The more I study about the art and culture of the Middle Ages, the more I’m convinced that this was a world I knew well.
More specifically, I think any life I might have lived in the Angevin courts was a fluke; my strongest draw, by far, is to the trappings of monastic life.
I see the vaulted ceilings and cloisters of old abbeys and I feel strangely homesick. I read of monks commenting on the aches in their back and hands, the strain on their eyes, or the poor quality of the parchment (one monk complained that his still had hair on it) and I feel like it’s all familiar to me, things I experienced regularly.
Also, there’s the places I tended to gravitate toward. Certainly, the ruins of old abbeys held a strange fascination for me when I was in England in 2003-05. But more than that, there was Mepkin Abbey, an active, thriving Cistercian abbey near Charleston, SC I used to go to as a child and once specifically requested a trip to on my 21st birthday. I spent a good half hour talking monastic history with one of the brothers at the abbey and felt strangely at home, though I knew in my heart that this time around, monastic life wasn’t for me (most importantly because I’m involved in a very serious relationship).
I’ve written a few medieval monastic characters into my recent works and I have to say, it comes rather naturally. I think it’s safe to say that this is a topic I will revisit in my work for many years to come.
It’s a shame that oak galls are so hard to come by in Oregon, and parchment is so terribly expensive, or I’d be tempted to try my hand at making my own ink and writing the old-fashioned way, with a candle for light, a quill, a blade, a stylus, and a copy of my work to be transcribed to elegant miniscule letters (or as elegant as my unsteady hands can manage).
Still, any clear recollection of having lived that life eludes me. It’s only a vague feeling that I had to have lived- perhaps several lifetimes- as a Cistercian monk some time before or after Count William’s life. Maybe that was the life I defaulted toward during that period, when I wasn’t born into some prior obligation or a life of privilege. I feel strongly that I had multiple literate lives in an age when this was not common, though, which is odd.