Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone
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The Tale of St. Francis-on-the-Hill (ch. 2)


This is the second part of a three part story. You can read the first part here.


About mid-morning, I set out from the guesthouse on my quest. I would find out what happened to my boy Frank.

I forced my way through the thorny trees, passed snake holes, over rocks and around ravines. After some time of walking around, I spotted him.

Frank was upright, and practically in one piece. One of his shoulders was damaged, but later examination of my 2007 pictures would reveal that he had already received this wound. Someone had set him up in a sort of alcove between two rocks. You can see him in the picture above.

The alcove was not far from the base of Frank's hill. It was nice enough--a respectful new home, I suppose. However, instead of looking out on the grandeur of the Chama river valley, he was now staring at a dry stream bed. Instead of guarding the guesthouse from above, he was now relegated to a hidden place far from human traffic.

I wondered how he had gotten here. My most generous assumption was that the narrow patch of earth where he sat upon his cliff had become eroded, and that he was no longer stable up there. Another, less generous thought was that he had fallen down his hill and some lazy monk or visitor had just stuck him somewhere rather than carrying him all the way back to the top. Other ideas came into my head as well, generally regarding the base nature of some young pranksters.

I sat with Frank for a few minutes, and then decided to test my theory about his former resting spot. I started to ascend his hill. It was not easy. I often had to choose between picking my way through huge, loose rocks or going straight up powdery red sand. There is no easy way to get up there. Besides this, I was at 7500+ feet in elevation. Going from Nashville's 600 feet to the high desert in a single day leaves me breathless. The thin air makes any exertion more difficult, and this was no exception.

I'm not that out of shape, though. Not yet. I did make it.

Upon arrival, I found a few things. Most importantly, I discovered that Frank's former perch was in good shape. There was no reason he couldn't be up here. I also found my old rosary, and a bit of one of his other rosaries. I sat up there for a while, taking pictures, praying, enjoying the view. When I was done, I wrapped the rosaries around a large rock.

On my way down, a thought struck me. "I'm going to put Frank back. I don't know how he got moved, or who did it, or why. I don't care. I'm going to put him back." But then I started thinking about the logistics. If it was the monks who moved him, they may have had a good reason. I don't want to get in trouble with the boys in black. So, if I'm going to move him, it will have to be at night. I'll have to do it when the moon is out, so I can see. Maybe I should recruit my friend Robert, who was at the monastery with me. It started to feel a bit like Mission Impossible. Except with no lasers. Well, no lasers I am aware of.

But then another thought came to me. Why do I care? So what if this yard ornament has been moved? Why does it bother me so much? Why can't I let things be? Why can't I accept change?

And that last question, the one about change, that was the kicker.

I love coming to this monastery. But it seems that every year, something changes. We used to eat our meals in a small, kind of cramped room right off the kitchen. Now they have a huge eating area (called a refectory) with a gorgeous icon filling one wall. The bookstore/gift shop used to be a dark and dusty room with no electricity; it was in the guesthouse. Now, there is a beautiful space closer to the chapel. It is clean, with high ceilings and electric light. This year, the monks have added an electric organ to the chapel. They don't play it all the time, but they had used it at one of the services. And it sucked.

A great deal changes in my life. I gain new friends while old ones seem to slip away. My children are growing up, older every day. My church sees new people coming, some people leave. Culture changes, society changes, all so quickly. I want there to be something that is always the same. And not just this monastery--I think I simply don't like change.

Frank is one of those things I don't want to change. I want him to be there, always watching the guesthouse, always gazing out over the river and the valley around it. I don't want him anywhere else. But, maybe that's something I'm going to have to deal with. Maybe I just need to accept the change that is happening and stop fighting it.

I went back to my room and sat on my bed. I looked out the window, struggling with my conflicting thoughts. Accept the discipline of change, or rebel against it?

I decided I would rebel. I'm done with change. I'll move St. Francis back to his hill.



To be continued in the final chapter of the Tale of St. Francis-on-the-Hill.