Brbr said goodbye to her co-counsellor Mrtn and stepped out of his dwelling into the freshness of the early autumn evening. The orange-red sun was setting. On the horizon, dark vegetation flecked the purple-blue reflection of the sky on the vast, flat, pock-marked marshland in which her village lay nestled.
Every year she felt more and more deeply the experience of the approach of the autumn equinox celebration. At first she had learnt to sense inwardly how the leaves on the trees began to turn in early August: the birch to yellow; the maple to russet red; the oak to orange. This sensation had grown each year into a heightened awareness of what autumn meant. Despite nature’s abundance, the descent from midsummer health and wholeness, to death-bringing decline and decay in autumn, were a sign to inspire the individual to strengthen his or her sense of self, opening the possibility of freely re-embracing others in common love.
This year she could see how the processions of the villagers in the near-by woods and glades, during the spring and summer sightings of Vns, had been reflected in the wild berry harvest, which was especially plentiful. As she passed the candlelit windows of her neighbours’ dwellings, Brbr could see many were busy making their conserves. The apples and pears had already been stacked in their shelved boxes and the buckwheat harvest safely guarded in the stores, well above the high level water line of the surrounding wetlands.
Brbr headed up the slight rise to the higher ground on which her fraternum stood and, looking up as she approached the front door, she noticed damage on the turfed roof that enveloped the whole.
“We must seek new turf in the morning” she thought “and bind it in well before the winter snows come”.
As she stepped inside she was greeted by the symbolic, red-brown glow of the central fire and the warmth in the faces of Aln and Slv, her co-habitors, who were in the kitchen preparing the accompaniments to the thick pulse soup, whose rich, wholesome smell arose from the stove.
“Peace, Brbr” was the meaning of the various, brief phrases of greeting they gave her, with an exchange of kisses on each cheek.
“That image of the hall, and the lost people all around, and that sweet smelling cake” said Slv, in a tone of calm respect, “Mrtn is right, the pictures will one day become clear and understandable. It is only a question of inner effort and patience”.
“As for your thoughts about the roof” interposed Aln “let’s talk about it after storytelling, I see where we can find the necessary material”.
“Thank you, thank you both” replied Brbr, who gestured with a gentle inclination of her head that it was time to address the more immediate matter of the evening meal than questions of the roof maintenance or of her personal development, even though her difficulties had been the main focus of the fraternum’s contemplations until the arrival of Grhm a few weeks ago.
A moment after Aln, Slv and Brbr had drawn their glances together to dwell on the goodness they were bringing to the meal, the other members of the fraternum began to appear from the passages joining the kitchen and dining area to the other chambers that made up the whole dwelling.
First to come were Smn, Rgr, Sndr and Crl, the fraternum’s four children, laughing as they ran in to the communal area, where a solid, round dark oak table had been set for twelve. The stools had been ranged around and the wooden utensils and goblets carefully laid, their brown and golden brown hues complementing the autumnal flower display in the table’s centrepiece. The children, now aged 7, 10, 11 and 14, dressed in a variety of pastel coloured linen jackets and trousers, each in a different style, reached for their stools and sat up at the table, arms by their sides. As they had learnt, they fell to silence, contemplating the meal that was to come and waited for the others.
Immediately behind them came Ssn and Ptr, the two elders, both by now silver-haired, yet deliberate and assured in their bodily movements after almost 80 years of work each in the community. From the serious expressions on their faces they had evidently been conversing on a matter of some gravity. They brightened into a smile at the sight of the children patiently waiting and gestured gratefully to Aln and Slv, who were bringing in the large pot of pulse soup and a long wooden soup ladle, carved with the motifs of the community. Brbr was just behind them with open baskets of cut spelt bread-loaves and fresh vegetables, which would accompany the meal.
Brbr’s partner, Dvd, would not be joining them. He had been away from the fraternum since the spring, having set off eastwards to the mountains to answer a call for help from the neighbouring community. Dvd’s reaction had been characteristic of his forthright and courageous nature. “Our friends have suffered a loss of purpose”, he announced to his fellow fraternum members soon after receiving the news. “They have let disillusion take hold of them, and they are in need of guidance. I must go to them”.
Dvd and the fraternum had agreed that his mission would take him away many months: so each had resolved to work with even more attention in his absence. Now, from what they had heard, his efforts had brought success. The ability of their distant neighbours to focus on the tasks in hand had been restored. But still it would take a march of many weeks before Dvd would return.