By RACHEL SHENK
I can’t remember when or where I first met Mary. It might have been at my parent’s home in Genval, Belgium or just as easily, in my father’s hometown of Goshen, Indiana.
Our family and her family were connected through friendship. Her brother was my father’s roommate; her sister-in-law was a good friend of my mother’s. Mary played in the high school orchestra with my father. Anyways, as you can tell, it’s one of those hard to explain connections. But I always heard about her in a kind of reverent tone and as a child, I picked up on that, and assumed that Mary was someone you might look up to or at the very least, learn a thing or two from.
So when I became a student at Goshen College, I knew that I should take a class from Mary. I heard other students talk about her reputation as a tough grader and as a professor who expects much from her students but this did not frighten me. In Belgium, I was used to tough in school. And to teachers who expected much from me, I took the challenge.
My first class with her was a generic art and music course to initiate those students who had not had much exposure to the arts. I loved it and usually sat in the front so I wouldn’t get distracted by others. I think I ended up taking two other classes with her.
What pulled me in was her passion for art and music coupled with a vast knowledge of the subject. I found myself wanting to learn more and looking at music and art in a totally new way.
I was lucky to grow up in a home where art and music were given a place. I visited the Sistine chapel in Rome, Michelangelo’s David in Florence and the ruins of Pompeii as an 8 year old. I walked through Le Corbusier’s thoroughly modern church in Ronchamp, France. I visited the home of Edvard Grieg in Bergen, Norway as a 13 year old. I observed the Gothic cathedral and the Romanesque monastery. I went to a Béjart ballet performance of “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky. I watched a movie of the New World Symphony by Dvorak. I sang along with “The Stars of Faith.”
As I sat in Mary’s classes, she made all these things come to life in a way I had not experienced before. I learned to listen more carefully, to watch more closely, to take the time to soak in a painting, a landscape, a concerto. I learned to listen for what is behind the notes of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, to look for the light in a Van Gogh painting, to understand the flowing lines of Chartres cathedral.
These many years later, here I am, writing about what I see and hear and feel. And I can say that Mary helped me to look and listen and understand. Now that she is turning 90, I hope she knows how much she sent me on my way. Thank you, Mary!
As I wrote this article, I was cooking up some stir fried vegetables. Jim calls them “Moulin Rouge.”
4 carrots, sliced
1 red pepper, slced
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 t. Ginger
1/4 t. Turkish red pepper
A pinch of black pepper, cardamom and coriander
1/4 c. orange juice
In a skillet, heat up a little bit of olive oil. Add onions and fry until soft. Add garlic, ginger and red pepper. Stir for a minute or two. Add carrots, red pepper and the rest of the spices and stir until they just start to soften. Then add orange juice and cook for an additional two or three minutes. Serve as a side dish with spinach pie or quiche.