Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Alces alces success via Bruce

Yesterday I posted about heading for a "moose hunt" after completing the bathroom vanity project. Well, the photo to the right shows the result of that drive to somewhere between Eden and Belvidere, Vermont. I conducted the normal ritual that Bruce and I had: drive slowly along the road searching for a dark hump in the marsh or along the edge of Long Pond, turn around at 'three corners' and repeat over and over again until a moose was sighted or darkness fell to the valley floor. Never before on my many trips to this location did I have such a good look at moose, or, for so long! This cow and calf were munching for nearly 30 minutes while a small crowd of silent observers witnessed their grace and beauty while slurping underwater vegetation. Bruce would have been thrilled! While watching them I imagined what our conversation would have been and well, was a bit sad he was unable to come this time.

Today I drove Bruce's neighbor and long-time resident of Johnson to see Bruce. I had offered to drive here there (because she does not like driving in 'the city' any longer). I printed this same photo and left it on Bruce's small bedside table; he slept during our entire visit (he sleeps much of the time now).

Maggie and I had a discussion about life and death today on the long (ish) drive back to Johnson and also discussed teaching and learning. Later I thought about that discussion and thought about how much Bruce has taught me over the almost 7 years I have known him. He showed me my first Moose, showed me the beauty of Vermont, taught me to appreciate and care for nature, and accompanied me on countless birding trips where we saw many 'lifers' together. We traveled from all corners of Michigan to Ohio, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. We had great discussions, we ate lobster along the Atlantic coast, we canoed, we laughed, we debated politics (of which we agreed mostly on everything), we even had the great chance to publish a few things together and one forthcoming article. My next thought was of how could something like that friendship ever be repaid. Answer: It cannot. One should just pass these things along; hopefully I can have students and graduate students who I can pass the story of Bruce on to.

J.C. Springer


  1. Cheryl, Josh, and all caring for Bruce: Thank you so much for keeping us close to Bruce. You are all such caring friends. I know I have been so fortunate to have Bruce in my life, even though we were out of touch for many years - I was lucky enough to have reconnected with him some months ago. Bruce made such a great impact on so many people's lives. I first met him when we spent a semester in Mexico. Most of the friendships that came out of that trip are still strong today. Most of us are better people because of Bruce. Sending love and light to Bruce and to all caring for him.

  2. I too have thought a great deal about the impact that Bruce has had on my life. I am deeply saddened by the news of his failing health and wish that I had not let everyday life get in the way of keeping in touch. I have been thinking of the hours I spent in moose's office as well as the birding trips and how much I enjoyed the time I spent with him. I feel as if I have been to his home in Vermont from the stories he told and feel blessed to have had him as a teacher and a friend. I am left with a melancholy feeling that I am not able to tell him of the impact he has had on my life and how often I have thought of him and the lessons he taught me. I discovered new things about myself and the world around me with moose as my guide. I wish I was able to see him and share my thoughts with him one last time but am left with taking the trip only in my heart. I hope he knows how important he was to those who were fortunate enough to know him. I am praying for you Bruce and all who care for you. I am thankful you are being well taken care of and are surrounded by people who love you.

  3. I am fortunate to have been able to spend several days in June with you Bruce, in Door County and your old camping environs in Northern Wisconsin. We talked about the past 35 years of history we shared, the friends, the professors, the experiences, both happy and tragic. You got to visit with your Mom, Neil & Betty Harimann and Arden, too. I didn't believe you only had 3 months left and refused to say good-bye as I saw the flight attendant wheel you to the jetway. I told you I'd see you in September...I bought my tickets, and today I was supposed to be in Vermont, helping to care for you. Instead, I've canceled all the reservations and know your last days were spent surrounded by most of those people who meant the most to you and that those who could not be with you physically,were nonetheless with you and sent you on your way with love and affection.
    Your greatest wish was to spend your last days in your recliner looking out your big living room window at the natural wonders on the other side. Cheri & Mandy worked hard to give that to you and I know, despite your cancers and physical disabilities, you considered yourself lucky to have Cheri, Mandy, Josh and all the other caring people who expressed their friendship these last months. As you said in June, "There's nothing like cancer to bring out your old friends!" And it was said with gladness, without a hint of cynicism.
    I already miss you so much. I'll never look at another bird without thanking you for helping me appreciate them. One always expects to have so many more adventures...I wish I had made more time for you on your yearly visits.
    To Joan & Arden condolences. I know how much Bruce loved you both. I remember being introduced to you both back in college, although Bruce referred to Arden, then, as some form of wild animal as Arden and a friend were messing around on the lawn in front of their house.
    Bruce lived with dignity and faced death with dignity. He never complained or asked that question lesser people ask, "Why me?" As if it should have been someone else.
    Thank you, Bruce! The other Joan