Wetted County

Rain and snow fall from the sky. The water that lands on the Buck, Bent, and Poor Mountain peaks of the Blue Ridge–not to mention Tinker Mountain, Fulhardt Knob, the Peaks of Otter, and many others–this water flows down towards the Atlantic Ocean via the Roanoke River, which is also called the Staunton River.

East of the Blue Ridge, in the hills where moonshine flowed like water in the Prohibition Era, Smith Mountain rises as a solitary ridge. West of the mountain, the hills crinkle up like folds of crumpled paper.

Roanoke River watershed
Since the springtime of the world, the Roanoke River has flown through the Smith Mountain pass, or gorge. On September 24, 1963, mankind (specifically, the Appalachian Power Company) interrupted the flow of the river with a colossal hydroelectric dam. Over the course of the next two and a half years, the water backed up to wet all the earth that lies lower than 800 feet above sea level.

Paved roads, underwater; trees and ruined barns and God only knows what else. Now Tom Brady fans ride jet-skis over what were once tobacco fields where Booker T. Washington might have gone for walks when he was a boy.

Amazing world.

One of the roads that leads to the campsites at Smith Mountain Lake State Park used to be a country road that ran past the front door of a farmhouse. A couple of years ago, an Eagle Scout rebuilt the three-person swing that the farmer put up for his family.

…Speaking of amazing, we cannot take our leave of Shakespeare’s Richard III without contemplating the speech King Richard gives in Scene 3 of Act V. Night falls on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field. The souls of all the king’s murder victims come to him in his dream and condemn him: “Despair and die.”

Richard awakes in a cold sweat.

What do I fear? myself? there’s none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high’st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?
Methought the souls of all that I had murder’d
Came to my tent; and every one did threat
To-morrow’s vengeance on the head of Richard.

The scene in “The Two Towers” movie where Smeagol and Gollum debate each other: perhaps whoever wrote it was inspired by this speech of King Richard’s. (Tokien did not write the part where Gollum accuses Smeagol of committing murder.)

Retrospective Explanation

I am not much for apologias anymore. God knows the last time I tried to explain myself, it was kind of a Google-ripping disaster.

(Only long-time readers with sharp memories will remember last Assumption Day’s apologia. That little post is now lost in the sands of time, never to be surfed again…)

Now “Preacher” has turned in his Big Daddy. You and I, dear reader, have moved on to the next, more noble chapter together (the one named after I Corinthians 13:8).

Only the good Lord knows how this stage of the journey will unfold. We are always on the way to better things (as long as we do not die outside the state of grace.)

Nonetheless: I would, for the sake of the record, like to make two points. They are taken from the ultimate source of authority in faith and morals, The Lord of the Rings. Receive them as you will.

I.
Before the Quest began, the Breelanders thought that Aragorn was an unkempt, loopy vagrant who spent too much time smoking his pipe in taprooms and chanting decrepit elven lays.

But “Strider” knew most of the pathways of Middle Earth. He could guide anyone to their destination without getting lost.

When everything was said and done, Aragorn cleaned up pretty nice. He turned out be a skilled healer and, in fact, the king.

II.
Frodo carried the Ring of Power all the way to Mount Doom by the sheer force of his indomitable hobbit will.

But when he stood at the fiery chasm, Frodo did NOT have the strength to throw the ring in, to destroy it. Left to himself, Frodo would have walked away with the ring like Isildur did, and evil would have triumphed.

But the higher powers had a grander plan. Gollum attacked Frodo at just the right moment. In the struggle of two weakened wills, the evil ring fell into the chasm and was destroyed.

The higher powers see things we do not see. They know things we do not know. They make good winds blow when the time is ripe.

This is why the Valar most want us earthlings to be humble. They prize humility above all other human virtues.

…But, listen: I deserve every reproof I get, and I appreciate them all. In the ineffable words of Billy Joel, You may be right

…Pray for the new pastor on Sunday, please! Pray that I will be open to every grace, and we will all move forward toward heaven together!