Friday, June 13, 2008


Sometimes during the slow, summer afternoons, my friend Vickie and I ramble to not-so-faraway places that are unfamiliar to me; e.g., Tracy City, TN, a town of approximately 1,000 about twelve miles northeast of Sewanee. We hadn’t been to the new tea room there, and I couldn’t imagine what high tea would be like in the square, white block structure, sans windows, but we passed it without getting a glimpse of the interior because it was closed. The tea room is one of the few attractions of this small town in Grundy County, TN. The other is a bakery called “The Dutch Maid Bakery,” established by a Swiss immigrant, John Baggenstoss in 1902, a few years after he migrated to the Swiss colony Gruetli, TN. John and his brothers began making breads and pastries first for the Gruetli community, then at Tracy City, and his recipes have been passed on to present owner, Cynthia Day, a baker with Publix Food Stores for many years.

Inside the bakery, we found baked goods ranging from whiskey cakes to fresh, home-baked bread, colorful bottles of scuppernong and other ciders, jams, jellies, preserves, and foods that you’d find at a county fair in a small rural town. One of the bakers told me that in its infancy, the bakery would prepare fruitcakes for Christmas, and the cakes overflowed in the front room of the bakery to the extent that bakers and customers had to walk, single file, to make a path through the cakes before they were mailed to buyers throughout the United States. The famed fruitcakes are still made there and sent throughout the country, but their storage system has improved since the days of front room stacking.

About 20 miles further along Hwy. 56, travelers can follow a winding road that may give them motion sickness before they reach the town of Beersheba Springs, TN where we once attended an Arts and Crafts Fair the fourth week-end in August. The festival is held on the grounds of the United Methodist Assembly at the old Beersheba Hotel, first built in the mid 1800’s. In 1854, one of our Louisiana military men, Colonel John Armfield, made improvements to the first structure and expanded the old hotel so that it could accommodate 400 guests. Also, twenty cottages were constructed on the grounds. Louisiana planters followed the Colonel to Beersheba Springs to escape the Louisiana humidity, and log cabins were built for Episcopal Bishop James Otey and our fighting Bishop Leonidas Polk. At that time, Beersheba Springs vied for the Episcopal university that eventually became Sewanee!

Grundy County is an interesting area, and the Arts and Crafts Festival at Beersheba Springs draws 200 vendors from several states. The proceeds from renting space to vendors at this fair benefit many local charities and other forms of outreach. Thirty-two percent of the 553 people who live in Beersheba Springs live below the poverty line, so the festival is a boon to the area.

I’ll be participating in a silent retreat at St. Mary’s beginning yesterday evening so will be “incommunicado” for several days. The silent retreat is sponsored by the Sisters at St. Mary’s Convent and is held annually for Associates of St. Mary’s, people who enjoy the hospitality and counsel of the Sisters and agree to follow a Rule of Life for six months before they’re admitted to the Order of an Associate. The Rule includes meditating and praying daily, reading spiritual literature and the Bible, participating in Quiet Days and retreats, as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation, supporting the Community of St. Mary, and putting spirituality into action.

Another poem about crows and their connecting us to the spiritual, a subject that several readers found interesting, from SOARING, published by Border Press:

Hearing a party of crows almost daily now,
black warriors raucous in the tree tops,
we become them, seeking seed
lodged in the yellowing grass,
cawing for revelations to be scratched up
and fed to the raven within,
to power ascent above the wind pulls
and fuel the flight straight into the heart of
… the Holy One.
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