Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: Illuminating Durham corners

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 10:20 AM

Lucky number seven. That’s where I am in years spent at The Herald-Sun, typing away every weekday and some weekends. I’ve gotten to know Durham in a way that a lot people don’t, meeting people and going places I likely would not in a different profession. Most people operate in circles of work, home, faith, friends, food and shopping. A map of a reporter’s daily doings would show straight lines to and fro, making up a new dozen-pointed star each week. We cover a lot of ground. You could drop me anywhere in the city and I could find my way out by following my nose. Now, I couldn’t tell you which street to turn left on, then right on, then right again. But I could tell you which building (which used to be a different building) I take a left near.
As someone who treads these many star points in Durham, I know that the constellation of you all sees them, too. So let’s talk about some of these unique corners. A few of you will relate to one, a few more to another.
First: The screen door to the back entrance of Shepherds House United Methodist Church at the corner of Driver and East Main streets. It’s location in North-East Central Durham is purposeful for the events I cover there – gatherings of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. The back door is on a spring but still makes a noise as it smacks back into place after someone comes or goes. That’s the door used because it’s closest to the fellowship hall, but it’s symbolic, too. No heavy church door to pull open; no formalities. Just coming in the screen door in back, to a place where everyone goes around and tells who they are and why they’re there, and what can be done to better Durham.
I suppose since I’m writing about seven years of covering Durham, I should point out seven places. Second in the lineup: The little carved wooden mouse behind the wood pulpit at Duke Chapel. I love this little church mouse first pointed out to me by chapel custodian Oscar Dantzler. The mouse watches over preachers, speakers, students, politicians and notable names that visit the Gothic building year in and year out. The organ is refurbished, yet the little mouse stays put. The seasons come and go. The students enter and graduate. Sunlight illuminates the stained glass windows and darkness clouds them. And still, the little church mouse remains. Steadfast. Comforting. Small but mighty.
Third: That bench under the tree at Forest Hills Park. You know the one. Sits alone, often empty, facing a field with its back to the road. If you’re driving toward downtown on University Drive, it’s there to the right. The tree that shades it is a beautiful one – if you know what kind, please tell me. There’s just something about that bench and tree – something peaceful, something relaxing. It’s not facing the street. It’s not at a bus stop. It’s just one bench, not bleachers. It’s plain. It’s great.
I’ve taken up more than my usual amount of space and listed just three little stars of Durham, so I’ll revisit the list another time. If you have any corners you’d like to shine a light on, let me know.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.