I can relate well to the quiet and somewhat quirky Father Tim, the pastor at Mitford's Episcopal church, Lord's Chapel. In his private thoughts to express so I find so many things I find myself pondering.
I can almost feel my heart rate slow as I read these stories. I can see, smell and even taste her vivid descriptions. And every once in awhile I'm inspired along with her fictional Father Tim.
The following jog comes shortly after Father Tim has been diagnosed with adult onset, non-insulin dependent diabetes. He's been going through a kind of low time. A time of rethinking his life and goals. He's burnt out, having not taken any vacation or time for himself for many years. His bishop and seminary friend has encouraged him to marry.
[Father Tim] knew he didn't want to be seen doing this. First, he wanted to try it out, in a place where there was no traffic. And while he'd seen countless others running heedlessly along Main Street, he felt, somehow, that jogging was an intimate activity, accompanied by snorts, sweating, hawking, and spitting, and an inordinate amount of huffing and puffing. Why in the world anyone would want to do that up and down the center of town was beyond him.Maybe it's time for me to take up jogging again.
He went to the study window at the back of the rectory and peered across his greening yard into Baxter Park. As far as he could see, the coast was clear.
He began in a kind of lope, along the flagstones by his perennial beds, through the space in the hedge and out to Baxter Park, where he turned left and ran close to the hemlock border.
By the time he reached the middle of the park, he was winded. "Take it easy," Hoppy had told him. "Don't try to do Boston the first time out."
He had already broken a light sweat.
A squirrel chattered by one of the ancient park benches. A chipmunk dashed across the grass. And the old fountain, now green with moss and algae, made a sweet pattering sound.
A bronze plaque on the fountain read: Given in loving memory of Rachel Livingstone Baxter, 1889-1942. Miss Sadie's mother, he thought, thankful for such an oasis of peace. He wondered why he hadn't been in this wonderful old park in several years, even though it bordered his yard and looked into it nearly every day.
Starting again, he jogged over to Old church Lane. Then, he ran with surprising ease up the hill toward the meadow where the remains of the ruined Lord's Chapel stood.
Panting and soaked with sweat, his heart pounding furiously, he sat on a crumbling stone wall that bordered the old churchyard and saw what lay before him as if for the first time.
It was, he thought, the land of Counterpane.
The view swept down to a small valley with church spires, orderly farms, and freshly planted fields. Then the far walls of the valley rose steeply, and rolled away to ridge upon ridge, wave upon wave, of densely blue, mist-cloaked mountains.
He sat as if stunned for a long moment. Then he tried to recall when he'd been up here last.
It had been seven or eight years, he figured, since he climbed the steep lane with Walter and Katherine and a picnic basket. He wondered who he might share it with now, but could think of no one. Except, or course, Barnabas.
His heart had ceased in its thundering, and a light breeze coming up from the valley seemed sweet with the fragrance of earth and manure, leaf mold and blossoming trees.
He got up from the wall, idly wondering how long he had sat there, and began his jog down Old Church Lane.
He was no longer trying to hide himself along the hedges. In fact, he discovered that he was suddenly feeling absolutely "top notch," as Walter might say.
As he ran, he became aware that he was thinking the oddest thoughts. Thoughts of how he might look in his new spring sport coat; about the little girl's pony that had got caught in the barbed wire fence; whether Emma had dyed her hair at home or had it done by Fancy Skinner. Also, he hoped the pink day lilies would not disappoint him and bloom out orange.
He turned out of the bright sun into the cool morning shade of Baxter Park, and paused again to rest at the fountain.
Maybe this jogging business wouldn't be so bad, after all.
New possibilities lay before him, it seemed, though he couldn't yet tell what they were. Perhaps it was time to make some other changes, as well, to do something fresh, something different and unexpected.
The idea came upon him quite suddenly.
He would give a dinner party.