Sunday, April 8, 2012

Counted Blessings

"On this most holy day of days
To God your hearts and voices raise,
In laud and jubilee and praise."
— Jean Tisserand, 15th cent.

To lots of folks on this blessed planet, Easter is a yearly celebration of an event they believe happened many years ago. It is usually observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

In addition to the religious symbols, many celebrate it with Easter eggs, white-flowered lilies and exchanged gifts.

I'd like to share with you a few blessings stored in sacred memories.

Each springtime I treasure that decade before I migrated to Gotham's asphalt jungle.

Miles of dogwood, lilacs, wild flowers, magnolias, red buds with unbelievably gorgeous blooms, each more brilliant than its neighbor.

The animals on the land - the mares, their colts, at the pasture behind my little cottage, the happy, carefree dogs, the platoon of barn cats, scurrying in and out of the old barn, multiplying like joyful weeds.

Sewanee, Tennessee, on the top of a magic mountain, was a magical place. From the simple Covites in the valley below to the high-ranking academic and ecclesiastical scholars who governed the University of the South (often called The Princeton of the South).

The local village church, Otey parish, the three prep schools that stood both apart yet joined as one triumvirate.

The whole raison d'etre, the development and nurturing of young men and women. Students training to lead the future, of their own towns, their nation, their world. . .

A leisurely pace of life mingled with the serene purple mists. Incredible views as you stood on the edge of the mystical mountain and looked down at the quiet valleys.

Bells tolling from the university chapel, the bells of St. Andrew's, St. Mary's and Sewanee Military Academy.

Music from the great organ at the university, the smaller chapel at St. Mary's, out on the edge of the mountain, notes gliding through the clouds and trees in brilliant sunlight.

Dawns and sunsets remembered, peace, security, joy, a constant reminder of new life, new blooms, new animals, new children, learning to find their own beacons, to follow their own special stars.

Happy hours with celebrated colleagues at the spacious log cabin of Andrew Lytle, the Editor of the Sewanee Review. Mellow bourbon served in silver goblets and old linen napkins. Brilliant snatches of erudite conversation, drifting from his porch out into the twilight mists.

The rhythms of academia whistling through tree branches. English, philosophy, Russian lit, math, physics, all promoting the life-giving esprit de corps.

We adults were all ages - 21 to 90 - all of us young at heart and growing together. It was a given that to be a good teacher or professor you were constantly seeking wider horizons, always expanding the mind.

From my safe cocoon I took side trips - Harvard, Oxford - always returning with a knapsack of riches to share with my students and colleagues.

Most of us gave our all, on that sacred mountain, and received much in return.

Today I walk softly on city sidewalks, remembering, counting the blessings of that sacred piece of America.

Thelma Straw


  1. T, this is beautiful! I have never been there, but I can sing the The Bells of St. Mary's. I hear your lovely words in the soft, friendly accents of the sweet brand of English spoken there. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Annamaria. Actually, one hears or did in those days more Oxford English accents than Tennessee! The University of the South was veddy Brit-oriented!!!! tjs