Wednesday, March 16, 2011
In time, part of the Woodlands estate became home to the University of Pennsylvania. Part became a cemetery, and today that cemetery, with its original home and stables, sits on the National Historic Landmark list. Thomas Eakins, the painter, is buried there. So is Silas Weir Mitchell, the physician-writer, and William Rush, the sculptor, and Rembrandt Peale, the artist, and Jessie Willcox Smith, the illustrator, and Paul Philippe Cret and Wilson Eyre, both architects. The man who founded Campbell Soup is here. So is Anthony Drexel, who, among other things, funded Drexel University and helped create America's first true suburban community, Wayne. And once the body of George W. Childs, a quiet hero in two of my books, lay in the Drexel family vault at Woodland, his goodness permeating.
But I was the sole living soul on this gray day. I went deep, to the edge, to the western reach of the river. By the time I returned to campus my students were gathering for what would be a most intense, most extraordinary conversation. My job, I keep reminding them, reminding me, is to push them each as far as they can go. Because sometimes love looks like do not change a word. And sometimes it looks like, frame it newly, reimagine the tone. Hope is there, inside both conversations. Faith that these young writers are going far.