Posts Tagged ‘Richland Creek Greenway’

train-wreck

July 12, 2010

What a nice, needed rainy Sunday afternoon it was here. The parched ground drank it in and so did we, with Granny over from her temporary rehab nursing “home” for a visit– she’s recovering slowly but surely from the latest broken hip– as we flipped the clicker back and forth from South Africa (viva Espana!) to the gorgeous French countryside full of parched cyclists. There were a few collisions in both places, including one that derailed Lance Armstrong’s quest for a cloud-free comeback, but nothing you’d call a train-wreck.

Granny brought and left the latest edition of The Nashville Retrospect, with its morbidly fascinating account of the deadliest train-wreck in American history. It happened on July 9, 1918, just a couple of miles from where I sit, at a site now commemorated with a plaque and a shady bench on the recently-flooded Richland Creek greenway.

I don’t know why train-wrecks are so irresistibly interesting, in all their grotesque and appalling misery. The one in question drew thousands of spectators, the newspapers of the day reported, many of whom were disappointed to arrive and find the tracks already cleared. The self-centered “there but for the grace of God” mentality must be part of it.

More than the gawkers’ insensitivity, though, I’m struck by the purple piety of the journalist who wrote of one poor victim, heard repeatedly wailing “Oh God Oh God,”

cramped in that telescoped coach and wounded unto death could he cry out unto Him who had breathed the breath of life into his soul and was now taking that life away.

More prosaically, the reporter also notes that “somebody blundered.”  He does not note the incoherence of attributing blunders to train routers and engineers, but only generous and divine favor to their maker.

brief candle

May 8, 2010

It wasn’t the Friday it was supposed to be, grading from dawn to dusk, and so it will be a grading weekend. Forrest was right, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Before heading down the pike once more to administer one last exam, the one flooded out on Monday, I stopped by the radiologist’s for my latest close-up. Just need to confirm that this barking hack isn’t my old pneumococcal nemesis back for a return engagement. Fingers crossed.

Then, gratefully released back into the light I had to take a moment to inspect the Richland Creek Greenway behind the radiology lab. The flood’s damage there was extensive. Damn. But the  good news: they’re at work constructing a new path that will extend to Knob Road.

Before finally giving that final final, there were three final report presentations to hear. Tanasha’s on Darwin gave me an excuse to mention “Darwin Got it Goin On,” which I’d just tweeted about, and to remind everyone that Darwinism and Social Darwinism are two different critters. Most students have been misinformed, usually by pastors and pietists, about that.

Then, to the Dean’s memorial service not far from school. Not surprisingly, the turnout was huge. He was a Dean’s Dean, up from our ranks but still one of us. It was a delight to meet his twin brother Tom McDaniel, whose eulogy was the highlight of the service.

There were a couple of lowlights I must report. One was the pew-mate who took offense at my colleague’s and my brief pre-service conversation, inspired by the Dean’s love of baseball. The Dean would not have understood or endorsed her protest, I’m guite sure.

Another was the hollow sanctimony of the officiating minister. All those smug, desperate, incredible assurances that mortality is a fiction. I wish the Dean had written the service.He did write his own obituary:

Having lived ‘the examined life’ with animated good humor, Dr. McDaniel leaves behind few regrets and many memorable moments… Teaching Shakespeare’s tragedies for four decades left him with the distinct impression that almost everyone dies in the end, though he had hoped that perhaps in his case an exception would be made.

But not really. A good Shakespearian, like a good Confucian or a good Taoist or a good Humanist, knows better than to seek light from an expired wick.

But he also knows that there are other candles. Like me, the Dean walked every day past a tablet on our campus– located near the historic Walnut Grove, the stand of trees germinated by seeds harvested at George Washington’s Mount Vernon– bearing the Plutarchian wisdom that “the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted.”  Our good friend John lighted many fires.

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more.

One of our very best players has left the stage. Those of us still on it who bade farewell to our friend and teacher yesterday are very fortunate to have studied with a master. Our tomorrows will creep less pettily for the privilege.

Postscript. We were also privileged, last night, to bask in the impressive collective wattage of Younger Daughter and her peers at the 5th grade “Cafe Night” talent show. One candle dims, countless others flare up. The future looks bright.