Beth Bridges, MHC 1951.

There were many things about my job at Mars Hill College that I loved. I miss the people. I miss the connection I felt with fellow alumni. I wish I hadn’t felt so tired and restless, but I did. Whilst working, I ran into a poem written by an alumna, Beth Bridges. I found a couple of the blog entries I had written about her:

“Today I read a poem by a gem of an alumna from 1951 and I was extremely moved.  Moved to the point that I wrote her a letter, typed out her poem, made it into a poster for my new office, and will probably send it to my friends and family if I get her permission.  What a gem, who wrote about Mars Hill in a way that I’ve longed to be able to.”

And then:

Amaranthine.

\am-uh-RAN-thin\ , adjective;

1. Unfading; everlasting.

2. Of or like the amaranth flower.

3. Of purplish-red color.

To most who have had the pleasure of soaking up knowledge in Cornwell, climbing the walls of the infirmary, or eating a famous Miss Virginia omelet, Mars Hill College is a place full of people who leave an amaranthine mark on their lives.  I recently referred to the poem I found that was written by an alumna from 1951.  Beth Bridges brought tears to my eyes as she beautifully delineated what I’ve longed to be able to clearly say.  I wrote her a letter and she wrote back within the week and included a stack of pictures as tall as my tape dispenser.  I hope to fly to her home in Ireland one day and sip tea with her as we tell each other our Mars Hill memories.  In the meantime, enjoy:

To Bailey Mountain, and ‘The Hill,’ With Love

By Beth Bridges 

Once, years and years ago-

            Or, it seems, only yesterday-

I saw my first mountain.

Not particularly high or grand,

But to a Florida child

            Something so perfect-

            So magical-

I climbed up its autumn slopes

Panting and straining my aching legs

            For what seemed hours,

To lie, finally stretched out and breathing hard

In the lap of its highest grass meadow.

This was the beginning-

            The first day

Of an enchantment.  From then on

            For a timeless time

I tasted a joy

            So piquant, so delicious

I never tasted the like of it again.

Dear old mountain,

I think it was you-

            Your permanence, your dignity-

That gave such radiance

            To all the bits of life

            At your feet.

Half a century may seem a long time

            To fireflies like ourselves

            Who light up a nano-second

            With our glint.

We come and go,

            But I’m still here to say

Those years at your feet

On that small patchwork of learning–

Those buildings we called “The Hill–

            Were the essence-

            The very definition

                        Of happiness.

In all these fifty years

I’ve never solved the mystery

            Of why,

So I won’t try,

            But I know

As sure as anyone knows anything

That all of life that followed

Was hung upon the framework

            Of that time

We were both Florida girls who were blown away by the mountains. This shared awe gave us a wonderful connection. Beth graduated in the same class as my grandmother. I learned that the picture of a building on campus that I had seen hundreds of times in her house was drawn by Beth. We became pen pals and sent each other memories about The Hill, we sent photos, and she gifted handmade greeting cards and bookmarks. I looked forward to receiving mail from my new friend in Ireland and she wrote that she felt the same way. It was a lovely weekly tradition.

I received a letter from Europe yesterday and my coworker and friend let me know. I had an instant fear that it would include the details of Beth’s passing. I asked her to open it for me and I, unfortunately, was right. Beth passed away on May 8th. I knew she had been ill. I wish I had written her in the past year, but I had not. I thought of her often, and this is a good reminder to never hesitate to let people know we care. She was extraordinary and I know many people will feel the impact of her absence. I know I do.

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