Thursday, October 27, 2011

EHCS: Open House postcard

This concept, a promotional postcard design on behalf of my alma mater, turned out rather nicely, if I do say so myself. Sounds like they'll be wanting to use the “little red schoolhouse” on some other material in the near future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alfred the Great

Today is the Feast Day (in the Anglican Communion) of Alfred the Great, the greatest of the pre-Norman, Anglo-Saxon kings, and in fact the only British monarch in history to be honored with the appellation “Great”. He died on this day in 899 A.D. During his remarkable life, Alfred exemplified the virtues of a Christian leader: boldly and successfully defending his people from the invading hordes of pagan Vikings, yet showing noted kindness and generosity to the enemy once their threat was neutralized. (Guthrum, the Viking king, became a Christian and Alfred assumed the role of adoptive father toward his one-time foe.) Alfred the Great also did much to establish justice, to encourage and reform the church, and to promote learning in his realm. (Leading by example, Alfred himself took up the task of learning Latin at the age of 38.)

The ancient images of white horses carved in various hillsides of south-central England are often associated with Alfred. G.K. Chesterton’s epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse celebrates his reign, and was probably a significant inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Walker Party

On this day in 1833, a party of about forty men, in the command of native Tennesseean, mountain man, and trail blazer par excellence Joseph Walker, were trying desperately to find a way down from the Sierra Nevada mountains, where they had been wandering for almost two weeks, in search of a new and convenient route into central California. The men, exhausted by the steep, snowbound terrain and famished from dwindling supplies and want of game, were inching their way westward along a broad, high ridge between two steep river valleys to the north and south (now known to be the Tuolumne and the Merced, respectively). One member of the party, Zenas Leonard, kept a journal of the expedition and records the day’s events thus:

We travelled…still on the top of the mountain, and our course continually obstructed with snow hills and rocks. Here we began to encounter in our path, many small streams which would shoot out from under these high snow-banks, and after running a short distance in deep chasms which they have through ages cut in the rocks, precipitate themselves from one lofty precipice to another, until they are exhausted in rain below. Some of these precipices appeared to us to be more than a mile high. Some of the men thought that if we could succeed in descending one of these precipices to the bottom, we might thus work our way into the valley below—but on making several attempts we found it utterly impossible for a man to descend, to say nothing of our horses.

Based on the above description, it is concluded that the Walker Party were almost certainly the first non-natives to set eyes upon the incomparable Yosemite Valley, nearly twenty years prior to its official “discovery” by the Mariposa Battalion.

Walker is buried in a small pioneer cemetery, which overlooks an inlet of the San Francisco Bay. Here is a shot of me at the site, taken during a trip to the area several years ago.

Monday, October 10, 2011


The Battle of Tours (or Portiers) was fought on this day in 732 A.D., wherein Charles Martel (Charles “The Hammer”), the de facto King of the Franks, clashed with an Islamic expeditionary force under the command of Abd-er-Rahman. Barely a century following the birth of Islam, the Umayyad Caliphate controlled all of the Middle East and North Africa, and its leaders conspired to seize upon Europe through concurrent, pincer-like invasions from both the east and the west. Their way upon the eastern front was checked, however, by the still powerful Byzantine Empire, with its glittering capitol at Constantinople. Following a second attempt to lay siege to the Byzantine capitol, the Arab forces were soundly defeated on both land and sea by Emperor Leo III in 718.

The situation in western Europe, however, was far less sure. Much of Europe was still pagan or only recently converted to the Christian faith. A great deal of instability prevailed in the centuries following the collapse of the western Roman Empire, as one barbarian tribe vied with another for supremacy across the whole continent. In fact, the Muslims first set foot on the Iberian peninsula at the invitation of the warlord Rodrigo, who, in 710, foolishly sought their aid in gaining the upper hand over a rival faction in a squabble over control of the Visigothic throne. Once gaining a foothold, the Islamic forces quickly swept Rodrigo and the rest aside, overran the entire peninsula, and began pouring over the Pyrennes, where they made mincemeat of the ramshackle collection of provinces and duchies which then constituted western Gaul (France, as we know it today).

But Charles, in his capacity as Mayor of the Palace (comparable to a modern-day Prime Minister) to the “do-nothing” Frankish King, was determined to oppose them. Despite the disorganized political atmosphere, and the fact that Charles' army consisted only of infantry while the Saracen host included a substantial contingent of cavalry, the Franks were victorious, driving the invaders back over the Pyrennes and into Spain, where they would hold sway for another 700 years, before the last remnants were driven out by Fredinand and Isabellla in the fifteenth century. As for Charles, his son Pepin the Short and grandson Charles the Great (Charlemagne) continued his legacy, and, upon the foundation made possible by the victory at Tours, established a Christian empire in central Europe marked by political stability and a revival of learning and the arts. This Carolingian Renaissance, encouraged greatly by two men from Britain, the missionary Boniface and the scholar Alcuin, would provide seed for the propagation of the gospel and of Christian culture all throughout Europe in the coming generations.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Four hundred and forty years ago today (October 7, 1571 A.D.) the Battle of Lepanto was fought in the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece. The naval forces of the (Christian) Holy League decisively crushed those of the (Muslim) Ottoman Turks, who for neither the first nor final time were threatening to overrun all of Europe if left unchecked. A young Miguel de Cervantes was a participant in the battle, in the course of which he was severely wounded, permanently losing the use of his left arm. The battle also inspired a wonderful poem by G. K. Chesterton, first published a century ago, whose final lines pay homage to Cervantes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Urn, Belmont University

I’m trying to cultivate the discipline of drawing and sketching more, as well as committing to some “art for art’s sake” time at least once a week or so. Here’s a sketch (pen) I made of an urn during some down time on this gorgeous autumn afternoon, on the campus of Belmont University.