papa, are you going to send that naughty little Anatase back to her own people now?”

         “You know I can’t do that.”

         “Well, at least give her a good scolding?  And you know what Mama and I think you should do with her.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #19.2, Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a cell of wattle and daub.
This earth has passed two decades since the crashing of the wheel.

         At this waking — darkness. Dear God, are you near? I know nothing of the sun or the season or the year or the place or even what kind of burial this is. There is no weight of earth.

         In a brief moment passing I hear a child’s breath across the openings in the clays of a flute.

         It is the music of breath over clay

          as was the first mention of human life –  first human

         Lifting musician’s fingers from openings

                  Breath of Spirit escaping through passages

         Release into music – a child’s tune.

It is five notes to make a sound or a song or strangely a dirge, over again and over, a low and breathy measure of sound, faster the tune to step or now dance, then a note lands wrong and the child stops to sigh and try again to find a better note, then song. Then silence, The child is gone but left the song in my head.

                  Clay of the pipe, daub of the wasp.

         Spring breath in breeze through the reed of the wattle

                  But no beams of morning seep into this tomb

         Music comes as breath of the Spirit, to life

                  A dark dirge it is into this pounding and breathing of life.

         Dear God are you near, or am I alone?

         I long to see the beams of a day. I thirst to hear the music again, then into sleep.

         If it weren’t for the dark it would be a new wakening. This early hour is the deepest dark holding its breath for new light – beams through the spaces, now blur of lightness through ribbons over my eyes.

         Near me the rustling, a sniffle, a breath, the melt of the frost from the wools that wrap around a child in the early morning freeze.

         Then here is this music again.

         And today I would take a breath to sing along…

         I have no voice … I can’t move even a finger or a thought of a toe to make it a dance. I am the silence, I am the still, but then I know there is life to this song.

         Thank you dear God for music and life,

          For wonders of darkness and longing for light.

         Thank you dear God, for hearing my silence.

         Music broken, even the silence without it shattered.

         “Anatase are you in there?”

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #19.1, Thursday, April 1, 2021

Historical setting: A Building site in Bordeaux — 564 C.E.

         Now on this new morning August’s father and he are seated on the stone, and Shollo and Kairn are looking into the brightly risen sun to see what is on top of the wall. Maybe they pretend they have never seen a winch on a wall before. August nudges his father to take notice and he asks his father to be the one who orders brothers to use the better tools. Maybe the brothers know who put the winches there, but it needs to be the father who issues the order to make use of them.

         It is the full light of day and the workers have gathered at their places.  I am in the wheel waiting the arrival of the other treadman. The ground crew has the steering ropes in hand; Shollo and Kairn are minding the crank handles guiding the ropes high on the wall stretching from the crane arm through the pullys and onto these newly placed tools. The mortar is spread; the stone is still on the ground but firmly grasped in the claw.

         August’s brothers say nothing of these new devices. I’m sure they know who placed them here but since they had no bad words to say of it they said nothing. The gratitude is unspoken but August knows.

         Now the other treadman has arrived and we start the trudge in the wheel, ever climbing to the next rung, but never climbing higher, always the same place near the ground, yet the harder we climb, the faster the wheel, and the higher the stone creaking from every taut rope hold. Step-by-step the stone rises on the beam nearly as high as the top pulleys until it is hovering next to the wall for this highest layer, perfectly positioned, guided by the ropes on the winches when the whole arm beam gives way, cracking into two parts one falling quickly toward my team mate who has immediately fled. I have no way to flee. The high end of the beam is now tumbling with the stone in slow time is plunging straight down, onto…

(Continues Tuesday, April 6)