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.