LU AS CAMP INSTRUCTOR…….lu and I were friends and colleagues for many years. My first encounter with her as a teacher was when I left administration to teach full-time in Hutchins. She spent generous amounts of time with me, introducing me to the seminar-based approach that is the hallmark of the Hutchins School.
But my most memorable experience of lu as teacher came about in 2000 because she learned that I, at the ripe age of 66, had never been camping. She was incredulous, and determined to remedy this sad situation. Accordingly, she and Linda and I set off for some god-forsaken little-used campground somewhere in the Sierras. Once there, I was told to erect my tent. There was a good deal of precise verbal instruction, but nary a finger raised to help me. Indeed, I felt that there was an insufficient amount of compassion sent as I struggled, and muttered, and struggled. But then I was rewarded with a lovely campside dinner. (The meals were great, of course.)
However, there were the nights to get through. Linda and lu were safe and warm inside the RV. I was left to struggle into a sleeping bag inside a teeny tent, and, when nature called, to struggle out of it to get to a so-called toilet (swearing and wondering about bears).
But the worst was yet to come–after the second day, I had to dismantle the damn tent, and I, a most fastidious person, emerged from that struggle covered with dust and leaves and other unnnamables. All of this was dutifully documented by Linda. A few weeks later, they presented me with a photographic account of this memorable event, together with a Hutchins-style evalutaion which began:
“Ardath was the only remedial student….enrolled in our basic camping course this term.”
In spite of this inauspicious beginning, the evaluation concluded by awarding me CREDIT!
And I am left with the memories of a very interesting, and yes, wonderful experience.
Thanks, lu! Along with all of her students, I treasure my memories of her.
As for me, Lu Mattson is as cherished a colleague and friend as I shall ever enjoy and respect. Brilliant as was her mind, it was the least of her: her courageous honesty, her absolute refusal to compromise what she deemed right, her tickling ready wit, her perceptive compassion, her active generosity to all, and her unflagging loyalty to her friends made her a woman among women. I count myself blessed to have had her for my inspiration and example, professionally and personally.
We are all so lucky she passed our way, during our lifetime. Her teachings, in our memory, make her live forever in our minds and hearts. May she be at peace, now.
I’m sure we all feel this but Lu was the single most profound influence on my life and not just in terms of scholarship or even teaching but also in her sense of humor, wonder at the world and all of us in it, and love of adventure.
While I have myriad memories of Lu, one comes to mind which captures some of the experience of the early days at Hutchins, and of Lu. It must have been in the very early 70′s when one of the lower division courses (102 or 201) was dealing with comparative religions. We were studying Judaism in the spring and since Passover was coming up, I suggested putting on a Seder for the students. (This was in the pre-Experiencing History days, but was an early example of a kind of simulation.) Lu loved the idea (perhaps it appealed in some way to her Catholic roots since the Last Supper was probably a Passover dinner) and leaped into the preparations with her typical energy. So I remember vividly a Hutchins Seder for 50 or 60 students and faculty held in the hall of a Petaluma Synagogue where we all recounted the Exodus story, discussed the mythical and real meaning of this first recorded ‘war of liberation,’ and talked about the significance of ritual, all while drinking cups of wine, recounting the plagues, Pharaoh’s hardheadedness, and of course enjoying a typical Hutchins potluck. I believe Lu was also heavily involved in making potato pancakes (latkes), which are traditional. It was truly interdisciplinary, interdenominational and experiential learning at its best. And it was fun–which was something Lu also loved. Since these were also the days of Vietnam and Nixon and a repressive time in America, ‘liberation’ had great and personal significance for each of us, and we learned a great deal about how to celebrate it together.
It’s funny, I realized I never actually took a class from Lu having transferred as a junior to Hutchins and missing her teaching the lower division seminar, but somehow I always felt I had, given our many conversations and interactions over the years. Perhaps it was that special quality she brought to being in conversation with her — both in the deep way she’d listen and in the sense of exploration and excitement she brought to talking about ideas; to thinking about the world and her experience of it. But remembering her what sticks with me is not just her intellectual spark and curiosity but her kindness and empathy; her laughter and her heart. Realizing I won’t have another chance to experience her rare combination of head and heart again, I feel deep sadness — and also deep gratitude for the gift of having known her. I will miss her and I send my love and good wishes to those of you mourning her.
Please let Linda and Lu’s family know that she is an important and very much loved and appreciated part of my life. As a mentor and educator, she encouraged me to seek new horizons and expand my experience. As a kindred spirit, we are riding the wind as fast and as far as we can go….
You taught me to write and not to use the word ‘very’, ……..and I think of you every time that I do.
You taught me to throw a sentence away if I have to rewrite it more than twice, …..and I think of you every time that I do.
I remember you always saying, “Bet ya dollars to donuts” when making your point, —-and I use it sometimes just to remember you.
I thank you very, very much for everything you taught me.
You told me that the worst thing about living alone was eating while standing up, leaning over the kitchen sink, ……and I think of you every time that I do.
I will miss you very, very much.