Loving a place

I think the Nittany Valley is a remarkable place, home to not only to Penn State, but also to special communities like State College, victorian Bellefonte, and scenic Lemont, the hamlet at Mount Nittany’s base. Michael Houtz, by the way, captured the heart of the Nittany Valley beautifully a few years ago in this early morning, fog-blanketed valley scene:


I’ve developed a love affair with the Nittany Valley, but I’m not from there—I’m from Bucks County, near Philadelphia. The two places share some similar characteristics: historic in their own ways, filled with farms and woodlands and rivers. But Bucks County has changed dramatically since I was a child. Its population has exploded in a suburbanized, sub-division way at the expense of many beauty places. Today in Bucks County there are 1,034 people per square mile. In Centre County there are 138 people per square mile.

When I wrote Conserving Mount Nittany, one lesson was that conservation only works if people are prepared mentally and financially and communally to protect what they love. It’s why we protected Mount Nittany, but lost Hort Woods.

Too many of the farms, fields, and quiet places of the Bucks County of my youth have gone missing. I’m glad that, even as Centre County’s population grows, it remains a comparatively homelike place to capture some of the spirit of a different time among the old farms north of Philadelphia.

This is one of the reasons I think nostalgia lives in places like State College.

RIP Gerry Lenfest

Gerry Lenfest, 88, died this morning. I’ve written about Lenfest a few times before; his and his wife Marguerite’s public spirited generosity in creating a better Philadelphia will be remembered as one of the high points in the city’s history. Peter Dobrin reports:

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, 88, who substantially remade the educational, cultural, and media sectors of the city and well beyond to become one of Philadelphia’s most dynamic civic leaders of the last century, died Sunday morning…

Mr. Lenfest, who had been in declining health in recent months, parlayed the sale of the family cable business into a second act as the area’s leading philanthropist for nearly two decades, giving away more than $1.3 billion. …

“Gerry has had a huge impact on the renaissance and renewal of Philadelphia and all of its institutions,” said Philadelphia Museum of Art president and chief operating officer Gail Harrity. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he has shaped Philadelphia for the future.”

Said David McCullough, the author and historian: “I think he was one of the most memorable and lovable men I’ve ever known. A devoted Philadelphian if ever there was one. His love of that city and its history, and his willingness to be not only generous with his philanthropy but to work hard to attain a worthy objective, is something we could all take a lesson from on how to go about life. He was a terrific man.”

“We’ve lost our greatest citizen, there’s no doubt about that,” said Ed Rendell, former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor. “He impacted the lives of Philadelphians at every level, in the city, in the neighborhoods.” …

Mr. Lenfest was born neither to wealth nor the social status enjoyed by some of his fellow philanthropists. A lawyer by training, Mr. Lenfest and wife Marguerite built up their cable business over several decades, selling Lenfest Communications Inc. in 2000 and undertaking a philanthropic spree that put the Lenfest name alongside those of Girard, Widener, Curtis, Annenberg, Pew, and Haas – the city’s historically most generous families.

He was “one of the greatest philanthropists the city has ever seen,” said Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts, who had several close dealings with the businessman before Comcast ended up taking over Lenfest Communications. “He has changed our city and so many institutions.” …

After making plans to donate all his wealth, Mr. Lenfest became an éminence grise to the city’s arts groups. He was chairman of the board of old-line institutions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Curtis Institute of Music, successfully convincing other supporters that even great traditions needed to be expanded upon and brought up to date.

And he willed new ones into existence. He established the Lenfest Ocean Program, and believed in the new Museum of the American Revolution to the tune of more than $63 million in cash donations, becoming its largest donor. He lived to see it become a reality, greeting guests from a wheelchair when the museum opened its doors in April 2017. …

“In Spanish we call it duende, a presence around someone,” said Roberto Díaz, who started as president and CEO of Curtis as Mr. Lenfest became board chairman. “There’s a very quiet strength there.” …

“I don’t think any of it would have happened without Marguerite’s blessing. She is a force,” said Curtis’ Díaz. “Some of the most consequential conversations we had about the needs of the students actually were with Marguerite as much as with Gerry, and sometimes with her first.”

The way they structured their generosity heightened its impact. Other philanthropists placed their billions in foundations to exist in perpetuity, giving out grants each year paid essentially out of investment income. The Lenfests, however, chose to spend down the entire endowment, and the effect on the nourishment and growth of hundreds of recipient institutions over a dozen and a half years was exhilarating.

The Lenfests gave away more than $1.3 billion to 1,100 organizations – providing scholarships to high school students in rural Pennsylvania, contributing to pay off the Kimmel Center’s construction debt and keep Curtis tuition-free, supporting career assistance for youth, underwriting new buildings at Columbia University and Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health, giving free billboard and TV advertising to arts groups, helping to save the Temple University rowing program, and on and on. …

At Columbia, Mr. Lenfest’s giving started at the law school, of which he was a graduate. “But there again,” said Bollinger, “he was willing to follow the lead of the institution as to what was important. When we wanted to build the center for the arts in West Harlem, he was right there with that gift. When we wanted to build out the Earth Institute and worked with improving conditions for impoverished people, he was right there.” …

Lenfest made an incredible philanthropic impact in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere in the space of about two decades. He modeled for wealthy persons in Philadelphia and nationally how to deal with wealth effectively, which is essentially that one grows and benefits in the proportion that they give themselves away; they grow in proportion to their willingness to diminish, in effect. This is one of the great paradoxes of human life, I think.

Relationships mattered enormously. In 1999, Mr. Lenfest took notice of a man emptying the trash bins in his office, became curious about his story, and struck gold with an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship.

“I was in medical school and business school, but I had a commercial cleaning business, and I was dumping Gerry’s wastebasket,” said Keith Leaphart, “and only Gerry would tell the janitor to sit down in his office to talk, and that’s literally how we became connected. He said, ‘Something is different about you. I need to know your story.’ I think he recognized my grit, my determination, I was an entrepreneur, some of the things he saw in himself at a younger age. Gerry wasn’t a silver-spoon kid, he worked really hard to get where he went as a billionaire philanthropist. I think it was mutual fondness.”

A few years later, in 2007, when Leaphart was considering a run for Congress, he approached Mr. Lenfest for support. Mr. Lenfest agreed (Leaphart eventually decided not to run), but before he left, Mr. Lenfest asked Leaphart for something in return.

“He said, ‘Sit back down, Keith, I have some things I need you to help me with,’ and it was really about making an impact here in the city, some ideas about putting kids to work, employment, and what we said was we would work together.”

Leaphart became involved with issues like ex-offender reintegration, and today chairs the Lenfest Foundation board.

What a great story, and what an incredible rise for Keith Leaphart.

And Jim Friedlich, executive director of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, reflects specifically on Lenfest’s impact on Philadelphia journalism:

I first met Gerry Lenfest in 2015, not long after he purchased sole ownership of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com. Gerry told me at the time, “I just figured out how to become a millionaire in the newspaper business. It’s easy. You start out as a billionaire, and you buy a bunch of newspapers.”

I met Gerry, who died on Sunday, after a long career at the Wall Street Journal. After leaving the Journal, my team and I had a business that advised major American newspaper owners on the digital transformation of their businesses. The question we always heard from a Chicago Tribune, a Los Angeles Times, or a Baltimore Sun was fundamentally the same: “How do I save my newspaper?”

The question from Gerry Lenfest was much more expansive and profound: “How do we sustain great journalism writ large?” Gerry was especially focused on the business challenges. He asked me, “How can digital technology be used to enable and ennoble news, rather than to destroy it?” He sounded liked an 85-year-old millennial.

But Gerry’s most keen observation — and this was in 2015 — was that we were entering an era when questions of credibility would challenge the news industry. He warned that as the news business got tougher, some in power would take advantage of its weakness. As Gerry put it, “On the internet you don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Before long, we won’t know what to believe.” …

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism was founded on the belief that a strong local press is fundamental to the health of civic life in the Philadelphia region and to our democracy writ large. Gerry saw a critical role for the Institute in helping fund and protect journalism in Philadelphia. He also saw Philadelphia at the epicenter of a national effort to protect and transform local news in the digital age and to protect the democracy we serve.

So now in mid-2018, what is happening here in Philadelphia is one of the most closely watched experiments in American journalism.

Requiescat in pace.

Greece and human flourishing

John W. Danford reflects on Greece and the ancient view of human flourishing:

Modern Western “democracies,” as they are usually called, are actually better described as liberal commercial societies. They rest on principles of individualism and individual rights—especially legal rights—which are more fundamental than democracy, and also much newer. Democracy, after all, is an ancient Greek word for “rule by the many,” and democracies have not until quite recently been regarded as very good or fair types of governments. The many can oppress the few quite as easily as the reverse, and the notion of individual rights actually has more to do with limiting the power of any government—whether by the many, or by a king, or by a party—to treat individuals unjustly.

In a very general way the core idea of liberal commercial societies is individualism. The view that has gained acceptance in the last three hundred years in the West is that society should be thought of as a collection of individuals whose needs and purposes lead them to constitute society, or to continue living in a society, as a way of furthering their individual needs and purposes. This individualism thus presumes that human beings should be understood primarily as individual organisms, who are what they are whether or not they live in some social order. More than that, it presumes that the needs and goals of human individuals—not just survival, but dignity, the active use of faculties, and a measure of security and comfort—are able to be understood in reference to individual men and women, with society but a means to achieve the goals or supply the needs more reliably or more easily.

This view of human beings as individuals “by nature” was advanced as a challenge to the view that rested at the core of classical political science, a mode of thinking which prevailed in the West (where it was invented in ancient Greece) for nearly two thousand years. The modern view can best be understood in comparison to the older view it replaced. The prevailing modern view was not unknown to ancient or classical thinkers, of course, but they rejected it in favor of an understanding more closely connected to their conception of the nature of all things.

The ancient Greek political philosophers taught that man is by nature a political being. By this they meant that human beings are suited naturally—by nature—for life in a particular sort of community, called a polis or city. Any human being not fortunate enough to live in a polis, they said, would not be capable of realizing his full humanity or “humanness.”

They also knew that many, if not most, men and women were cut off from the possibility of being fully human because they lived either outside cities (as nomads or shepherds, condemned to what Marx later disparaged as the “idiocy of rural life”), or in vast empires, far too large to have any taste of genuine political life. The special characteristic of a city or polisis that in a city human beings are able to exercise one of their highest, most human faculties, which the Greeks called logos or reasoned speech. This capacity is involved in all political deliberation, by which human beings exercise choice about how to live and how to constitute social life itself. According to Aristotle, the faculty of logos distinguishes men from all other animals. It is also what makes man the only being who is political by nature. Any man who lives outside a polis, he taught, must be either a beast or a god—either less than human (because falling short of the true human potential) or more than human (and hence self-sufficient).

The Greeks thought one should conceive the nature of anything by thinking about its perfection or completion, that is, what the thing is able to be in the best or most appropriate circumstances. This is an extraordinarily dynamic way of looking at things: each particular example of a thing (whether a man or an oak tree), since it falls short of perfection, could be said to point beyond itself to what it ought to be. This exciting idea led men to think about what a polis or city ought to be, or what the nature of political life would be in its full perfection. And this is where complexities began to develop. The lofty idea that man is a political being by nature seemed, on reflection, to have troubling consequences in at least two respects.

While rejecting radical individualism and the false good of autonomy for its own sake, a more limited perspective might be that human beings are likeliest to achieve their peak/fullness in relationship with other human beings. This is because relationships and community life are the contexts for virtue and vice, and for cultivating and expressing virtuous ways of living.

Virtue cannot be incarnated in abstract, but only in relation to others. This doesn’t mean that shepherds or hermits or nomads are less likely to be virtuous, for instance, but it does mean that they might suffer in different ways from their physical, intellectual, and emotional remove from other human beings.

Goodbye, James Building

Penn State administrators plan to replace the James Building on South Burrowes Street in State College late next year. It’s a building that dates to 1920, but it’s a plain building that I think started out as a showroom for cars and I think I’ll be happy to see it replaced by something that will presumably be both more beautiful and make better use of space. Here’s the James Building from Google Street View:

123 South Burrowes- James Building.png

I’ve only ever set foot in there a handful of times. Once as an undergrad to meet with the editors of the Daily Collegian to talk about the threat that a Penn State student affairs administrator posed to free speech of campus media outlets, and another time or two for class or other reasons.

It’s historically interesting to me as the 1995-2003 home of The LION 90.7fm before the campus radio station moved on campus into the HUB-Robeson Center, the student union. I know a number of alumni from that era, and for their sake I’ll be a bit sorry to see this physical site of a brief era in Penn State student broadcasting history depart the scene. The campus radio station was housed one floor above the Daily Collegian, the student newspaper, and a joke from that era was something like, “Visit WKPS, Penn State’s campus station. We’re above the Daily Collegian, literally.”

It’s a building that sits at a remove from the street, and contributes to a deadness along with two other Penn State-owned buildings, two parking lots, and other unremarkable structures on this block of South Burrowes Street. I hope whatever Penn State selects to replace it will revitalize the experience of the street in this part of town, because it could really stand for improvement. Geoff Rushton with details:

The James Building in downtown State College has been home to the Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student newspaper, for the past 30 years. But it won’t be for much longer.

Penn State plans to demolish the nearly 100-year old building at 121-123 S. Burrowes St. and replace it with a new, $52.8 million building that will serve as a hub for the Invent Penn State entrepreneurial and innovation initiative.

According to a request for letters of interest from design and engineering firms, the university anticipates construction on a new building to begin in November 2019 with completion in December 2020. Development plans would require approval from State College Borough Council.

In addition to the Collegian, the James Building also houses Bellisario College of Communications administrative offices and the Media Effects Research Lab. Each of the current tenants will be relocated to a new location, Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers said in an email, though where has yet to be decided.

“The Office of Physical Plant indicates that multiple locations have been identified for these groups to potentially move into, so the space allocations are still somewhat in flux and subject to change,” Powers said.

The new building is expected to be 99,000 to 119,000 gross square feet, and “will support the Invent Penn State initiative by developing a multi-use Innovation, Making and Learning facility that will become the cornerstone of our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” according to the letter to architectural firms.

It would “maximize the allowable buildout” of the existing site and would include an estimated 29,000 gross square feet for maker and innovation space; 6,000 gross square feet for retail; and upper levels of at least 65,000 square feet for flexible office, learning activity and other spaces. …

On-site parking will be included with the new building, as required by zoning.

According to the OPP letter, goals of the project include developing “a new building in State College that will help create a ‘hub’ of activity and enhance the existing aesthetic and character of the urban site and tie into downtown at the adjacent [University Park campus]” and “to create a well-designed, unique, destination building that functions as a center for innovation and knowledge sharing,” that will serve community businesses, start-ups and students.

The building also is expected to be highly efficient with LEED certification.

The existing 30,000 square-foot, two-story brick building was constructed in 1920 and the university says it and its infrastructure “are at the end of their useful life.”

I’m hopeful. Growing from the existing ~30,000 sq ft to ~100,000 sq ft or more will be a good improvement, I just hope that grace and beauty come with size. And I also hope/expect sanity to prevail and for State College Borough to waive the zoning requirement for on-site parking. There are two enormous municipal parking decks within two blocks.

El Camino Real encounter

I had just driven by Palo Alto High School as the sun was starting its long summer descent on Sunday evening, and had just parked my car on the side of El Camino Real, which runs along the northeast fringe of Stanford’s campus, when a woman approached me.

“Hi, I’m Diane. Can I borrow your phone to make a call? I live just up the street here in the yellow van.”

Alone. Forlorn-looking. Late-middle age. She wore a decently-put together outfit that wouldn’t be much different from the sort of thing anyone might throw on for a Sunday afternoon. She needed to call her mother, or someone who she considered her mother. There was some confusion on that point, relating to a soured relationship probably with an estranged sibling.

We struck up a conversation, and I handed her my phone. She didn’t get through to anyone, but left a message. Her narrative was disjointed, only getting to the point in fits and starts. As she continued, and I stood nearby, I counted as she ticked nearer to the three-minute mark when voicemails are forcibly ended due to length. She got there, the call disconnected, and she abruptly handed me the phone.

“If she calls you back, would you come knock on my door later?” she asked. “Yes,” I told her. I never heard back from that number.

There was this whole little makeshift mobile home community that apparently had materialized at some point along this stretch road. I could see the attraction, with just a metal park fence separating Stanford’s campus and park area from El Camino Real, an arterial road. There was space to be outside, space to sit, food to walk to, bathrooms and a medical triage van not far away.

As I walked to find the Lime-E bike for my ride through campus, I passed by a family that lived in one of these RVs, the kids playing in Stanford’s park for the moment, the father sitting at the park table alone with his thoughts.

Dignified but desperate. I felt that the moment I met Diane, and the father had the same look. The kids were too carefree for the weight of their situation to bear on them, at least at the moment. Noticing a note on the ground, I picked it up to see the reverse was a Palo Alto Police tow warning for someone and someone’s home that was here, and now was not here.

These are some of the people on what Pope Francis calls the peripheries.

I was glad to have met Diane. What is there to be done for her?

I don’t know.

High temperature silver linings

I was walking through Old City, Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon when I looked down at my Apple Watch and saw that it was 98 degrees. It felt hot, but not that hot. Yesterday’s high in Philadelphia was 99 degrees, and today’s is expected to be 95 degrees—getting better as the week continues.

If you don’t enjoy this sort of heat (I do) it can be brutal. But I think it can be useful, at least in terms of reminding people to literally sit down and relax. We don’t do enough of that in a culture that’s more frenetic than it needs to be.

Growing up without climate control, I remember spending long mornings and afternoons in the heat, in a sort of suspended animation on the porch or under the shade of the giant birch or oak trees, or finding a hose someplace or making lemonade. And more than that, I remember specific experiences of those sweltering summer days more readily than I can recall other kid moments from other seasons.

Heading to Washington tomorrow for Independence Day, and spending the rest of the week there before flying to Seattle on Saturday evening.

Native American Veterans Memorial

Kriston Capps writes on the National Museum of the American Indian’s forthcoming veterans memorial:

The circle at the center of the next memorial to U.S. veterans represents the cycles of life, nature, the seasons, and the elements. The circle is also the anchor for a special, and highly unique, stage in Washington, D.C.: a space for ceremonies for hundreds of different Native tribes and nations.

Fire and water frame the symbolic infrastructure for the memorial. The circular steel sculpture rises from a central pedestal, which is shaped like a drum; the drum works as a fountain, whose waters will bless sacred ceremonies. A fire at the base of the circle will be lit for Veterans Day and other holidays.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian just announced the winner of the international design contest to create its new monument. The National Native American Veterans Memorial will honor the military service of Native American soldiers who have served in every conflict in U.S. history. The memorial is meant to be an active site for healing, prayer, and storytelling, says Harvey Pratt, the memorial’s designer. The concept is unlike anything else that’s currently on the National Mall.

A jury selected Pratt’s design—dubbed the “Warriors’ Circle of Honor”—from five finalist entries, which in turn emerged from a pool of more than 120 contest submissions. Pratt’s design squares a difficult design brief. The memorial needed to facilitate a potent and reflective experience for veterans and their family members. But it also needed to be legible and meaningful across many different cultures and conflicts.

For his design, Pratt, an Arapaho and Cheyenne Marine Corps veteran, says that he relied on a handful of symbols and conceits to build something essential and, he hopes, transportive. “Of the 650 tribes, we’re all the same, but we’re different,” Pratt says. “We all use those elements, but maybe all a little bit differently.”

Unlike other war memorials in D.C., the National Native American Veterans Memorial does not highlight a specific conflict, but rather an entire people. Many peoples, in fact. The memorial honors all Native American veterans—including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians—from the Revolutionary War to the present, across all branches of service.

This will be a fitting addition to the National Mall. I’m really looking forward to seeing this completed, and eventually visiting.

Ducklings at St. Joseph’s Lake

During our lunchtime break yesterday at the Vita Institute, I hopped onto a Limebike and rode from South Dining Hall to the Knute Rockne Memorial Building, through some of the dormitories, and down past the Grotto to the lakes.

It had been drizzling a bit, and was a bit chilly and damp from the rain. I pulled the bike off the trail as I got to St. Joseph’s Lake when I saw a little huddle of ducklings keeping warm, and filmed them a bit. I was able to get much closer than I thought I would—they didn’t seem to mind the closeness and no hissing parents appeared to shoo me away.

After admiring those beautiful little ducklings, I rode on to Saint Mary’s Lake and past its little beachfront. Eventually I made my way back to the Eck Law building for our afternoon sessions.

Vita Institute was been an incredible experience. Our closing dinner took place in South Dining Hall’s Oak Room, and after that a group of us walked down to the Grotto and around much of St. Joseph’s Lake before closing out the night at Murph’s (Rohr’s) at Morris Inn. Notre Dame in the summertime is just as great as Penn State in the summertime, but it really has been so many good people, new friends, and companionship of this week that has made it so great.

I woke up after three hours sleep to catch my flight from South Bend Airport to Charlotte, where I’m now waiting for my connection to Philadelphia.

Fountain of the Three Rivers

Visited Sister Cities Park yesterday for the first time in a while for lunch with Bobby Schindler, who’s in town this week. It was a perfect summer day to sit outside and enjoy the unfolding scenes. I brought my MacBook and worked outside the office for a bit. After work, I walked back to Logan Circle and captured these scenes.

Logan Circle’s 1924 Fountain of the Three Rivers frames the foreground in the footage below, with City Hall in the distance, with a bit of its history below.

Adapting the tradition of “river god” sculpture, [Alexander] Calder created large Native American figures to symbolize the area’s major streams, the Delaware, the Schuylkill, and the Wissahickon. The young girl leaning on her side against an agitated, water-spouting swan represents the Wissahickon Creek; the mature woman holding the neck of a swan stands for the Schuylkill River; and the male figure, reaching above his head to grasp his bow as a large pike sprays water over him, symbolizes the Delaware River. Sculpted frogs and turtles spout water toward the 50-foot (15 m) geyser in the center…

In Bonaventure Cemetery

In John Muir’s “A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf” he shares his experience “camping among the tombs” of Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery:

October 9. After going again to the express office and post office, and wandering about the streets, I found a road which led me to the Bonaventure graveyard. If that burying-ground across the Sea of Galilee, mentioned in Scripture, was half as beautiful as Bonaventure, I do not wonder that a man should dwell among the tombs. It is only three or four miles from Savannah, and is reached by a smooth white shell road.

There is but little to be seen on the way in land, water, or sky, that would lead one to hope for the glories of Bonaventure. The ragged desolate fields, on both sides of the road, are overrun with coarse rank weeds, and show scarce a trace of cultivation. But soon all is changed. Rickety log huts, broken fences, and the last patch of weedy rice-stubble are left behind. You come to beds of purple liatris and living wild-wood trees. You hear the song of birds, cross a small stream, and are with Nature in the grand old forest graveyard, so beautiful that almost any sensible person would choose to dwell here with the dead rather than with the lazy, disorderly living.

Part of the grounds was cultivated and planted with live-oak, about a hundred years ago, by a wealthy gentleman who had his country residence here. But much the greater part is undisturbed. Even those spots which are disordered by art, Nature is ever at work to reclaim, and to make them look as if the foot of man had never known them. Only a small plot of ground is occupied with graves and the old mansion is in ruins.

The most conspicuous glory of Bonaventure is its noble avenue of live-oaks. They are the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen, about fifty feet high and perhaps three or four feet in diameter, with broad spreading leafy heads. The main branches reach out horizontally until they come together over the driveway, embowering it throughout its entire length, while each branch is adorned like a garden with ferns, flowers, grasses, and dwarf palmettos.

But of all the plants of these curious tree-gardens the most striking and characteristic is the so-called Long Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). It drapes all the branches from top to bottom, hanging in long silvery-gray skeins, reaching a length of not less than eight or ten feet, and when slowly waving in the wind they produce a solemn funereal effect singularly impressive.

There are also thousands of smaller trees and clustered bushes, covered almost from sight in the glorious brightness of their own light. The place is half surrounded by the salt marshes and islands of the river, their reeds and sedges making a delightful fringe. Many bald eagles roost among the trees along the side of the marsh. Their screams are heard every morning, joined with the noise of crows and the songs of countless warblers, hidden deep in their dwellings of leafy bowers. Large flocks of butterflies, all kinds of happy insects, seem to be in a perfect fever of joy and sportive gladness. The whole place seems like a center of life. The dead do not reign there alone.

Bonaventure to me is one of the most impressive assemblages of animal and plant creatures I ever met. I was fresh from the Western prairies, the garden-like openings of Wisconsin, the beech and maple and oak woods of Indiana and Kentucky, the dark mysterious Savannah cypress forests; but never since I was allowed to walk the woods have I found so impressive a company of trees as the tillandsia-draped oaks of Bonaventure.

I gazed awe-stricken as one new-arrived from another world. Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord’s most favored abodes of life and light.

On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc. Town children, especially, are steeped in this death orthodoxy, for the natural beauties of death are seldom seen or taught in towns.

Of death among our own species, to say nothing of the thousand styles and modes of murder, our best memories, even among happy deaths, yield groans and tears, mingled with morbid exultation; burial companies, black in cloth and countenance; and, last of all, a black box burial in an ill-omened place, haunted by imaginary glooms and ghosts of every degree. Thus death becomes fearful, and the most notable and incredible thing heard around a death-bed is, “I fear not to die.”

But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.

Most of the few graves of Bonaventure are planted with flowers. There is generally a magnolia at the head, near the strictly erect marble, a rose-bush or two at the foot, and some violets and showy exotics along the sides or on the tops. All is enclosed by a black iron railing, composed of rigid bars that might have been spears or bludgeons from a battlefield in Pandemonium.

It is interesting to observe how assiduously Nature seeks to remedy these labored art blunders. She corrodes the iron and marble, and gradually levels the hill which is always heaped up, as if a sufficiently heavy quantity of clods could not be laid on the dead. Arching grasses come one by one; seeds come flying on downy wings, silent as fate, to give life’s dearest beauty for the ashes of art; and strong evergreen arms laden with ferns and tillandsia drapery are spread over all—Life at work everywhere, obliterating all memory of the confusion of man.

“Death is stingless indeed…”