Monday, March 19, 2012

339. Sunderland: Mt. Toby State Forest

December 6, and a jogger passed me in shorts. Sheesh.

The rain had let up as I entered the Mt. Toby State Forest, with a lot on my mind. Soon, the sun emerged, to my relief.

I encountered signs along the way and learned of the role that my alma mater - I think that's the first time I've ever used those words publicly, though I've had one for nearly twenty years - plays in the forest. It's a teaching forest, where college students learn about forestry, soil types, injurious insects and more. It was quite a learning experience for me, personally, as I walked.

Raccoon! Sorry. Nature sometimes hits in mid-thought.

The combination of notions of UMASS Amherst, Sunderland and my dad lying in his hospital room brought on another memory. I had a wonderful professor while studying history at school, R. Dean Ware, a resident of Sunderland, and he had recently passed away. I had nothing but fond recollections of him. He was my mentor as I wound my way into the world of history, a medievalist with a remarkable sense of humor. In between classes, I'd stop by his office and grill him on etymology questions that bugged the hell out of me. "Why do we pronounce 'one' and 'two' the way we do? Why does 'one' have a 'w' sound, and 'two' doesn't?" He loved languages. Once, in class, a student haughtily said he wouldn't be studying anything in Europe, that he would focus solely on the history of the United States. "What's that," Professor Ware asked, "three hundred years? in one language?"

I needed one final credit to graduate after undergoing reconstructive ankle surgery, and he got me over the top by allowing me into a graduate seminar on technical chronology. I focused on "Technical Chronology in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle during the Danish Invasions under the Reign of King Alfred the Great." Great stuff. Professor Ware and I kept in touch over the years. Every time the history department called and asked me to speak to the undergrads about life with a history degree, I always asked if he'd be around. Every time, he met me for dinner.

He was a father figure, there's no doubt about that. I'd lost him, and now I flet like I was losing my own dad.

Ugh. I closed my eyes and let the sun cleanse me a bit.

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