Sena and I were talking about my former teacher. Dr. Jenny Lind Porter and the situation about her Casa Magni, the home she lived in for decades and now is the center of a controversy over whether to tear it down or restore it.
I’ve been trying to think of other ways to honor her memory and found a mini-biography of her on the web that I didn’t know existed until today. The beginning summary implies that there is a holiday in her name–Jenny Lind Porter Day, which I could not find by googling. That made me think of contacting Austin Mayor Steve Adler to suggest her birthdate, in fact, be declared a city holiday.
I decided against it after Sena wondered how likely it would be that it would happen–not very likely. I’m not an Austinite or even a Texan, so it would probably fail, which in turn reminded me of Adler’s commencement address at Huston-Tillotson University in 2015 in which one of the major points was that each graduate could consider his or her diploma “a license to fail.” The implication is that they must dare greatly and not let great failure stop them.
I also wondered what Colette Pierce Burnette, newly appointed first female president of the merged Huston-Tillotson University and only the second female president in the institutions’ 140-year history, would think of a suggestion to commemorate Dr. Porter’s career at H-T in some way given that she taught there from 1968 to 1996 and is in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. The year 1996 is when I graduated from my Psychiatry residency at Iowa. I gave up on the idea of contacting Burnette because I thought it would probably fail since I’m not a graduate of H-T. I transferred credit from Huston Tillotson College in order to return to Iowa and marry Sena.
Sena wondered if the best way to honor Dr. Porter’s memory might be to simply “live your life” in the way that would best exemplify the spirit of her own life. And she also thought the recent struggle over Casa Magni reminded her of one of our favorite movies, “Up” by Pixar, which is the story of how burdensome memories can be sometimes. At first I didn’t see the connection. We went for a walk…and I understood.
I remember the remarks at the June 2016 public meeting of the Austin Historic Landmark Commission about Dr. Porter being feeble and demented and needing help getting moved out of the house to–I don’t know where.
I remember the controversy over the feasibility of restoring Casa Magni at both the public meetings in June and July, a duel between practicality and faith.
I remember the remarks about the house being so full of junk that it took many dumpsters to haul it all away.
And I have wondered what Dr. Porter, if she could have seen the future long ago, might have thought of all this struggle going on over Casa Magni now and what she might have wanted.
If we just lived our lives as the adventure it is probably supposed to be…how can we fail?