Monday, July 23, 2018


Just because I haven’t posted a blog entry for a long, long time doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.  I have been, but in various ways.  I must admit, most of my writing has been mostly emails, but there has been much else accomplished as well.  Enough, in fact, to bring the idea of personal legacy to mind. 

As a retired public school teacher, I trust one element of my legacy on this plane of existence has been the students I have impacted in one way or another.  There is one kid who wished me un-well on Facebook, but most of the former students I’ve heard from are in the midst of raising families and feeling pretty good about being in touch with an ‘old teacher.’  I do enjoy seeing photos of their kids and reports on job successes and vacation expeditions.  I haven’t done the math, but many of my Facebook friends are, in fact, former students.  I’ve had lunch with a few of ‘em in the last few years, too.  It is good to hear how they are getting along. 

Aside from the human contact, though, a couple very dynamic things are coming together at the moment that brings the idea of personal legacy to mind.  You know:  what products of my existence may or will live on in their own rite long after I’m gone?    

First thing I would think about, as you might guess, is some of my writing.  I am pleased to report my book has reached the milestone of ‘completed first draft.’  Such is an accomplishment, for sure, having borne fruit over the last five winters.  

Initial work on Nature’s People: The Hog Island story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon began back in the early 1980s when I was completing my humanities masters at Wright State.  The Emily Dickinson graduate workshop with Jim Hughes got me started, with the MHum culminating with a long paper and a slide show about that first trek to Emily’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts, closely followed by two weeks at the Audubon Ecology Camp in Maine on Hog Island.  

By the time I retired in 2002, I was aware that basically nobody would ever read my humanities project filed amid all the graduate projects in the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library at WSU.  I had been thinking about it for a while, but upon being on island that summer for a Friends of Hog Island annual meeting, I stood in front of that cohort of Nature lovers and committed to writing a book that expanded on the original and would be a good history of Hog Island, which, by the way, has never been written.  I thought way back then that my book should be dedicated to Bart & Ginny Cadbury, early island stalwarts and FOHI founders.  Material gathering started right away, but actual text didn’t start to form until winter 2014.  Five years and a whole bunch of interviews later, a first draft exists.  

While the book is moving along at it’s own pace, the rector at our church, Rev. John Paddock, hooked me up into facilitating a construction project at venerable old Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton.  

Back in the 1960s when the Great Lady of First Street, the parish’s affectionate name for our current building, received it’s first real upgrade since it opened in 1870, a lovely little chapel was added to the building’s footprint.  It became known as The Reconciliation Chapel in honor of our parish’s affiliation with groups in the United Kingdom and Germany who hoped to heal wounds caused in war.  

Unfortunately for our chapel, walls were engineered in error somehow and when it was discovered the wall facing First Street was in danger of coming down, the painful decision was made to raze the cozy little structure.  

The plan was to find some meaningful public use for this newly open space.  One thought was to install a canopy over a paver floor to create an outdoor sacred space.  Another thought was to install art depicting a variety of believers at the Last Supper.  The best usable idea that coalesced over time was to install a meditative labyrinth.  

And so over the last fifteen months I have facilitated what we like to think of ourselves as The Labyrinth Guild.  We started by inviting John Ridder of Paxworks, an experienced labyrinth designer and installer from Indianapolis, to talk with us about how to proceed.  We started with asking a parishioner, Pete Price, who was also owner Stillwater Builders at the time, what our project would take.  With Pete’s help, a construction summary was assembled and distributed to whichever contractor wanted to make a bid. 

We hoped to generate at least three bids, and when all was said and done six months or so later, that’s what we got.  The bid was awarded to Castor Construction while a separate bid for a paver walkway given to Groundskeeper Landscaping Group.  

As I write this, paver orders/labyrinth construction donations have been coming in for the last few weeks and if all goes well, concrete will be poured yet this week.  John Ridder is confident he can have our ‘eagle crest’ pattern etched into the concrete and stained this fall.  We’re thinking a grand opening next spring. 

I realize my blog entries have started to sound like an old guy reflecting on life.  Well, I suppose it is.  This next weekend I participate in Carroll High School class of 1968’s fifty year reunion.  Trust me, I’ve always thought folks who celebrate fifty years out of high school were old fogies.  Turns out most of us in the class turn 70 in two years.  I’ll let you decide what a fogey is.  :-) 

But when The Reconciliation Labyrinth is finished and open for our parish and friends to use, and Nature’s People makes it through the inevitable gauntlet it faces, I will have two concrete contributions that should go on ‘giving’ in my stead for some time to come.  

And that feels both humbling and damn fine. 

Today’s elder idea:   ‘All in God’s time.’ 
John Ridder