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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)