Sunday Walk, U of A

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I usually park by the president’s house. The last president high-tailed it when the media leaked news that she made more money that the Prime Minister of Canada. She deflected questions when that point was raised, when she was asked what she did to deserve such a ridiculously high salary. No answer. Just arrogant, ‘entitled’ silence.
A couple of Ring houses are nearby; the tulips are long gone, but their gardens are nicely in bloom come late August.

The Faculty Club reminds me of the 1977 U of A Conference on Literacy which featured the late Rowland McMaster’s powerful speech on societal and individual needs for reading. That speech sent me scrambling to Northrop Frye’s seminal The Educated Imagination–a basic bible for all English teachers, and influenced the direction of my teaching of English forevermore. It was also at the club that my ED CI prof-friend, the late Glenn Martin, had his memorable 70th birthday party in which he invited ‘everybody he ever knew’ including his mechanic and barber!

I usually take the main walk toward SUB, passing the quadrangle I first saw in ’68. I pass by the Admin building where there used to be a red mailbox on the west side which had rare Sunday pickup in those days. I recall concerts by Bruce Cockburn and John Cleese at the SUB theatre, and seeing I Never Sang for My Father, still the best movie ever on dealing with a cantankerous, spirited old father who can’t admit to being ‘incompetent.’

I check out the five ponds and streams on the North campus, eventually heading toward HUB. I have enjoyed many strong plays at the TIMM centre, and before that at the old theatre in Corbett Hall. A few summers in the late ’60s-early ’70s, I took in the Torches summer theatre offerings outside Corbett on the west side. Great memories. Our Town (more-than-magical when performed on a summer evening), Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (performed with Mozart’s famous fast piano piece), as the evenings moved gradually from light to darkness.

I stop at the 1915 Arts building and explore the interior design of this beautiful place which has been spared the wrecker’s ball. I recall seeing and hearing Tafelmusik for the first time here one Sunday afternoon with my then-teenaged daughter. (Just this past week, I received a Telemann CD box set which features 5 gorgeous discs by Tafelmusik.)

I head toward the Humanities building and Rutherford House, built in 1911. There I check as I always do the fleurs outside and recall the many excellent lunches at the Arbour Restaurant in falls and winters past, the colors or snow outside the quaint room.
I go by the mirrored Science building west of Tory and have a privileged glimpse of myself rambling past, each time a little older and more blurred.

Large birds fly north down over the high trees into the North Saskatchewan valley as I stop to remove a stone from my sandal left over from the u’s winter gravelling of sidewalks. The GeoScience garden plaques on the grass explain the various rocks and boulders that lie along the Saskatchewan Drive sidewalk on my way back to my car.
I think it’s still before 9 am and the only sounds I have heard have been of birds and the splashing sounds of the stream waters.

Solitude. This is the best Sunday walk in town any/every Sunday (Saturday if you want to shop the SUB bookstore or use the libraries). I used to walk the campus most most weekends of the year with regularity (sometimes to mark student essays at the now-gone V-wing), alone with my thoughts, memories, and sense impressions. The U of A on a Sunday has long been a sacred place for me.

Today I think of my son and daughter who have both worked for the university–my son still at Cameron as a Cataloguing and Metadata Specialist. The university has also been good to both of them and my wife (pictured above when she took a year of classes here in ’68-’69 before returning to graduate at the U of W).

Today I find peace, many good memories, and a flow that is echoed by the running waters. A non-stop pleasant flow of emotions, recollections, and ideas. I have always appreciated my courses, studies, and profs here. (Likewise, at the U of W where Karen and I first met and started our post-secondary years). These venerable institutions have remained special, deeply affecting places. There were many possibilities at both–for instance, I played music on both campuses and became interested in Canadian literature, before taking a year of Education that led to a 30 year teaching career and in-depth love of The Word, language, and  literature.

These are the places where I first discovered love, truth, books, ideas, consciousness, history, freedom, and many other unforgettable possibilities which continue to inform and enhance my life these days.

Whenever I walk U of A these daze, I feel a major flow and positive flood in me all over again. And I feel the presence of myself and my special memories in these many hallowed places. I know that a part of me will always be and remain here forever.


(above, Karen Reade, winter of ’68-’69, outside Tory building)

“The larger university is one you can never leave.”–Northrop Frye, “To the Class of ’62 at Queen’s”

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