Lately, I’ve been spending my lunch hour at the Dell, which is a short stroll from my office.
It’s a poem fashioned out of water, flora, fauna…and ruins.
An old archway is all that’s left of what were once Italianate gardens…
Orderly geometry has given way to an overgrown, naturalistic landscape. The Dell has been transformed into a pond that is used for stormwater management. Its wild beauty makes it easy to forget its utilitarian purpose.
A meandering trail wraps around the pond and is strategically dotted with benches. I never like to sit though, because around every corner there’s always something new to see.
Sometimes a community of turtles sun themselves by the lily pads…
Native plants are planted around the perimeter of the pond…
From time to time I have to push aside long grasses that have fallen into the path. I feel them tickle my legs and hope I’m not brushing up against poison ivy. In this landscape, unexpected things sprout up by themselves…
But there are some reassuring constants. At one end of the pond, I look out for my friend, the king of the pond. I always find the giant koi lazily patrolling his favorite corner of his watery realm…
Dragonflies chase each other all over the pond. Every now and then they take a break…
As for the industrious bees, they never have time to play.At least they are appreciating the flowers as they toil away…
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-bound stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
From Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things
On Saturday we witnessed naked hatred and violence like we had never before experienced in our relatively sheltered lifetimes. It shook us to the core. That night I asked my husband to make sure the garage apartment was locked up. We awoke to a world where the advisability of going to church had to be weighed against safety concerns. As I pulled out of my driveway that morning, I looked warily at my daughter’s playhouse and wondered if it could possibly be sheltering a Nazi sleeping off a day of liquor-fueled rampaging in our once peaceful little town. On Tuesday, the words I heard spewing from the incontinent troll in the White House hit me like a punch to the gut. My heart was filled with blind rage. I could not muster any love or light that night.
As I tried to settle down to sleep, my phone kept pinging with messages being sent by people spreading the word about a candlelight march that would begin at 9 pm the next night. We would retrace the same route that the tiki-torch-bearing losers took on Friday to reclaim the Grounds of the University of Virginia. There was, is still enough fear of violence that there were no posts to social media. I know people who came with mace for fear of being attacked. People were spreading the word only to those they trusted.
In the morning my daughter heard me discussing my plan to go to the march with my 17-year-old son. The fear I saw in her eyes made my heart ache.
“Is that safe?” she asked.
“There will only be good people there,” I reassured her, “It’s being kept off social media and people are only finding out about it through trusted friends.”
“But you know they’ll find out about it,” she said. They meaning the people she had seen on the news…the people with faces contorted with rage and hatred…they who were brandishing clubs and guns at our friends and clergy.
“We’ll be very careful,” I said, “I promise.”
That night I came home after a welcome dinner for our university’s new international students to pick up my son and my husband who had decided to come. To my surprise, my 15-year-old, who is usually in bed by 9, said he also wanted to come with us. I felt torn for my 12-year-old daughter, who was now faced with the choice of being by herself at night, or coming with us. She chose to come.
As we walked to Nameless Field, she clutched my hand.
“We’re parked close enough so that we can run to the car if there’s trouble,” she said as if to reassure us all.
“Don’t worry. Just stay close to me. I’ll protect you,” I told her as I squeezed her hand, “You know I would lay down my life for you…And I’m kind of a badass.”
This statement would not stand. She looked over at me, not quite rolling her eyes.
“I would lay down my life for you. And besides, I’m bigger than you are. And way more of a badass.”
And she is.
Some days are more interesting than others…
Today a couple of the UVa Men’s Basketball coaches and two of the players came to my office to hand deliver this thank you note and gift from Coach Bennett to me:
Even though I’m only 5’3, I’ve been tearing it up on the basketball court. My athletic prowess has been a huge, unexpected asset to the team.
OK, the truth is I helped with the paperwork for a last minute international recruit.
Sadly, I missed seeing them because I was busy with a panda photo shoot:
After spending so much time with the panda, I decided I needed a photo to commemorate our time together, so I handed my camera to my colleague. And then this happened:
It’s not every day you get felt up by a panda.
It was a gorgeous morning on Thursday…I hated to go inside.
At lunch time I took a walk around Grounds, (not “campus”!) to check up on the restoration work going on at the Rotunda. The Rotunda is Thomas Jefferson’s temple of learning, the crowning glory of his “Academical Village,” Enlightenment ideals realized in stone.
A short walk away from the bustling construction site is another busy worksite. The lavender hedges in front of Alderman Library are in full bloom and abuzz with big fat bees:
At the end of the day I met up with this kid, who actually consented to take a photo with his embarrassing mother to commemorate these days of commuting together to work/school…
I’d call that a pretty good day.
Now on to the weekend!
It’s gray and rainy today here in Charlottesville, but yesterday was a perfect spring day.
Yesterday, I wandered around The Gardens behind Thomas Jefferson’s “Academical Village” and found them in full bloom…Jefferson’s hope that the Gardens would “afford the quiet retirement so friendly to study” is being fulfilled even today. In each of the gardens, students were lounging in the grass reading books under a gentle shower of petals, poetically floating down all around them.
Today the Garden Club of Virginia, guided by Jefferson’s vision, maintains the colonial-style gardens hidden behind the famous serpentine walls. Although the pavilions are occupied, the Gardens themselves are open to the public…
A few staggering football facts:
Scott Stadium seating capacity: 61,500 vs. population of Charlottesville: 43,500
Coach Mike London’s salary in 2012: $2.1 million vs. President Teresa Sullivan’s salary in 2012: $680,000
Debt for Scott Stadium upgrade: $100 million to be paid off by 2025
You can even get paid to lose:
Coach Al Groh’s severance pay buyout when he was fired in 2009: $4.3 million (I keep offering to lose some football games for half, or even a quarter of that amount, but no one’s taking me up on my offer. Hello? Hello?!)
UVa was paid $1.1 million by the ACC in 2011 to appear at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta when they lost to Auburn…
It cost $800,000 to transport the team, band, cheerleaders, staff, etc. to the game, and Coach London and his staff earned $277,377 in bonuses for the team’s bowl appearance.
Last Saturday I took the kids to watch the University of Virginia’s first football game of the season, and our very first football game ever. Through my work, we’d gotten free tickets to a luxury suite. (Leases for these suites start at $59,000 a season)! Being in the suite proved to be a godsend when the heavens opened and rain started dumping all over the stadium, and especially when the threat of lightning forced an evacuation of the stands that lasted over two hours. We were shocked to see the stadium fill right back up shortly after it reopened for the rest of the game. UVa has some die-hard football fans.
It was a nailbiter, but about six hours after the game began, our team won!