Tuesday, August 3, 2010
"riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay..."
The title quote is the opening line of "Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce written just as so - as if the sentence started before the book because it does. It's a cycle. Never ending...
I wrote the following to Christopher Newport University yesterday upon hearing of the passing of a great mentor and professor to me - Dr. Tracey Schwarze. She lost a very brave battle to cancer. As the few of you who read this like to know what is going on in my life and my head, I will share this bit with you here.
I am writing this with a heavy heart. I am not sure if this is who or where I should send this letter to but I hope it reaches a broader audience than just myself. I had the privilege of being taught by Dr. Schwarze during my tenure at CNU from 2003-2007. She became a mentor to me in the English Department, and pushed me to seek further in higher education. Partly due to her guidance I am seeking out PhD programs, and am currently an adjunct professor at George Mason University.
Dr. Schwarze was more than just another professor to me and to many in my cohort. She was a ball of energy and intellect wrapped up in a spunky professor with a passion for literature and culture. She gave me and a few others a very rare opportunity by taking us to Dublin, Ireland in the Summer of 2005. I recently sat on my apartment patio and realized it was the 5 year anniversary of that trip. Five years ago, Tracey (as she made me call her from that trip forward), my best friend Kristen and I sat on a hotel patio in Dublin and watched the night sky; discussing James Joyce and life in general. That trip had a huge impact on me and it is still something that I talk about frequently. I have never been back to Ireland since, but I can remember every aspect of the journey. From that first day in Ireland, Tracey was determined for all of our group to get the most out of the experience. As such, an hour after landing she had us load our stuff onto a bus and climb up the side of a cliff. I'm not kidding. A cliff. And she just traipsed along with 3" heeled boots without a care in the world and without expelling a heavy breath. As a 20-year-old college student I was gasping and panting and felt like falling off the side of the cliff just so I wouldn't have to continue to the top. But that's really how Tracey approached life. She didn't see the daunting task ahead. Instead she just pushed forward with a smile and a sincere determination... all the while enjoying the scenery. She loved life. The trip to Ireland made that evident. She took us sightseeing and out to eat different cuisine every night. We sat in on her lectures at the James Joyce School and could just feel her passion for her work. It was the trip of a lifetime.
After I graduated in 2007 I kept up with Tracey from time to time and told her about my work in graduate school as a communication student. All the while I continued to write and to read the works of Joyce... keeping her in mind. We lost touch a little over a year ago and honestly I did not know that she had fallen ill. I would imagine though, that she battled her illness with the same determination and forward thinking as that cliff in Howthe, Ireland.
All alumni and current students who had the honor of working with Dr. Schwarze will certainly remember her zeal for teaching and trailblazing. I remember we would sit in the classroom waiting for her to arrive for lecture and we could always hear her coming long before she walked through the doorway. She wore amazing high-heeled shoes that clicked and popped down the halls of Ratcliffe. They were always fast, upbeat steps. She never trudged through life. She took it all in stride.
It is with a heavy heart but a peaceful mind that I send this out. I am certainly happy that Tracey is no longer in any pain and that she is surely in a better place. I hope the good Lord likes Ulysses or at least has read the Cliffs Notes... because if I know anything, she's going up there with a quiz in hand.
All my best,
Megan H. L. Tucker
Christopher Newport University Class of 2007
I believe that for Tracey, I'll dust off my copy of Finnegan's Wake and Ulysses and give it another whirl. I challenge each of you to do the same if ever you can.
"One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age."
-- Dubliners, "The Dead"