I spent the last couple of days at the Monastery of the Holy Ascension. Lots of trees, lots of quiet. Time to meditate, to read. The monastery is in Resaca, Ga., north of Atlanta, south of Chattanooga. (The abbot joked, when I asked him what ‘Resaca’ meant, that he was pretty sure it meant backwater in some language or another.) I spent a the remains of last night, as it grew dark, reading Austen’s letters. Somehow her brisk chatter with her sister, about buying muslin (what is that, exactly?) and about days spent over tea and in visiting, seemed fitting, even as cassocked monks moved quietly between the bookstore and the kitchen (prosphora was baking, filling the humid air with yeasty scent). Perhaps the reason Austen seemed fitting was because she has a way of writing, on display alike in her letters and her novels, that never uses a him or a her that is not destinate with a thou. She (Austen) and him and her are always on their way to us. Because of this, Austen writes even of strangers with a humorous largeness of spirit, a willingness to be pleased (to mention a notion of Samuel Johnson’s that clearly mattered to Austen: it plays a crucial role in Persuasion), to be familiar. Austen can see, see steadily and wholly, see what is, without succumbing to any need to stand over against who she sees. Such seeing is a benediction, a blessing–a way of responding out of an abyss of respect: for Austen there is always a real person behind the shifting facades, a real person to be seen even in the play of lights of social circumstance, beyond the affectation and hypocrisy, a real person to be seen, and, seen, blessed.