Nancy Walker taught composition and rhetoric classes for years at Missouri State University, although when Great Scott and I attended her classes and sought her out in her third floor office, MSU was SMSU, Southwest Missouri State University. The transition from one name to another was difficult to make, almost as difficult as trying to imagine the university without her after her retirement a couple of years ago. To try to imagine the world without her will be harder yet. I do not think I can do it. I know I do not wish to. Blessedly, I do not have to. "Everything is to the point," she often said. That saying is only one of many things about her that has become as much a part of me as the permanent callous on the side of my right middle finger, the one worn by the friction of pen against flesh.
We had kept in loose contact over the last 15 years since my leaving all pretense of academia. Great Scott saw her occasionally after he began working again on a master's degree. Only last week I'd emailed her. This morning after reading of her death, I found one of her essays (excerpt below) in the online archives of The Oklahoma Review. She was a most exceptional person. She will be missed beyond measure.
A chickadee (life-span twelve years) chatters at the bird feeder, snatching a sunflower seed to relish on a near-by oak branch. A cardinal (life-span fifteen years) sits on an oak branch while the bluebirds (life-span eight years) dip in the bird bath. A bank of leaves surrounds the still-blooming geraniums -- the inevitable transition from autumn to winter when time goes south slowly.