In the morning, we heard a knock upon the cabin door. I opened the door to find a monk standing there, a Greyfriar brother who called himself Brother Providence. A young man with dark brown hair, but his hair was not as brown as were his eyes, the color of which were as dark chocolate that had been sprinkled with flecks of gold.
He said that he had heard that a hungry sojourner might find a bite to eat from the warm hearted folks who dwelt in this cabin in the clearing in the depths of the maple wood. I did not know how to answer, but Granddad eagerly assured him that this was true. And so we welcomed him in and shared with him our biscuits and coffee that we had been making on the fire.
In turn, he pulled from his knapsack a jar of honey. And when he opened the jar, he pulled out the honeycomb and allowed the sweet honey to drip upon our biscuits. As we ate more biscuits than probably we had planned, the Greyfriar shared with us that any brothers had been called from many different regions. they were to make pilgrimage to an abandoned abbey by a place called Miller's Well. I jumped in to tell him, "Yes, we know the abbey. It is not far, nor far at all from our home, down by the Chateauguay.
When I said the words, by the Chateaugauy, a sudden awareness that we ourselves were far from home. And a homesickness crept into my heart. But I shook it away for I did not it there within me.
Brother Providence told us that if had been chosen to be the pathfinder for his brothers, to mark the trail that they might follow. he asked if the brothers might find shelter in our cabin as they journeyed by. I did not answer, but my grandfather, quite naturally it seemed, assured the friar that this was meant to be.
After breakfast the good friar gave us his thanks, a prayer of blessing and his jar of holy honey. He gave us embrace and journeyed on. As did we. But only after we provisioned our packs from the cabin's larder, filling them full with sacks of salted meat and biscuit mix, some small fruitcakes, and two jars of stewed apples. And of course, the jar of honey. I left behind some words upon a sheet of paper, hoping that the brothers might find them there. i told of them of all the secret places around the grey stone abbey and directions to our farm across the river. And with me, I took the book I had read the night before, the book that told the tales of Irish monks and rugged fishermen crossing the northern sea. I somehow that it was not stealing, but I still asked my grandfather if I might take this with me. He said with clear conviction, "That book I am sure was meant for you."
As we left the cabin, we could hear ducks lifting from some unseen lake, heading to their summer place somewhere ahead. Their raucous laughter had the sound of a hundred excited souls eager to be traveling on, urging one another to travel faster, to move along.
With each mile of our travel through the endless maple forest, springtime seem to emerge in sudden arrival, as if the hours of our time were as the days of the forest. The nests that but yesterday were being woven by expectant parents, now could barely hold back the hatchlings eager to be testing wings. The leaflets unfolded into leaves, the greening of the trees darkened through the day. And by the the first shadows of the gloaming, the first whispers of the summer wind drifted in.
Then from inside the woods, we would hear an owl's hoot followed by a silence as if the owl were coming near. And then we would come upon a lantern hanging from a branch, a light upon our path hung there by some mysterious, beneficent someone, a someone whose work was to guide through the night.
Again and again, the owl's hoot and the wisp of silent wings preceded the appearance of the next lantern, always just within the last step before the prior lantern had faded from our sight.
That night we journeyed through forest darkness, journeying from lantern to lantern. I asked grandfather why we simply did not take the lantern with us. He answered, "These lanterns are here for more pilgrims than merely ourselves. I sense that these lanterns belong the Greyfriars who are finding their way home, to the home that awaits them in a place they've never known. Lad, we are simply retracing the path that their trailblazer has made for them. We will find our way home by way of the light that will guide them to their home. Lanterns are like this. We place lanterns for other pilgrims so that they might find their way through darkness as have we."
That night I found that the darkness is not so dark at all, when there has been placed a little lantern light along the way.