Spending the weekend in a mountaintop cabin, my daughter and I were awestruck by a forest fire which blazed without burning. (The photograph, taken by Evangeline, shows me and Susannah with our good friends, Michael and Crystal Kurek, on the deck of the cabin in the Smoky Mountains.)
St. Ambrose Barlow 2020
I’m writing this on the morning of September 11, on the nineteenth anniversary of the infamous terrorist attacks. I’d arrived in the United States from my native England only four days earlier, which meant that my move to the USA coincided with one of the most momentous events in American history and was something of a baptism of fire.
Yesterday, September 10, was the feast day of St. Ambrose Barlow, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, who was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1641, during the reign of Charles I. May he pray for the people of England and for their conversion and may he pray also for the people of the United States and their conversion.
In last week’s Diary, I mentioned that we were heading to the mountains for the weekend with our friends, Michael and Crystal Kurek. Actually, to be precise, we didn’t head there with them so much as meeting them there, the Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee being about equidistant from our home in the upstate of South Carolina and the Kureks’ home in Nashville.
Apart from the general conviviality, the highlight for me was seeing a forest fire of a very different sort from those afflicting the west coast. It was dark and we were out on the deck of the mountaintop cabin that we’d rented for the weekend. Staring at the multitudinous stars, and the black profile of the mountains, we notice the top of some trees on the distant horizon become ablaze with gold. We gasped. Were we witnessing the start of a forest fire like those that afflicted this part of the Smokies a few years ago? Then the blaze turned to a blood red and the moon rose slowly from behind the mountain. It was awe-inspiring. Evangeline was beside herself with the sheer beauty of it. Taken up with the spirit of the mountains, she then insisted that we sing “Take Me Home Country Roads” as a joyous way of expressing the kiss of beauty that we’d just experienced.
Michael played me a recording of the recently completed fourth movement of his Second Symphony, which was absolutely wonderful. I am still haunted by the way that it begins with a whispering ascent which Michael likened to a wisp of smoke or incense.
We returned home in the early evening of Labor Day, tired and yet also refreshed by the break from routine.
Since then I’ve been hard at work.
On Tuesday we began the discussion of Michael Kurek’s book, The Sound of Beauty, for the FORMED Book Club, affording me the excuse and opportunity to re-read it. It’s even better than I remembered.
Wednesday was an especially busy day as I prepared for and then taught two online classes. At lunchtime I began teaching a high school level class for Homeschool Connections on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and in the evening I taught a masters level course on Imaginative Literature, beginning our discussion of Homer’s Odyssey.
Yesterday was an astonishingly fruitful day. I wrote an essay for the Imaginative Conservative, entitled “Doctor WHO and Big Brother” and then spent the rest of the day, except for a sojourn at the gym, writing my book. I finished chapter 11, which covers the final years of the reign of Henry VIII and the entirety of the mercifully brief reign of Edward VI. I wrote in the region of 3,500 words yesterday, which is a good day’s work by anyone’s standard. The manuscript now stands at almost 38,000 words and I’m guessing I’m only about halfway.
Nothing much to report on the wildlife front. We have all the usual visitors to our birdfeeder: chickadees, tufted titmice and cardinals. I was about to write that I hadn’t seen many finches lately but then, looking down at the feeder, I see a female goldfinch. We’re also being visited regularly by a couple of nuthatches. And, of course, the squirrels and chipmunks are always in on the act. And, as I write, two red-tailed hawks have just flown overhead, one following the other, and glancing down at the feeder, I see an immature male house finch. It’s all happening at once, or perhaps its because I’m actually looking out of the window and am not glued to my computer screen, which makes me wonder what endless delights I’m missing throughout the day, under my very nose and yet not noticed.
I’ve just recorded three new podcasts for the Inner Sanctum so I invite you to enjoy these, as well as exploring the almost fathomless archives that are there for your enjoyment and hopefully your edification.
Thank you so much for gracing me with your company in the Inner Sanctum. Until next week, goodbye and God bless.