Through a Glass Brightly

In February, the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center got a new window. I got one the same week, a replacement for glass broken by a flung ice ball, but mine is nothing like this. The new library window is a stained glass tribute to the work of Zora Neale Hurston, writer of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Hurston window joins an illustrious group of such tributes to renowned authors, but is remarkable among the group in several ways. It is the first new library window in decades, for one. It was given by generous donations from alumni, students and faculty of the English programs at St. Thomas, for another. But more important, it is the first honoring a woman.

My window just keeps the cold wind off the porch, but Hurston’s inspires and encourages women and people of color who enter the library. Honoring her in a way honors all who have overcome obstacles, differences and disadvantages to find their paths and offers hope in times of discouragement.

In the dedication ceremony for the window, Dr. Joan Piorkowski, professor of English, read from Hurston’s work, Their Eyes Were Watching God. In this, her major work, Florida plantation workers are struck by a hurricane off the Okefenokee swamp. For strength, they cling to each other, to hope for the future, to their memories, to God. The window itself represents this moment in rich, vibrant colors.

Other windows range from inspiring to whimsical. I have a number of favorites. Pascal’s Pensees abstract vies with the weird sisters of Macbeth.

Even in the age of electronic access, the library continues to set records for number of visitors – even prior to the new coffee bar. For regular visitors, I have a Jeopardy challenge. The answers are:

  • The writer who has two windows in his honor.
  • The author whose window sports a bunny, (You lose points if you say Hugh Hefner.)
  • The author whose window features a large red eye seen through a magnifying class.
  • The work commemorated by onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches with red flames and green olive branches.

Searching for questions to match these answers or looking for your own favorites can be an excellent diversion and work-avoidance strategy when needed. Inspiration is there, too.