Page Bridges of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Page Bridges)

Page Bridges of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Page Bridges)

Living and Growing: Heartbreak Hill

Trying to write about beauty and our need for it is hard. Here is a poet’s effort to explain, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.”

I think that when Keats says, “its loveliness increases,” it can be taken to mean that our appreciation of it increases over time. The more one is used to a beautiful place, the more one would miss it were it to be gone.

I wish I could collect all the laments I have heard and read from people about the beauty of Juneau’s past that they miss. Facebook even has comments from people who have moved away about how they are depressed about the changes to our charm and feng shui. Continuity is crucial. I wish I could show all the laments to the City and make them care that so much of our population is heartbroken.

The intoxicating beauty of where I grew up in Maryland has made it impossible for me to be happy without beauty in the surroundings. People in places where I lived which were ugly were undeniably depressed. Beauty saved me from a difficult childhood. I wrote about it in a book draft:

“In my daily life as a child, I was sustained by the beauty of nature and architecture, and in my mental life, by the beauty of music and art. Without nature, architecture, music, art and also literature — literature gave me role models, morality and hope — to sustain me, I would not have survived my childhood as a relatively normal person.”

Beauty is life-saving for people and communities. When I came here in 1987, Juneau was a paradise, charming, quaint, unique, with plenty of places to explore and enjoy. My first experience of heartbreak here was when our original Foodland changed hands. It was my favorite grocery store ever. The sign outside was blue and yellow with sunshine and growing grains. The employees wore blue and yellow and fairly skipped down the aisles. The aisles were wide, allowing for chatting with friends. Then, the aisles were narrowed and the colors changed to green and brown. Foodland is better now, but I will always miss the rapture of shopping in a blue and yellow store that was pretty.”

The change at Foodland happened in 1995. In 1997, I had to experience the near destruction of our beautiful historic neighborhood of Carrol Way and South Franklin. The process of replacing or overrunning beloved Juneau spots snowballed since then.

Our last refuge downtown is Telephone Hill. It is amazing to me that the first thing our City thinks of when acquiring it is to obliterate it. I am heartbroken at the thought, and if it really happens the heartbreak will be unbearable.

Telephone Hill has the oldest house in Juneau. The peace of walking through there and seeing that house and the others is indescribable. In our Episcopal church, we speak of the “peace that passes all understanding.” Every beautiful place of refuge is divine. When one walks through Telephone Hill, one is lifted. I have that feeling from my childhood of being able to be lost in reverie and joy.

The potential loss of this treasured place is heartbreaking, but even more heartbreaking to many of us is the loss of homes in which our friends live. Some people say this does not matter, but these special residents have maintained the beauty for us all. In addition, many of them are artsy in some form. Every town benefits from a bohemian area. Our friends are so happy living there, and why is that wrong and why does that not matter? The person people are talking about the most is Jeff Brown who worked for not very much at KTOO and entertained all of us, often for free, with his children’s shows, his joke publications and so much more. And he, crippled with Parkinson’s, should be evicted?

Breaking the hearts of so many people cannot add to the energy of our city. Let it be. Let Telephone Hill be a protected historic landmark district. Keep it as it is for a happy city and population.

• Page Bridges is a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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