Happy Anniversary, Pittsburgh

Heinz Chapel interior.
Heinz Chapel interior.
Heinz Chapel interior.

This week marks seven years of living in Pittsburgh for me. Seven years since my parents, my cat, and I drove to Pittsburgh with a trailer full of furniture and books. Seven years.

On Wednesday, I guided students from Young Writers around Pitt’s campus on a writing walking tour called “Migratory Meditations.” We walked routes through Schenley Plaza that I remember forging for myself seven years ago.

Schenley Plaza is quite the remarkable space. There’s not many places on this planet where you can view the world and history from one spot–
gothic spires
cathedral ceilings
broccoli trees
log cabin
wire globe
Italian fountain
Pakistani food scent
creamy bubble tea
bronze dinosaur in a party hat

I was passing through the time and space of my own life even as I passed through the time and space of the world. During my seven years in Pittsburgh, I have passed through this plaza in many times and ways–
walking to campus for the first time as a wide-eyed new grad student
driving famous authors around campus before readings
riding in a limo for a friends’ wedding
experimenting with performative yoga and drawing with the body
wondering what it would be like to have a significant other
obsessing over emails from a man in South Carolina
meeting up with my husband (that same man!) outside the music hall
waiting–seven months pregnant–for my husband to pick me up from school
pushing my daughter in a stroller around the plaza

It’s been an intense seven years. Here we are, Pittsburgh. You and me. You have given me new life, love, and family, and renewed my belief in God.

If I were to pick a campus building to symbolize my time in Pittsburgh, it would not be the Cathedral of Learning–my professional home of the past seven years. The building that embodies my Pittsburgh time is across the lawn from the Cathedral–the Heinz Memorial Chapel.

Heinz Chapel is known for its stained glass windows–both traditional stained glass depictions of Jesus, his birth and crucifixion, as well as four themed windows: courage, temperance, tolerance, and truth. Inside the truth window are people like Sir Isaac Newton and Emily Dickinson.

Words in photo say, "I have been a passionate defender of the truth." Heinz Chapel.
Words in photo say, “I have been a passionate defender of the truth.” Heinz Chapel.

Truth-seekers of both science and poetry.

Truth-seekers of both history and myth.

Truth-seekers of both sacred and secular.

The University of Pittsburgh was my first step outside of Christian education. It is where my own faith has walked through the fire of disbelieving, post-colonial academia and come out completely transformed, made new, and still whole. Whereas before I could not imagine teaching without talking about God, I now love teaching in a secular setting. I love helping students find their writing voices, finding out more about who they are, who God created them to be (whether or not I ever mention God).

My faith now honors the human search for truth, the human search–I believe for God and Christ–wherever truth can is found. God became man. God became incarnate, and I believe God’s truth is incarnate in this world, whether it is found in the science of the body, of creation, of poetry, of other religions. Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free.”

It was in Pittsburgh that Jesus’ truth began setting me free.

Happy Anniversary, Pittsburgh.

All photos from April, 2010, when I graduated from Pitt's MFA program, my reason for moving to Pittsburgh in the first place.
All photos from April, 2010, when I graduated from Pitt’s MFA program, my reason for moving to Pittsburgh in the first place.
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