Finding our “Land of Counterpane”

Dear Reader:

When Jan Karon’s Mitford series became such a hit ( New York best sellers) lots of attention was thrust on this author….to the point where she finally had to leave Blowing Rock, North Carolina (her own Mitford) to escape unwanted visitors tracking her down on her property all hours of the day and night.

Karon did have a sign outside her cottage in Blowing Rock that read “Peter Rabbit Slept Here.” It is the relationship between Father Tim and God that brings readers back for the next book and the next and the next. As Father Tim struggles to find the right balance in his own personal relationship he helps so many Mitford friends in their relationships too…as well as all us readers.

Have you ever thought that Jan Karon’s sign outside her cottage might be a clue as to another rabbit most children have heard about… the classic…The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown? Have you ever considered God to greatly resemble the “run-away bunny’s” mother? Is Father Tim showing us how to find God since He is as close as our next heart beat?

Don’t you remember the story of the runaway bunny…The mother bunny starts out  the book reassuring her little bunny that no matter where he runs or hides she will find him.

Source: Transpositions – Stephen  Schueler

The first transformation is especially telling: the little bunny states that he will become a fish, and the mother replies, “I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”  The statement recalls Jesus’s words to the disciples: “I will make you fishers of men,” but it also parallels the descent of God into the world to seek fallen humanity, and while the mother bunny does not intend to become a fish as her child does, her entrance into the trout stream in pursuit of her little bunny suggests the entrance of God into the human body of Mary.

 In a later episode, the little bunny says that he will become a bird, whereas the mother says that she will become “a tree that you come home to,” recalling both Jesus’s statement that “birds of the air have nests” and the death of Jesus on a cross, which is sometimes referred to as a tree. 

At another point in the story, the little bunny decides that he will become a flower hidden in a garden, so the mother bunny decides that she will become a gardener.  There is a double significance of the garden, for it evokes both the garden of Eden and the garden in which Jesus is buried.  After the Resurrection, Jesus is mistaken for a gardener by one of the women who has come to tend his body, and the episode further solidifies the identification of the mother bunny with Christ…”

In the very first book, when we meet Father Tim…he describes Mitford to us. Since I had only read a few paragraphs when he used a metaphor comparing Mitford to the “Land of Counterpane” I had no reference for this analogy…so I simply read on.

Mitford, North Carolina (pop. 1,000), nestled in a lush valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a turn-of-the-century creekside town where the air sparkles and flowers abound. Its residents are mostly decent, neighborly types whose lives are framed by the beauty and weather of the changing seasons and the recurrence of annual events. They care for one another, have little to do with the outside world, and resist change.

Looking down from a hill on the town he loves, Father Timothy Kavanagh, the rector of Mitford’s Episcopal Church, sees “a wide panorama of rich Flemish colors under a perfectly blue and cloudless sky,” with ploughed farmland like velveteen scraps on a quilt, feather-stitched with hedgerows.” He calls it the Land of Counterpane.” 

*Now that I am finished with the entire series…I do have time to go back and research quotes and parts of poems that I didn’t “get” (the analogy) the first time time around or I was too lazy to stop and look the reference up. I found the “Land of CounterPane” – it is a poem from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane

Yesterday I could have been in the pleasant “Land of Counterpane” at Eva Cate’s family birthday party…along with the run-away bunny because someone was continuously calling out...”Have you seen “Jakie or Lachlan or Rutledge, Eloise, or Eva Cate?”  The responses varied but reassurances came back…the child was in the bathroom or wanting something to drink or playing in one of the rooms….all accounted for…everyone out of the pool.

(Walsh had to work and Tommy was playing in a golf fund-raiser for Parkinsons’s disease …but the rest of the immediate family was there.)

It was a typical family gathering…swimming, shivering, cook-out, laughter, giggles, squeals, and a few tears…it was a birthday party! In my mind, however, I was remembering every detail of Eva Cate’s entrance into the world nine years before….thinking that I probably wouldn’t see her grow up and memorizing every detail of her little baby face…yet here I am….in the “Land of Counterpane.”

So until tomorrow…”You can’t depend on your eyes, when your imagination is out of focus.”  Mark Twain

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

What a spectacularly beautiful day Eva Cate’s birthday was…not a cloud in the sky and little if any humidity. Gorgeous!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Finding our “Land of Counterpane”

  1. bcparkison says:

    It looks to have been a grand birthday party.
    I saw the other day Jan Karon will be speaking at the Biltmore and I think ticket include a visit to the house. Would be fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.