Post #18.14, Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         With sun high this site is finally ready for work.  In the middle of it all is the crane-master who is spewing orders and counting the ropes for the day’s work. He gladly hires me to walk the tread-wheel. But now August is at his heels barking instructions for using the newly placed pullys and winches.

         When the family came here with the wheel they also brought the iron pieces, the lifting claw and the ancient pulleys of oak and iron. August’s father was supposed to be the crane-master here. But he was stricken with an illness of age and not able to oversee the work. He was given a voice in hiring this new crane-master. So this little fellow is like a hollow copy of August, missing only the soul and the mind and a deep and hidden love for these brothers.

         Shollo and Kairn are assigned the task of working the top of the wall because their father requested that; and now August is given orders by the annoyed, current crane-master to sit with the father and remain quiet. The brothers on top of the wall are cheering on the reprimand.  I take my place on the treads inside the crane-wheel, while we await the other tread-man. Walking the treads doesn’t require construction skills so much as strength, so I would suppose at the end of the day when we receive our coins this treadman will receive the least. Maybe that is why the other treadman doesn’t mind keeping us all waiting here.

         Now, seeing this crane from the inside, clearly it is a beautiful piece of carpentry finished even on the inside, as though it were to be a part of the building itself. It surely came from a different time and place.  Any wheel is significant. It is a form that Romans and even some of the pagan tribes in these lands consider a sacred symbol of the turning of the seasons. So how is such an obvious pagan artifact also the essential tool used in building a place for Christian worship? Here four prongs of Pagan symbol are also the apses and aisles of the basilica itself. It is of course, also the sign of the cross. The Christians have used the wheel and they, or we, as I am one too, reconsidered it to become a Christian symbol. [footnote] And of course I’m one who sees the four prongs as the Roman torture tool on which my friend and teacher was crucified.

[footnote] Storl, Wolf D. The Untold History of Healing is a comprehensive patchwork of ancient remedies, religions, herbs, symbol, incantations…the use of the circle surrounding the cross as a pre-Christian symbol is explored on Page 54.

(Continues Thursday, April 1)

Post #18.13, Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         The brothers were right. No one shows up at this worksite at first light except Shollo and Kairn and their father. Today, August is here too. I watch from this place at the crane as the brothers recognize August now in monk’s garb. 

         Shollo speaks first, “August, or should I call you ‘Brother’ August! Father told us you are here and hidden in the dark wools of a churchman.”

         August flips his hood back to reveal his face, clenched jaw revealing hurt more than identity. “Don’t worry Shollo, I won’t pester your work with my righteous ways. I’ll be going on to Ligugé as soon as Brother Joel is able to travel.”

          The large hand of Shollo clutches the shoulder of August in a condescending gesture maybe intended as a greeting.

         Kairn speaks for both brothers, “We’ve all missed you here August. Anna’s death left a terrible emptiness, especially when you were gone also. I think, in a way, we all needed to see you again.”

         Shollo adds, “That’s probably so. It was needed.”

         August answers, “I just wanted to see our father once more. I hadn’t heard about Anna or I would have come sooner.”

         The father orders, “So now it’s time for the three of you to make amends.”

         “Very well,” Shollo begins, “August is the oldest. He should apologize first. Tell us how you wish you hadn’t always spoken to us with distain as though you were looking down on us from your little short man’s vantage point.”

         August answers, “Shollo, it seems you have already spoken first and spoken for me. So yes, I wish I had been a more thoughtful brother and never mentioned your sloppy work. In my thoughtfulness. I would have just allowed the simple consequence of shoddy preparation and a great stone might have crushed you. Because of my good plan you are still alive to speak for yourself. So tell me now of your gratitude for my thoughtfulness.”

         Shollo answers, “Do you mean as a, ‘thoughtful God-man Brother’, or thoughtful real brother?”

         Old ropes and knots binding ancient wrath are long endured in tangles. The well-placed winches may save lives, so perhaps that extra earth-time can nurture this dearth into love.

         Dear God, I can see this family has a long unwinding ahead of them. Is that why the journey between Egypt and Canaan required all those forty years, for all the healings of the hates? …

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #18.12, Thursday, March 25, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux        

         It seems the wheel itself is the fine workmanship of a knowledgeable carpenter. Anyone can see that. August witnessed its construction as a child watching and learning amid the building project in the north where their family had been located. Their father and mother and the two younger sons, along with August’s twin, Anna, came to this place, bringing with them this very wheel which August knows so well. They brought it in sections and reconstructed it on this site. So August is in deep dismay at its shoddy miss-use here. The anchors and the arm are of newer, less dense wood and it is not as solid as the woods used in the wheel itself wrought from the deep northern forests of the sacred trees of the druids now gone by the Christian ax.

         August has discovered the heaps of extra ropes and pullies that were brought along with the crane wheel left as refuse in a heap behind the outbuildings here. He says he has a plan that doesn’t call for any more negotiation.

         August says he only worries that his parents will grieve were his brothers to suffer the consequences of this inadequate structure. But I think he also fears for the safety of his brothers, as tomorrow they will start on the highest tier of stone and the weaknesses of the crane will surely be tried. He talks in detail about the hazard of the stone swinging too high for the strength of the crane arm, and with the lifted stone out of control it’s huge weight will be out of reach for his brothers on top of the wall, waiting their to snag it into place, and maneuver it into the bed of mortar. When they try to navigate it into place, it will fall, and pull them with it, off the wall.

         It is a clandestine task this night for which August has asked the help of Nic and I.  August wants to mount two winches on top of the wall to aid in guiding the great stones. With three of us using ladders and strength we are able to secure the pulleys and winches to give better tools to those working up-top. It could be that little mounted cranks and ropes may only offend the brawny sensibilities of the brothers. And offending Shollo and Kairn is what August seems to do so well even though his intention may be saving their lives.

(Continues Tuesday, March 30)

Post #18.11, Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         I didn’t notice when August left his family’s house. When I return to the hearthside of the guesthouse he is already here crouching by the fireside, smothered in his wools, not speaking to anyone but perhaps to God.  At least I know he didn’t encounter his brothers. I dish some broth for him and a dish for me and I sit on the hearthstone to ask.

         “Did you have a chance to see your parents?”

         August looks at me in near tears, “They are so much older now. My father knew more of me than I knew of him and my mother thought I was my twin sister returned from the dead. My sister Anna died while I was gone.”

         “Your mother thought you were your sister even though you’re tonsured as a monk?”

         “Yes, she thought that is how angels are shorn; so she was only more certain I was my sister returned from heaven on this night.

         “My father still has his sharp mind, though he angers more easily; and my mother is still sweet and kind but she doesn’t know why. I’ve missed so much. And Kairn plans to move out. He will take a wife soon. He plans to live in a city house already built and he will pay a landlord for its use. My father fears Kairn will always be a poor man in debt to the rich. As though a monk like me isn’t always in poverty.

         “What of the paying work on the basilica? Is Kairn going to continue building?”

         “That is all any of us know to do. Of course he will build, and when it is done,… how many years will that be? 

         “The treadwheel is the same one they brought down here from the last build they were working when I was still helping at that site.  So my father blames me for the scanty rigging they have here. He says if I were here it would all be fine.  As it is now, he watches everyday and won’t let Shollo or Kairn go near the crane because of the danger that it might not carry the weight onto the wall as it is.”

         “I think he isn’t blaming you, so much as missing you.”

         “He was angry.”

         I suggest, “Maybe they just need another man to walk the treadwheel. The lift will be easier and safer with more of us working.”

         “More of us?”

         “I didn’t mean you.” I tell August.  “I meant, I already offered. I’ll meet the new crane-master in the morning.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #18.10, Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         It is one of the brothers who answers the door. I ask that they come out with me to the construction site. August slips by into the house unnoticed as we are leaving.

         “We met earlier” I remind them, “I’m a fellow traveler of Nic who owns the statue. We’re traveling with the two monks taking the art on to Ligugé.”

         “Yes, I know. You’re the one they call Laz.”

         “It’s Lazarus. I was looking over the site earlier and I wanted to ask you something. Surely it isn’t just the two of you — this is a massive project.”

         Shollo laughs, “It’s not just us. There is a large crew for this. We just live right here, so we are first to start work and the last to leave. Our father likes to think of himself as the building master ready to give instruction; but he is along in his years, so he just wraps himself in wools and finds a perch on the stones-in-waiting to watch over the work.”

         “I did see you have this large treadwheel. I supposed you had a larger crew or else a great need of a crew.  And apparently we will be staying here a while waiting for a healing. I’ve done this kind of work in years past so I was hoping I could be of use, if not for my skills, at least to walk the treadwheel.”

         Kairn asks, “What project have you worked?”

         “At the time I was in the area of Jerusalem, on the Eastern end of the Great Sea. Do you know that area?”

         Kairn answers, “No. Is it near Aux?”

         Shollo interrupts, “Whatever, I’m sure our wheel master can put you to good use.”

         Kairn adds, “We always need brawn.”

         “And whenever you go to raise up a Christian edifice like this the project seems to incite the hoards of frail-bodied holymen.” Shollo continues in a near rant. “What I’m talking about is those churchmen…

         Kairn explains, “What Shollo means is it is a rare day someone steps up who can actually do the work especially with a humble willingness to walk the treadwheel.”

         “I’m willing. So where do I find this wheel master?”

         “Come back in the fullness of the day tomorrow. If you show up at first light, you won’t find him here. The new master is not as driven as our father was once.”         

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #18.9, Thursday, March 18, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         “Please trust me, August. As the stranger that I am I see only the edges of your family and can only guess at the hidden longings and losses. But this reunion isn’t about the hurts. Since you’ve been gone your good gift to make beautiful things with your hands has only become greater with the grace of God. And your closeness with God has granted you another gift as well. Even though your brothers fear your return, it is now in your power to make beautiful things with the love and understanding as God has untangled for you. The great commandment is to love all people even your own family who are sometimes the hardest to love. When you meet your family again, they will see you are a new person. Don’t be afraid.”

         He argues, “Or maybe it is like you told us, when the brothers made peace with their brother Joseph who ruled Egypt, so many of their generations became slaves in Egypt until Moses set them free many years later.”

         “Indeed they were chipping and stacking stones until Moses rescued them to be farmers again.  But August, you are making excuses for missing the hard peace you need to create.”

          “You know, Lazarus, you are only a layman and here you are lecturing me who has holy orders.”

         He’s right. I offer no defense. In this pause August offers another thought. Now he slumps in penitence, “I need to untangle all this in prayer before we go to my parent’s door, don’t I?”

         “Yes, of course. I’ll go tell Nic and Brother Joel not to wait supper on us.”

         I return, and August is still kneeling in prayer, nearly hidden behind the ox cart. His icy sharp edge of self-defense is slightly melted to slush.

         Now amidst all his gratitude he even thanks me, for allotting him time for prayer.

         “I needed that moment of solitude.”

         “I don’t need to hear about your private God-chat, Brother August.  It is only you who is judging you.”

         “And” he adds, “Shollo and Kairn, of course.”

         “As you have also been measuring them. Pull your hood up.  I’ll knock on the door and ask for your brothers. Wait until we are away before you pull your hood back and greet your parents.”

         So I knock.

 (Continues Tuesday, March 23)

Post #18.8, Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         “Laz, I have to tell you, knowing my brothers as I do, they aren’t that analytical, especially when it comes to their own jealousy and their own flaws.”

         “Who is?”

         August continues,  “It sounds to me like you are ready to pass judgment on me but not on the brutes. They are only looking to damage my family’s opinion of me. They have no wish at all for brotherly bonds.”

         “But Brother August maybe this burden you feel to impress your father with your amazing gifts is something like the fear they also imagine is you against them. They see your beautiful work and they feel you threaten their value in your father’s sight. Your ridicule of this workmanship won’t fix this project anymore than their objections to your perfectionism can make you sloppier in your art. And attributing more wrongs to your brothers won’t make your mother and father love you any more than they already do.

         “Never, at least since the story of Jacob who had sons with two different wives, have I heard of a parent whose love for his children could be diminished by the dazzling giftedness of another son. Maybe it’s a common fear among siblings, that a parent’s love is unjustly offered to some superior son but finding perfect equality in a parent’s love it is like trying to find symmetry in God’s grace. Grace falls unevenly on humankind, more by chance or need than by human virtue. A parent’s love, like God’s free gifts, flows unevenly among those who are beloved. Yet love is vastly abundant, all encompassing, never ending, so an uneven distribution shouldn’t matter. Love doesn’t require perfect symmetry. I don’t imagine you will make your father love your brothers less just because you are so good at carving stone, even now that you have turned your life over to God and God herself is inspiring your work.”

         I give August no time to answer with a defense. I just keep talking.

         “I have a thought. Let me go with you to your family now. When someone comes to the door keep your hood up so they see you only as a monk. Then I will ask Shollo and Kairn to come out with me to this worksite so that I may ask them about the work, and maybe talk about my own usefulness as a builder.”

         August is hesitant.

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #18.7, Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         Darkness impedes our tour of the work on the basilica, and August is anxious to go on to see his family. I’m looking for a way to be the silver cup in Benjamin’s bag who helps the reunion become something joyful and not a tirade of remembrances of envy and guilt.

         “August” I stop him from going directly to the house. “There is something to consider here before you go to that door.”

         “What?”

         “I met your brothers Shollo and Kairn.”

         “You met them?”

         “They were looking at the sculpture, and they recognized who the artist is.”

         “Oh yes!  Did they admit to its wonder?”

         “August, you told us your art is your prayer. So was the prayer in your heart, ‘Dear God, let me teach my brothers I’m really good after all?’ or was it, ‘Dear God, Let my hammer and chisel take away the stone that hides the family love’?”

         “Lazarus, You’ve met my brothers, but you don’t know them.”

         Again, August rubs his hand along the new wood of the crane arm. “I believe my brothers are the exact people who are complicit in this construction atrocity. If it wasn’t them who set this thing here, they’ve found others with no standard of workmanship either, and they are all just basking here in the ease of shoddy work.”

         “I hear what you are saying, August. But I have to tell you I heard something else this evening when Nic and I were putting the animals in for the night and Shollo and Kairn were looking at the sculpture. Yes, it was as you say, they did take careful notice of the skill and perfection and they recognized your hand in the art. It could be maybe they were humiliated by its quality as you wish them to be. But I heard them recalling their brother August as a sour memory and a hurt to them. They defended themselves with a criticism that your work lacks symmetry. They may have a valid criticism.”

         “Of course it is not perfect symmetry! It’s inspired by God! The Greeks and the Pagans have symmetry! Creation is mysteriously random.  It is my gift to see that and to show that with the image of a mother and child having no symmetry!”

         “Their criticism is not really of the art. But, like your own argument, it is wrought in envy which is the fear of loosing yours and their father’s respect.”

         “You don’t know, Laz. You don’t know what it’s like.”

         (Continues tomorrow)

Post #18.6, Thursday, March 11, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         Brother Joel and Brother August are in the guesthouse let to Nic by the stable master.  And I know we will have to tell them Brother August’s family was asking about the artist who carves so perfectly in sandstone. Surely we can’t keep Brother August hidden from them, especially since he is anxious to see his parents again. Maybe I should go talk with August so that the revelation of finding one another will not become an unwelcome surprise.

         Now I understand the Joseph story and that mysterious reason for hiding the precious cup in the grain bag of Benjamin as though Benjamin had stolen it.  In that way the jealous brothers would come with humility bringing their father to the grain officer of Egypt still not realizing that royal assistant is Joseph who is preparing to surprise them with his reveal. In the bible story it makes such a happy reunion Joseph is said to have wept. But I fear we aren’t going to see any tears of joy in this reunion. [Genesis 44]

         With the darkness, all the workers have left the site for the day and I know August must be anxious to go to his family. Of course I’m not so sure if he longs to see his brothers again. I know they don’t yearn for his return.

         Nic is preparing our evening meal in the little guesthouse that has a fireplace with cooking pots and grates and all the luxuries of an indoor place in the wintertime. I ask August to come with me to the construction site so we can consider the work that is being done.

         I explain my interest, “I was apprenticed in construction as a youth before I took up the work of scribe and Christian messenger. This subtle, limy whiff of fresh mortar nudges my recollections and I was thinking while we are here waiting for the healing of Brother Joel, I could make good use of myself walking a tread-wheel or chipping stone.”

         “Yes, if my brothers have anything to say about hiring they will welcome more brawn.” August runs his hand along the wood supports for the crane’s tread-wheel. “Obviously they have no use for skill and precision. Even the carpentry is rough.”

         My observation, “They probably thought it was temporary while the build is going on. You have to admit they have stacked a substantial stone wall here so far.”

         “Is that the standard? ‘substantial’?” August asks, still critical of the workmanship.

(Continues Tuesday, March 16)

Post #18.5, Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Historical setting: Sixth Century Bordeaux

         We’ve overheard two brothers of August taking notice of the statue in the cart just outside this stable. Nic went down to confront these art critics.  I’m not sure if Nic means to defend the art or the artist, but now his demeanor is more of camaraderie, as is Nic’s nature.

         Shollo tries to justify his and Kairn’s dislike for August. “We who had to put up with all his bossing believe we work better in his absence. He was always measuring our work by his own superhuman standard of perfection.”

         Kairn adds, “And whatever way we tried to do something he always had a better plan, but since he was a little fellow who didn’t do the heavy lifting himself the real work of it was always on us.”

         Shollo gives up any thought he might have had of defending August, “He just told us how to do it and our father thought August could do no wrong and since we were always wrong we were required to listen to him.

         Kairn adds, “And what irked me was he was always setting aside sandstone blocks to add little carvings and do-dads to our great constructions, and now, seeing this thing we are feeling the creep of his work has chased us down again.”

         Nic affirms, “And you worry that your father has found him and now your brother is back to take over your work and make your lives miserable?”

         “You’ve got it!  So you must have a smart-ass older brother also.”

         Again, Nic answers with his relentless understanding. “I wasn’t born with any brothers, but believe me, I’ve had a long lifetime of smart-ass officers and bosses. I know just how you feel. Nothing is ever perfect until the guy in charge can take credit for it.”

         As I make my way down to meet the brothers, Shollo has an arm around Nic, in a gesture of greeting old friend.

         “Laz, these men were working on this new basilica, and they took notice of the sculpture I’ve purchased. They think the artist is their brother.”

         “And so it is a strange coincidence it is that we would stop here in Bordeaux for shelter while Brother Joel is mending.”

(Continues tomorrow)