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Literary Landscapes: An Afternoon at Rivendell

It the middle of the woods, on top of a bastion of mountain crenelated with blue coves. It is so beautiful that people who have once been there always, one way or another, come back. For such as can detect apple green in an evening sky, it is Arcadia-- not the one that never used to be, but that one that many people always live in; only this one can be shared.

--William Alexander Percy

I had the happy occasion yesterday of driving up I-24 W to my old stomping grounds of Sewanee for many reasons: to see the splendor of fall on the Mountain, to visit with old friends and colleagues, and to order a coffee from Stirling's Coffeehouse. Mainly though, I was there for lunch with Carmen Thompson, the director of the Rivendell Writers' Colony, a curious, often overlooked resource of the community, to explore the variety of ways our two organizations may collaborate.

Delightfully, lunch turned into an extensive tour of the Colony, including the old mansion, the garden cottage, the pond studio, and the 80-acres of grounds. The mansion sits right on the bluff of the Cumberland Plateau, overlooking Lost Cove, which mostly remains untouched but for some hikers and natural scientists/explorers. Adjacent to Rivendell is Brinkwood Farm, once a home to William Alexander Percy, then to his cousin, Walker Percy. The entire place exudes peace, solitude, and literary inspiration.

Writers who visit Rivendell are completely left alone. They buy their own groceries, they fix their own meals, they wander the grounds at their leisure. There is limited WiFi out there in the woods so that the writers dedicate their full attention to their work.

The main house was built in 1905, and the 2012 renovations highlight the beautiful features of the original designs, like the barn-wood paneling in the historic dining room. The bedrooms are named after renowned authors: the Percy room, the O'Connor room, the Thoreau room, etc., and each are outfitted with a writing desk and enhanced by stunning natural light through the enormous old windows of the house.

Rivendell is not accessible to anyone but writers. Since it is a place of solitude and reflection, visitors are generally discouraged so writers are not disturbed. If you are interested in learning more about Rivendell Writers' Colony, visit their website:

In residence, you rediscover the mossy-rocked waterfall, the garden path not often taken, the fallen tree that serves as a bench. You bed to the sound of sonorous frogs, beyond. You wake to a view of fog-mantled Lost Cove, below.

And then you write. And you write. And you soon recognize that, like the city of Oxford, the colony of Rivendell is a citadel of stewardship.

Beyond the literary pedigree, Rivendell delivers what writers crave: peace, quiet, and bucolic distance from distraction. I plan to return two or three times each year.

-- John T. Edge, Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance

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