LIGHT FROM HEAVEN
Jan Karon is the author of nine Mitford novels,
At Home in Mitford; A Light in the Window; These High, Green Hills; Out to Canaan; A New Song; A Common Life; In This Mountain; Shepherds Abiding
Light from Heaven,
all available from Penguin. She is also the author of
The Mitford Bedside Companion; Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader; A Continual Feast; Patches of Godlight; The Mitford Snowmen: A Christmas Story; Esther’s Gift;
The Trellis and the Seed.
Her children’s books include
Miss Fannie’s Hat; Jeremy: The Tale of an Honest Bunny; Violet Comes to Stay; and Violet Goes to the Country
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The Mitford Years
Light From Heaven
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.2005
Published in Penguin Books 2008
Copyright © Jan Karon, 2005
Illustrations copyright © Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2005
All rights reserved
“Let the Stable Still Astonish” by Leslie Leyland Fields, appearing in
Christmas: An Annual Treasury
(Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 1995).
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
eISBN : 978-1-440-63296-9
CIP data available
Illustrations by Donna Kae Nelson
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
For my sister and brothers,
Brenda Wilson Furman, Barry Dean Setzer,
and Phillip Randolph Setzer,
who helped me become better
than I might have been . . .
And in memory of Clarence Bush,
beloved younger brother of my grandmother
(Miss Fannie), who perished in World War I,
and all the brothers and sisters who have
given their lives in mortal conflict
and are lost to us forever.
James Davison Hunter; Colin Hunter; Kevin Coleman; Mac McClung; Ed Abernathy; Jessi Baker; Gloria Berberich; Brenda Hyson; Fr. Anthony Andres; Stewart Brown; Fr. Edwin Pippin;
Robert Mares; Betty Pitts; Tanya Faidley; Alex Heath; Bobbie Dietz; Kathy Campbell; Melissa Wait.
Lacey Wood; Wayne Erbsen; Bill Watson; Carol Hill;
The Anglican Digest;
Mike Thacker; Cheryl Lewis; Rick Moore; Joel Valente; Bonnie Setzer; Johanna Farmer; Mrs. Scott Newton, deceased; Susan Cunningham; Brenda Furman; Goldie Stargell; Lillian Ballard; John (J. D.) Diven; Martha Sanusi; Tal Bonham; Royce Elliott; Jeff Pozniak; Judy Austin; Marcelle Morel; Wendell Winn Jr.; David Vander Meulen; Mary Ann Odom.
Dr. Paul Klas; Dr. August Sanusi; Dave Archer; Charlene Norris; Dr. Chris Grover; Fr. Peter Way; Dr. Christopher Holstege; Can-dace Freeland.
Special thanks to: Bishop Keith Ackerman; Joann Ackerman; Brad Van Lear; Richard Rankin; Polly Hawkes.
Table of Contents
If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,
Shine, Poet! In thy place, and be content . . .
A Winter Eden
The first flake landed on a blackberry bush in the creek bottom of Meadowgate Farm.
In the frozen hour before dawn, others found their mark on the mossy roof of the smokehouse; in a grove of laurel by the northwest pasture; on the handle of a hoe left propped against the garden fence.
Close by the pond in the sheep paddock, a buck, a doe, and two fawns stood motionless as an owl pushed off from the upper branches of a pine tree and sailed, silent and intent, to the ridge of the barn roof.
The owl hooted once, then twice.
As if summoned by its velveteen cry, the platinum moon broke suddenly from the clouds above the pond, transforming the water’s surface into a gleaming lake of molten pearl.
Then, clouds sailed again over the face of the moon, and in the bitter darkness, snowflakes fell thick and fast, swirling as in a shaken globe.
It was twelve minutes after six o’clock when a gray light rose above the brow of Hogback Mountain, exposing an imprint of tractor tires that linked Meadowgate’s hay barn to the cow pasture and sheep paddock. The imprints of work boots and dog paws were also traceable along the driveway to the barn, and back to the door of the farmhouse, where smoke puffed from the chimney and lamplight shone behind the kitchen windows.
From a tulip poplar at the northeast corner to the steel stake at the southwest, all hundred and thirty acres of Meadowgate Farm lay under a powdery blanket of March snow.
Cynthia Kavanagh stood in the warmth of the farmhouse kitchen in a chenille robe, and gazed out on the hushed landscape.
“It makes everything innocent again,” she said. “A winter Eden.”
At the pine table, Father Timothy Kavanagh leafed through his quote journal until he found the record he’d jotted down. “Unbelievable! We’ve had snow one, two, three, four . . . this is the fifth time since Christmas Eve.”
“Snow, snow, and more snow!”
“Not to mention dogs, dogs, and more dogs! It looks like somebody backed up to the door and dumped a truckload of canines in here.”
Following his customary daylight romp, Barnabas, a Bouvier-wolfhound mix and his boon companion of ten years, was drowned in slumber on the hearth rug; Buckwheat, an English foxhound grown long in the tooth, had draped herself over the arm of the sofa; the Welsh corgi, aptly named Bodacious, snored in a wing chair she had long ago claimed as her own; and Luther, a recent, mixed-breed addition to the Meadowgate pack, had slung himself onto his bed in the corner, belly up. There was a collective odor of steam rising from sodden dog hair.
“Ugh!” said his wife, who was accustomed to steam rising off only one wet dog.
Father Tim looked up from the journal in which he was transcribing notes collected hither and yon. “So what are you doing today, Kavanagh?”
Cynthia mashed the plunger of the French coffee press. “I’m doing the sketch of Violet looking out the kitchen window to the barn, and I’m calling Puny to find out about the twins—they’re days late, you know.”
“Good idea. Expected around March fourth or fifth, and here it is the fourteenth. They’ll be ready for kindergarten.”
“And you must run to Mitford with the shopping list for Dooley’s homecoming dinner tomorrow.”
“Consider it done.”
His heart beat faster at the thought of having their boy home for spring break, but the further thought of having nothing more to accomplish than a run to The Local was definitely discouraging. Heaven knows, there was hardly anything to do on the farm but rest, read, and walk four dogs; he’d scarcely struck a lick at a snake since arriving in mid-January. Willie Mullis, a full-timer who’d replaced the part-time Bo Davis, lived on the place and did all the odd jobs, feeding up and looking after livestock; Joyce Havner did the laundry and cleaning, as she’d done at Meadowgate for years; Blake Eddistoe ran the vet clinic, only a few yards from the farmhouse door, with consummate efficiency; there was even someone to bush hog and cut hay when the season rolled around.