Reading, Watching–and Smelling–World War I

More than a year ago, I decided to observe the centenary of World War I by using it as the theme of my English composition classes devoted to writing across the curriculum.  To that end, I have immersed myself in a wide assortment of novels and films about the conflict of 1914-1918, about which David Lloyd George quipped, “This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.” Each of these works has offered me new and profound insights into the atrocity and devastation of trench and tunnel warfare, mustard and phosgene gas, shell shock and disfigurement, loss of faith in the future–and in God. Continue reading

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Graduation Reverie

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Nunie: Words, Pictures–and Music

Milton B. “Nunie” Nunamaker

Since Just(e) Words made its debut more than a year ago, I have shared in its virtual pages my memories of several formative individuals–including a three-post, 5,000-word homage to my mentor at the University of Arizona. I have also noted more than once the central rôle of music in my life, including a full post, “The Many Gifts of Music,”  devoted in part to the people who gave me those gifts. I even called one of those people “the most unforgettable character in my life story” and promised to write an entire post about him.

So why have I never written about Nunie? I have been struggling with that question over the last two weeks, and the closest I can come to an answer is that I simply don’t remember enough to tell a coherent story. I have searched my photo albums from the 1960s and found amazingly few pictures of Nunie. I paged through the Wigwam, our high school yearbook, where few photos even show his face; pictures of Nunie should be pictures of his band, after all. I searched Google and located a written tribute and gravesite photos posted by Christine Marin. I found a few reminiscences on Facebook. And I received permission from fellow Globe High School graduate and band member Robert Cubitto to include his thoroughly researched biography of our shared mentor (see the first comment below). Otherwise, I can offer only a few private glimpses into the life I shared with Nunie. Continue reading

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I Never Saw a Moor; I Never Saw the Sea








I never even had a passport.

But I know the heather because I have walked the moonlit moors with Catherine and Heathcliff. I know the roiling sea because I sailed on the Pequod and clung to Queequeg’s coffin. Continue reading

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50 Years Ago: My 15 Minutes on the Front Page

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Being Martha/Being Peter: The Other Lesson of Maundy Thursday

Jan-Erasmus Quellinus/Adriaen van Utrecht, “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” (17th c.)

In November of 1997, I attended North Carolina Episcopal Cursillo, a short course in Christian living modeled after a movement that began in Spain in 1944 to train lay leaders in the Roman Catholic Church. The three-day spiritual pilgrimage alters lives as it trains servant leaders in piety, study, and action through talks, group discussions, a healing service, Holy Eucharist, and lots and lots of eating and praying and singing. We learned that our highest calling is to live the prayer of Saint Teresa of Ávila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

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Metatext: Memories in the Margins

  • Two weeks ago, on March 18, I saw The Sense of an Ending on the second day of its run at the Cameo Art House Theater in Fayetteville.
  • In 2011–specifically, “Thanksgiving 2011, Lake Mattamuskeet” according to my notation on the flyleaf–I read the novel by Julian Barnes that inspired the movie; it had been released in the United  States just the previous month.
  • On March 19, I reread that slim but densely packed novel in one sitting, including the marginalia–my notes, underscores, asterisks–the metatext by which I expressed my intimate connections with Barnes’s ineffectual and balding narrator.

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March Rain: A Haiku

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Letters from Margaret

It was the spring of 1976. I was 23, smart, fierce, on everybody’s most-likely-to succeed list. But as my undergraduate mentor had predicted, I was still a babe in the woods, having wandered 2,059 miles from the sheltering mountains of my childhood home. In the daytime, I swaggered around the Chapel Hill campus carrying piles of thick books on American history, picked arguments so I could wow people with my thesis that Southern liberals were always more Southern than liberal, collected accolades as I once collected gold stars.

At night, though, I was alone and tearful. Largely because of my thesis about the Southernness of Southern liberals, I had found no friends. I longed for those I had left behind in Globe and Tucson, with whom I could watch grainy foreign films at the Rialto, talk into the wee hours about “Birches” and Look Homeward, Angel, walk through the lane of orange trees near the dorm, so inspired by the intoxicating aroma that I tried out my atrophied right brain and waxed poetic. And of course I had never had a real boyfriend–only one clandestine relationship with the fiancé of a college friend, the first man who expressed a remote interest in relieving my frustrated virginity. And the situation in Chapel Hill was no different. It was 1976, after all, and too-bright women still stayed home on Saturday nights. Continue reading

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Choices, Choices: The Quandaries and the Quagmire of Identity Politics

My 56-mile commute to and from work has spawned the bad habit of scrolling through my emails at stoplights. A few days ago, I made a mental note to return to an article whose provocative title I noted only briefly; it went something like this: “Black feminists must choose whether to be politically black or politically female.” I have tried in vain to find the article, my failure due in part to the vast number of Google hits. However, my initial reaction stands. On the one hand, as a former graduate student in the history of American race relations, I have been shamed by my lack of currency in the field. On the other, however, this idea of “political X-ness” has forced me to consider once again the troubling consequences of what we now call single-issue and identity politics. And I must take a stand. Continue reading

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