Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Steven Ross - Day 3

I leave at the crack of dawn from Jackson, MS, fly to Charlotte, and then on to Lynchburg, VA. A short drive and I am at Sweet Briar College in Amherst, VA. As a Wesleyan grad who hated all things Amherst, I will have to cope. And cope I do. Sweet Briar is one of the most beautiful colleges I have ever seen. A small women-only liberal arts college (only 700 students), I am told by my gracious host, Eleanor Salotto (who teaches courses in English and Film Studies) that Sweet Briar has been ranked the third most beautiful campus in the United States (following Pepperdine and Princeton). It was founded by Indiana Fletcher (one year after her death) who had inherited her father's plantation - Sweet Briar - to commemorate the memory of her dear child Daisy who had died unexpectedly at the age of sixteen.

During the day, I travel back to Lynchburg and walk a bit of this sleepy and lovely town. Sitting on the banks of the James River, it had been a booming seat of commerce as late as the post-WW II. It is a town with a strong sense of its history. I visit a restored house named Point of Honor. This was George Cabell's mansion on the James River. Cabell was a friend and physician to Patrick Henry, and a frequent correspondent to Thomas Jefferson. I receive a personal tour of the house by a lovely lady from Lynchburg who certainly knew her history.

I am a mere two hours east of my beloved West Virginia (specifically, Bluefield, WV) where I participated in a shoot on and off for almost a year in the early 90s (West Virginia: A State History / a six hour PBS documentary). Bluefield, WV lies in the southern coal fields, and is not far from Matewan. I still have strong memories of that dark and provocative landscape.

At the evening's screening, I am surprised to receive a special introduction by one Kerry Scott. Officer Scott, now a Sweet Briar security officer, is a retired military attachee who had been in Liberia in December 2003 just two months after I had first been there. We swapped some good "war" stories, and I was happy to present him with a copy of the film. Ironically, he is about to return to Africa. Where? Of all places, Tanzania. He and a group of friends are going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and then move on to a safari in the Serengetti. I never had the courage (or stamina) to do the ascent, but the safari trip was probably the best vacation of my life. It was a pleasure to meet Officer Scott and all the nice people at Sweet Briar.

Tomorrow - Clemson University.