VAUGHAN: Lighting up places and luck

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 12:03 PM

Today’s column is a variety pack – something for each of you. First, a follow up to my January column on “Illuminating Durham Corners,” about places of significance – for whatever reason – in Durham. I received a letter from Anne Hamilton Daye, who told me about the corner she finds very interesting and beautiful. Believe it or not, she says, it is Mutual Heights at the corner of Fayetteville Street and Cornwallis Road. The streets meet again elsewhere in Durham, but the corner she’s talking about is across from Beechwood Cemetery.

“I believe everyone who has witnessed this wonderful transformation can truly appreciate the work that was done on this corner that has indeed contributed to the beauty of this part of Durham,” Daye wrote.

I’ve only seen the after, not the before, but I can agree with her. They’re nice apartments to look at while you’re sitting at the light before heading one way to Hillside or the other way to N.C. Central. Another Daye pick is the illuminated Prayer Walk around White Rock Baptist Church, which I’ll have to check out sometime. She said “the serenity of the Prayer Walk certainly puts me in a spiritual mood.” Thank you, Ms. Daye, for illuminating two more Durham corners. Anyone else? How about in Chapel Hill? I’ll get you started: a little town water grate on a brick sidewalk somewhere near the UNC Arboretum. Why? Because I once took a photo of a cute little chipmunk perched by it.




It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so I would be remiss in not wishing you the luck of the Irish. I’m going to bring you down now, then hopefully raise you back up. I never thought too much about the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s until reading a novel set during it, which I reviewed for our Books section last week.

I have Irish heritage, but I don’t know anything more than last names. Folklore aside, Ireland is an intriguing mystery to so many Americans who live here today as a result of an Irish person leaving the Emerald Isle long, long ago. The shamrock is a key part of the U.S. ancestral tapestry. I think that’s why so many Americans like to revel in it today, St. Patrick’s Day. It could also be that Americans enjoy an excuse to drink, celebrate and wear green. But there’s affection for the Irish in it, too.

Plus, we like the idea of luck. It could be argued that the Irish, what with the famine and struggle to successfully immigrate to America, have bad luck. Or maybe good luck, in that though so many died, so too did so many live.

Durham World War II veteran Thurman Scott told me once, “Luck is measured in feet and inches.” He was referring to who survives battle and who doesn’t. Whether you believe in providence or luck, the reality of both is that we don’t know what will happen. As the saying goes, “You make your own luck.” Assuming, of course, someone or something else isn’t doing their best to interfere with it.


Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at or 919-419-6563.