January 30, 2009

Postcard: Columbia Female Institute

Columbia, Tennessee
(No postmark - early 1900's)

The Columbia Female Institute was an Episcopal finishing school for girls established in 1835. The school's building, designed after an English castle, was completed in 1838. The school became well known for its high standard of education and was attended by girls from across the country. It was forced to close in 1934, a casualty of the Great Depression. The school building was used for storage and left abandoned until a fire in 1959 burned it to the ground. As a six-year old living in Columbia with my family, I witnessed the Institute burn. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the historic building, we watched as its massive stonewalls were engulfed in flames and crashed to the ground.

An advertisement for the school from the late 1800's read: "The Institute building has long been famed as a model of striking and beautiful architecture. Visitors are charmed with its resemblance to the old castles of song and story, with its towers, turreted walls, and ivy-mantled porches."

— Dan Hardison

January 23, 2009

A Winter Day

A lustrous sky of gray,

trees draped in white,

a world in fallen snow.

A realm so quiet

snow can be heard falling

and footsteps seem intrusive.

One can almost sense

water freezing

in a nearby stream.

Today, God's creatures

can only wait . . .

and dream of spring.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Fall Creek Falls State Park, East Tennessee

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January 16, 2009

It's A Long Way

It's a long way the sea-winds blow

Over the sea-plains blue –

But longer far has my heart to go

Before its dreams come true.

It's work we must, and love we must,

And do the best we may,

And take the hope of dreams in trust

To keep us day by day.

It's a long way the sea-winds blow –

But somewhere lies a shore –

Thus down the tide of time shall flow

My dreams forevermore.

William Stanley Braithwaite
From the book "Negro Poets And Their Poems, 1923."

Photo by Dan Hardison
Provincetown, Massachusetts

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January 9, 2009

Randy Pausch – If You Remember Me

Jim Metcalf writes in a poem, "I hope if you remember me at all, / it will be for what I was, / not for what / you would have had me be, / or what others thought." If we were to leave a legacy when our time here has ended, would we not want to be remembered fondly for who we were and how we lived our life? And if you unexpectedly were told that you have only a few months left to live, what would you do to be remembered for "what I was?"

Randy Pausch was an award-winning Professor of Computer Science specializing in virtual reality research at Carnegie Mellon University and previously at the University of Virginia. He also worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, as well as pioneering the educational software tool the Alice project. He was married with three young children when in August 2007 he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Randy Pausch was forty-seven.

Each year at Carnegie Mellon, a faculty member is asked to deliver what would be hypothetically a final speech to their students before dying known as "The Last Lecture." It is a chance for both the speaker and listeners to reflect upon what matters most in life. Pausch had been asked to deliver the lecture in 2007 and by the time the speech was given in September, it would ironically be his last lecture. Under the circumstances, he could easily have canceled the lecture. However, since the lecture would be videotaped, Pausch wanted the lecture to be a way for his children to later, "understand who I was and what I cared about." It would be a "message in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children."

The lecture was called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." It was about living a full and meaningful life, the importance of overcoming obstacles, and seizing every moment. It was not about dying.

The lecture was given as scheduled before a packed auditorium and was a sensation. The subsequent video has been viewed by millions and can still be seen. Pausch went on to write the best selling book titled "The Last Lecture" with Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for "The Wall Street Journal." As Pausch explained, "A book allows me to cover many, many more stories from my life and the attendant lessons I hope my kids can take from them. Also, much of my lecture at Carnegie Mellon focused on the professional side of my life - my students, colleagues and career. The book is a far more personal look at my childhood dreams and all the lessons I've learned."

The book is also available as an audio book read by Erik Singer who invokes Randy Pausch's wit, intellect, and inspirational storytelling as if Pausch were actually right there telling you his story.

On July 25, 2008, Randy Pausch died. In his final months, he had wanted to leave a message for his children – an accumulation of everything he had come to believe about life. What he left was a remembrance from which we can all learn and a legacy for all to treasure.

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
Randy Pausch

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
New Hanover Arboretum
Wilmington, North Carolina

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January 1, 2009

Place in Time

There is a time
before the New Year begins
and that of our Savior's birth –

to look back on our journey
to this place in time
and the year

that is dying.

Places we have been
people we have known
and those we have lost -

the accomplishments,
the sorrows,
and all that was

good or bad.

For once the first day
of the New Year has arrived
there will be no turning back –

only to move forward,
to face our goals, our dreams,
our hopes, and perhaps

another chance.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Wetumpka, Alabama

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