Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sacred Space

We love the Michigan State University campus. It is really a park, a "campus park." Our favorite spot on campus is what was once referred to as the "oak opening," and now is lovingly called the "sacred space." It is the spot where the university began, and no buildings exist, and hopefully never will. It is from this place that the name of this blog is derived.

The picture above and information below come from the wonderful book MSU Campus Buildings, Places, Spaces by Linda O. Stanford and C. Kurt Dewhurst.

While strolling amidst trees and buildings of the West Circle Drive area, it becomes apparent that this quiet yet often traversed section of campus is special. As West Circle Drive curves it delineates an open "sacred space," in which no buildings should ever be built; this area is anchored on the east by Linton Hall, and on the west by Cowles house. The northern anchor is the MSU Union and the southern anchors are the MSU Museum and Beaumont Tower.

When pedestrians head south from the MSU Union toward Beaumont Tower, they are enveloped by tree canopies that form a picturesque umbrella, and are visually invited to ascend the knoll where the tower stands. From here, they can survey a random arrangement of oaks, conifers, other deciduous trees, and lawns that are now landscaped, but that still recall the selection of this "oak opening" as the place where Michigan State began.

This oak opening, a break in the densely forested area, was a desirable location because it required less clearing than many other possible sites, and fortunately it possessed natural beauty. The novelist, James Fenimore Coooper, described a Michigan forest in his 1848 book, The Oak Openings, as if it were this site. "The trees with very few exceptions were what is called the burr oak, and the spaces between them, always irregular, and often of singular beauty, have obtained the name of 'openings'; the two terms combined giving their applellation to this particular species of native forest, under the name of "Oak Openings."

On the periphery of the oak opening, College Hall was erected in 1856, and collapsed in 1918-its wooden framework weakened with age. A decade later, Beaumont Tower arose on the same site. It commemorates the site of College Hall, the first campus building devoted to scientific agriculture, and in its verticality, the tower symbolizes future scholastic achievement.This blog is about "openings," in this case viewed as opportunities, and explorations in this rapidly changing and always entertaining life. It will also have some history, some discoveries, some pictures, some thoughts, some ideas, and hopefully some wisdom. Come along for the ride, and feel free to comment on anything at anytime.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Remembering Charles Kuralt

University of North Carolina at Chapel HillImage by TimDan2 via Flickr

When we were recently walking around the University of North Carolina campus, I figured out that in the journalism building was the Charles Kuralt Learning Center. It contained the desk from his New York penthouse suite office, his bookcases, his 10 Emmy awards, and much more of his stuff.

I have always been a fan of Charles Kuralt, and have enjoyed and respected his work. The Learning Center was closed, but we were able to find a nice lady who gave us a very informative, and very personal tour. Since then I have revisited Mr. Kuralt's life through his biography, his books, and videos of his work at CBS News.

I particularily enjoyed his "On the Road" segments, where he traveled the country and reported on the interes

CBS News Sunday MorningImage via Wikipedia

ting people and places that he discovered. Then for 15 years he entered our lives with his Sunday Morning News program. The last five minutes were always scenes of nature from somewhere in his travels with no sound except that which was occurring naturally.

A little more about Charles Kuralt's life from the Academy of Achievement ( :
Charles Kuralt

Charles Kuralt Biography Photo
Charles Kuralt was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and moved with his family up and down the state before they settled in Charlotte, North Carolina. His passion for reporting asserted itself early, and he worked for several local newspapers and a radio station while still in high school. At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, he edited the student-owned newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. After his year as editor, he left the University without taking a degree and returned to Charlotte to become general assignment reporter for the Charlotte News. Within a few months, he began to write a daily column, People, describing the lives of everyday citizens, a taste of things to come. His work at the News won the Ernie Pyle prize and attracted attention outside of North Carolina.

In 1957, still only months out of school, he was offered a job at CBS News. He was to remain with CBS for the rest of his life. His first assignment was writing the five-minute radio broadcasts that aired hourly between two and six AM. He began work each day at midnight, and worked until eight in the morning, but he was thrilled to be working in the same building as his hero, Edward R. Murrow. After a single week of substituting for a vacationing writer on Murrow's nightly broadcast, Kuralt was transferred to the fledgling television news department, as a writer for the CBS Evening News.

Charles Kuralt Biography Photo
Although the writer's job was considered a plum position for a novice like Kuralt, he was eager to be a reporter, out in the field. He willingly took a cut in pay and returned to the graveyard shift, but this time as a "reporter contact" on the assignment desk, where he might have the opportunity to cover breaking news. Within the year CBS offered him the job of his dreams. He was 23, and now had the title of CBS News Correspondent, just like his idols, Murrow and Sevareid.

He traveled everywhere, covering political conventions, presidential campaigns, wars in the Congo, Laos and Vietnam, school integration in the South and piracy on the high seas. In 1960, he was the first host of the prime time TV series Eyewitness. As Chief Latin American Correspondent he visited all 23 nations of the region. In 1963 he served as Chief West Coast Correspondent for CBS and then returned to the New York bureau.

Charles Kuralt Biography Photo
In October, 1967, he began to travel the back roads of America, producing his famous "On the Road" segment for the CBS Evening News. Over the next 20 years, Kuralt and his crew visited every state of the Union in their battered motor home, logging more than a million miles. He did stories on "wrestlers and jugglers and mountain climbers, traffic cops, tattoo artists, gandy dancers, sheep shearers, bagel bakers, horseshoe players, rodeo riders, sorghum makers and seashell collectors." Kuralt's discoveries included a 104 year-old jogger, a man who lived in a house made of beer bottles, and the owner of the world's largest ball of string.

Besides appearing on the evening network news, his adventures provided material for a series of best-selling books, On the Road with Charles Kuralt and Dateline: America. His other books include To the Top of the World (an account of a trip to the Arctic), North Carolina Is My Home, and his best-selling autobiography, A Life on the Road.

Into the 1980s, Charles Kuralt continued to report from the road, while flying back to New York each weekend to anchor the CBS Sunday Morning show. During the Persian Gulf crisis, he co-anchored the nightly CBS News broadcast America Tonight. Over the course of his career, he won three Peabody awards and ten Emmy Awards for his broadcast journalism. Charles Kuralt died in New York City at the age of 62.

The newsman's death brought the unexpected revelation of an unusually complicated private life. For nearly 30 years, Kuralt had maintained one home with his wife in Manhattan, and another with his lover -- and her children by a previous marriage -- in San Francisco. Before his death, he transferred ownership of a mountain home in Montana to his lover, Patricia Shannon, but his family made claim to the adjoining property. Kuralt's lawful wife died before the final disposition of the case, and Mrs. Shannon succeeded in documenting, to the court's satisfaction, Kuralt's intent to leave her the entire property. The case provided a challenging study for scholars of probate and family law, and a poignant footnote to the life of an admired public figure.

Some of my favorite Kuralt quotes:

I remember being in the public library and my jaw just aching as I looked around at all those books I wanted to read. There just wasn't time enough to read everything I wanted to read.

I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.

I think all those people I did stories about measured their own success by the joy their work was giving them.

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.

The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.

There are a lot of people who are doing wonderful things, quietly, with no motive of greed, or hostility toward other people, or delusions of superiority.

When we become a really mature, grown-up, wise society, we will put teachers at the center of the community, where they belong. We don't honor them enough, we don't pay them enough.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Little Round Top

Little Round Top from the 11th US MonumentImage by jwolf312 via Flickr

I am posting an excerpt from a manuscript written by John Wagner, of the 16th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Company A, during the Civil War. These are Sgt. Wagner's words. I have changed the spelling for clarity, as John was born in Germany, and many of his words reflect that (i.e. did is spelled dit, and many is menny, and so forth). This is the first time these words have ever been published.
(Monument to the 16th Michigan-this was their position on Little Round Top)

Editors note: On the second day of the Battle of Gettyburg the 16th Michigan was near the top of Little Round Top, overlooking an area of huge boulders referred to as "Devils Den. The Confederate soldiers made repeated charges up Little Round Top in an effort to drive the Union soldiers off.

Now quoting Sgt. John Wagner: I reported to Company F, the next company in line. I witnessed three more desperate charges that later part of the afternoon. One charge had been repulsed, the second was just starting for us when I fell in with "F". They came on in grand style, 12 men deep. or six lines of battle deep, with six colors in in the center of them.

Our battery was now commanded by their first Sergeant, as the officers were killed and wounded. He would have his pieces double shotted, and then fire by volley. This would at every volley sweep all their colors to the ground, and tear a big gap in their lines, but they would raise their colors every time, and close their gaps in the ranks, and push up to where we were. Then butt and bayonet were in order, but we had a good footing, and they had almost a steep roof, or shelf to climb. We managed to pitch them down as fast as they could attempt to crawl up.

Thus, we, or our little brigade of less than 1500 strong maintained their position against a body of well disciplined troops of nearly 11,000 strong that threatened to crush us. Besides this, were their sharpshooters, who inflicted the most damage in our officers and men, as they were hid in a place called the Devils Den, almost a natural fortress.

Well, this afternoon's work cost our little brigade 50 per cent in killed and wounded, but we stuck to Little Round Top. After the fourth charge on us the rebels gave it up, and formed a strong line of pickets on the foot of Little Round Top, and kept up a severe firing on us.

Now, it was most dusk, and I left Company F, and hunted up Company A. I found them now on the flank of Little Round Top, all in a strong picket line. They had about 15 prisoners with them, Texas men. Our men of A Company wanted water so bad, and I had noticed a spring in the rear of Little Round Top that had good cool water. I gathered all the canteens from my company, and went to the spring, and got the canteens filled. In coming back to the company I found a wounded Rebel officer lying with the small of his back over a sharp boulder. There he was helpless, and severely wounded on several places on his body. He begged me so pitifully to help him for "God's sake".

I explained to him that his friends were watching me, and would kill me if I should attempt to help him. Well, I could not resist, or refuse the man. He was a man, after all, but at the other side death stared me in the face. The enemy was within talking distance only from us, and it was light enough to see me, and my movements.

I hesitated, and then laid my canteens down, and bent over him, and raised him partly up, and "whiss" a bullet passes just through my vest and shirt, cross by breast, and leaves a red streak, burning like fire. The officer gave a scream, and I let go of him. Well, I felt like going over there to the Jonny, and give him a sound thrashing, but did not go. But, I hollowed to him, and called him all sorts of names, but not good ones. I explained to him the situation that his comrade was in. I wanted to help him, if he only would stop shooting till I got through with him. Then I would let him know, and he could have the privilege to fire then as much as he liked.

He talked back to me, and said to go on and help him. We were thinking you were robbing him, and I bent over the man a second time, and lifted him up, and propped him up with the blankets, and knapsacks of his dead comrades. I found many of the dead Rebel soldiers had their canteens full of whiskey, instead of water, and I gave him a drink of whiskey, and a drink of water, and placed both canteens so he could reach them. Then I got two canteens full of whiskey off some the dead Rebels, and a couple of haversacks. They had plenty of meat in them, and bread, just what we wanted. Then I bade my wounded Rebel goodbye, and he said, "God bless you."

I picked up my whiskey and water, and the haversacks, and hollered over to the Jonny picket that I was ready, and he could fire at pleasure. He waved his hand, and said he did not want to fire at me anymore, and so I got away to the company without getting hurt.

I went down our company line, and gave each boy a good drink of whiskey, and a bite to eat, and gave them a full canteen of water. They seemed to be pleased. The rest we gave to our prisoners, but they were better supplied with rations than we were. They had a lot of cooked beef, and soft bread, which they divided with us generously, and we felt quite comfortable. Soon after dark, we were relieved from our position by part of the 11th and 12th Corp troops that had been so heavily engaged on the first day.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Carolina Greenways

Our recent visit to the Research Triangle area in North Carolina introduced us to the idea of greenways, and as runners, walkers, and bikers it was a wonderful find.

What is a greenway anyway? Here is a formal definition: A greenway is a long, narrow piece of land, often used for recreation and pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The term greenway comes from the "green" in green belt and the "way" in parkway, implying a recreational or pedestrian use rather than a typical street corridor, as well as an emphasis on introducing or maintaining vegetation, in a location where such vegetation is otherwise lacking.

The Cary area where we were staying was filled with greenways. Currently there are 40 miles of interconnecting paths, with plans for 20 more miles in the near future.

For a runner from Michigan this was a unique situation, that is the ability to run for miles on smooth trails amidst lush vegetation, with no cars, and lots of other runners.

Our house in Cary.

Our house mates. (Picture taken on the capital grounds in Raleigh).

Our place on the North Carolina State campus.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Misty Morning on the Au Sable

For three years we searched for the "right thing" to have over our coach in the family room. Last year at the Art Festival we found a photograph that we really liked, but could not bring ourselves to make the decision right then. This year when we found the same photograph at the same place, we were ready.

What followed was an interesting walk home, keeping it from bending in the strong wind, some tough matting and framing decisions, and placement on the wall. We are well pleased.

Here we are deciding about matting.
What have you decided?
The finished product.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Corner

With the reconstruction of the sidewalk this summer, it was necessary to redesign our corner garden. We decided that it was more visually pleasing to not have the 3 large rocks that were there before.

Watch for more corner garden updates as the summer goes on, and the garden changes.

Other garden news: Here is this years flower boxes look.

One of the success stories this year has been the clematis. We gave it something to climb, and it is doing really well.

Sit! Stay!