I had reached Oklahoma and was staying with my daughter. I had things to attend to--a reading, friends to get together with, the sudden funeral of a poet friend, and--something I had been thinking about all summer--the memorial for my good friend Ingrid Schafer, who died this spring. The family asked the college to host her remembrance ceremony since USAO had been Ingrid's community for most of her adult life.
Ingrid was my editor for our college's interdisciplinary journal, Crosstimbers. I handled the poetry and fiction and helped with whatever she asked me to do, but Ingrid was its heartbeat, as once Cecil Lee had been. She loved the magazine, the way it brought people together from all over the world, the way it wove disciplines together, the process of creating it--content and sequence and making it into a beautiful object. It was good to share that ongoing project with her, and we had become much deeper friends as we worked on it together.
I wrote something about her but found myself saying only part of it and other things coming out. I'll put what I planned to say here, but I think the basic thing about Ingrid was that she saw the world as one. Very few people do that. For most people the world is divided into you and me or I and it or we and they. We are separate, atoms that do not join. Ingrid saw us joined. I loved her for that and honor her for it.
From the memorial:
You may hear people today praising Ingrid Shafer's scholarship, her intelligence—and, yes, she was a brilliant scholar. What I remember most about Ingrid, however, is not her intelligence but her heart.
When Ingrid moved to California to be with her son's family, she took over a little house by the pool and filled it with her books and her bed and her desk and many objects full of memory. It was a little space but mysterious, rich and dark, like her homes in Chickasha. Outside her door under the overhang she set up some plates with food for the birds and for her cat. I had to laugh when she sent me photos of what happened at the feeder—it was the Peaceable Kingdom—skunks ate alongside raccoons and possums and the cat—often at the same time. That was Ingrid. She set up a table and invited everyone in.
When I think about Ingrid, it is hard to find words. She was a person, of course, with her own quirks and interests—her fat dog Shiva and her cats, her delight in the Internet, her love of languages and ideas, the way she'd go without sleep carried on by her enthusiam for a project, her fractals, websites, and poetry. But she was something else too, a force, I'd like to say, though words may play me false here. That force was Oneness. Some might call it love. More than almost anyone I know Ingrid knew we were one—that all people, in different cultures, religions, skin colors, circumstances, are one people. She knew all the world, even past people, was one. And that understanding played out in so many ways.
We saw it in the students who lived in her house, in her patient counseling of anyone who came with a problem, in her faith in students who wanted to change their lives for the better. Given a chance to create courses, what did she create? World Thought, multi-cultural, interdisciplinary. Her childhood horror at the Holocaust—an evil diametrically opposed to oneness—led to work to reduce anti-Semitism. She advocated for interreligious and intercultural dialogue. She worked for a Christianity that is more loving, more flexible, that sees God as “ unconditional all-embracing universal love .”
Ingrid was a loyal and deeply feeling friend, from her childhood friend, Bernadean, to Andrew Greely with whom she shared a vision of a loving church, to Larry Magrath here at USAO. She and Larry team taught in World Thought together, and students mentioned how their disputes enlivened the class. They discussed ideas out of class too, and wrote together. She organized Larry's memorial after his death, and even in the last year of her life she told me how much she missed him.
I always wanted to be friends with Ingrid too, and we were in a minor way while I was here, but our friendship did not really deepen until we worked together to put out Crosstimbers, which we did for seven years or so. There is nothing like an ongoing project to show you another person. You make decisions, you deal with problems, you communicate with a host of people, you create—all of it together. What I saw working with Ingrid was her respect for other people—how she listened to writers, how she helped them patiently—far more than most editors would, how she went past the formalities and established relationships. What she calls “seeds of loving-kindness”--small actions of acknowledging other people, giving to them--were clearly present in the way she went about her work as an editor. I believe Ingrid followed what she called the “Prime Directive,” of being “gentle and generous and caring.”
Ingrid shared a poem about an experience she had as a child. Here is part of it:
In 1944 when I was five
I had a friend,
a girl from the Ukraine, about
nine years older than I, doing
forced labor on a farm
where I used to play.
When the sirens stopped screaming
and we sat huddled
in the thick-walled kitchen
with the smoke-blackened vaulted
ceiling, waiting for the
hiss of the bombs, she
would hug me close
and talk softly of her home
mixing German with words
I did not know,
and yet I understood.
I felt her thin frame shiver
beneath the flower print dress
as she told me of her father,
crippled with arthritis,
a gentle, scholarly man
a school teacher
who needed her to be his
hands and fingers.
"Who is tying his shoe laces now?"
she asked, and her hot tears
washed my face and mingled
in that thick-walled kitchen
with the smoke-darkened ceiling
at Gerersdorf 1.
Ingrid has always been a force for love in this world. She still is.