April 8 Noticing

Tuesday April 8

I am posting Tuesday’s poem from a friend’s home in Charlottesville VA. About 20 of us gathered for a Memorial Service remembering our friend, mentor, and pioneer historian of technology, Thomas Parke Hughes. Tom died at 91 about 2 months ago (Alzheimer’s). His family wanted the service in the old chapel on the University of Virginia campus where Tom did his undergrad engineering degree and a Phd in European history. April 7 & 8 were days that worked out.

Today we gathered in the engineering school to talk about our encounters with Tom. The room was full of memory and love, and humour and admiration, and loss and gladness. I would have come even had the service and the conference been lousy, because of what Tom means to me. They were both wonderful. He challenged me, encouraged me, opened opportunities for me, and stuck with my during a 7.5 year phd program.

Tom lost his wife Agatha in the middle of one night in 1997 when she sat up in bed, said “my head hurts,” and died. Sitting around in a large seminar room each of us told stories about Tom, and Agatha. I don’t think any one of us had heard all those stories before; wisdom, laughter, tenderness.

One of my friends on the U VA faculty, Jack Brown, invited me to stay with him and Wendy, his wife. I am writing from their kitchen table. When you travel if you find yourself sad when you prepare to leave it’s a good sign. It means you got there. I am feeling a good sadness now. I will miss these people from my professional academic life. Even so, I’ll be glad to get back home Tuesday afternoon.

Have a good day.

john sj


Today’s Post

A friend introduced me to the poet, W S Merwin, born in 1927. All sorts of recognition for his poetry. Makes me wonder how I’ve missed him all this time.

Going too fast for myself I missed
more than I think I can remember
almost everything it seems sometimes
and yet there are chances that come back
that I did not notice when they stood
where I could have reached out and touched them

this morning the black shepherd dog
still young looking up and saying
Are you ready this time
~W.S. Merwin


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