Tag Archives: travel

It’s a Big Wide World, The Conclusion

Taken from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

Taken from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

On Sunday the 21st, I spent the afternoon at the National Mall.  I had been once before, five years ago, my first time in DC.  That was right before the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was dedicated, and the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial was being renovated.  So for this trip I had some goals.  I also wanted to see the Jefferson and Korean War Memorials, a lot on tap for a few hours in the capitol.

I want to preface this post by noting that I am not a political sort, nor am I especially keen on historical markers.  But for some inexplicable reason, I find this end of the Mall so moving.  Not sure if I’ll get to the other end, maybe one day.  My hosts and I discussed that if I return next summer, Arlington Cemetery would be our destination, perhaps the Holocaust Museum too.  But for this day, we began at the Jefferson Memorial, and would wind our way toward Lincoln.

So, Thomas Jefferson….  He’s lost some luster over the years, but one can’t deny his accomplishments.  This memorial is less than one hundred years old, which surprised all within my party, although it feels as old as the Washington Monument.  I was struck by the views of course, the largess of Jefferson’s statue, but what hit me hardest was one of the quotes along the wall.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions.  But laws and constitutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.

Not sure how many folks fully grasp the power behind that statement.  Of course, taking photos at the Mall means capturing tourists, and we all had our reasons for being there.  I do hope some took a moment to read Jefferson’s words, reflecting upon that and other vital truths.

One of the many quotes in the FDR Memorial.

One of the many quotes in the FDR Memorial.

Words were everywhere we went, next to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.  This is a rambling memorial, covering FDR’s four terms in office.  I loved the waterfalls, appreciated Eleanor’s inclusion, snapping shots of most of FDR’s quotes.  I don’t know if today’s youth can properly grasp the Depression’s effect worldwide, nor the magnitude of WWII.  But there is plenty of food for thought, if one is willing to seek it.

As we approached the MLK Memorial, I photographed quotations which lead up to the monument.  Again, time is necessary to read over King’s messages; it’s one thing to know who these figures were, another to understand their impact upon society.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Intriguing to contrast King with Jefferson, both seeking freedom, yet one was a slaveholder.  Changes in laws and constitutions must be enacted to ensure our continued advancement as worthwhile human beings.

In reaching the Korean War Memorial, my thoughts were twofold; admiring the sculptures, also taking mental notes; the Korean War figures into my WIP, one of the reasons I wanted to see it.  The sculptures are magnificent, bringing home the corporeal message of battle; they were fashioned by Frank Gaylord, himself a veteran of WWII.  I imagined characters from The Hawk standing amid the juniper bushes, then pondered the number of US dead from that conflict, over 54,000 people lost.  (As an aside, that was over the course of just three years.  A similar number of lives were lost in Vietnam over the span of two decades.)

After that, my friends and I had a bite to eat at the nearby refreshment stand.  I still wanted to trek over to the Lincoln Memorial for pictures of the renovated Reflecting Pool.  We split into two groups, one which would fetch the car, while my group would wait near the Korean War Memorial, preferably on a bench under a lovely grove of trees.  And that was what happened, slightly interrupted by an impromptu rain shower.  Visiting the National Mall stirs many considerations, which are still with me days later.  I pleaded my West Coast upbringing more than once, was that why these memorials touch me so deeply?  Is it the history behind those honored, their convictions and sacrifices?

Maybe it’s a mix of all those notions alongside the appreciation for merely seeing these monuments.  Usually I spend my time in my little corner, but how fantastic to step into another, and within those acres find myself transported many years in the past as well as to a foreign land.  As a writer, I want to soak up myriad experiences so my characters ring as true as possible.  But as a human being, lifelong learning is a must, for as Jefferson also said: We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

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I look forward one day to accompanying my grandchildren to these monuments, sharing with them my gratitude for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And if we’re caught together in a thunderstorm, all the better.  We’ll chat about the day Grandma first saw Jefferson and Martin Luther King together, and just what that truly means.

Not long after I took this, the heavens opened….

It’s a Big Wide World, Midwest Version

The first leg of our trip was to see my husband’s family in the Midwest.  My sister and brother-in-law live on the shore of a lake, and for over twenty years it has been a fave holiday destination, that stretch of water similar to an ocean, although smaller, and with more distinct alterations.  While the tide doesn’t change, the water goes from calm to choppy, at times silent, often with a roar similar to waves breaking along the California coastline.  The best part of the lake is how easily accessible it is, just another part of the backyard.

Perhaps to focus only on one small section of water seems incongruous with today’s title, yet for this West Coast gal, upping sticks to the center of the country, even if for only a few days, is a major trek.  Then my world is widened by the embraces of relatives, their camaraderie and kindnesses further expanding my heart.  My sister-in-law saved little plastic animals we sent to her daughter, and now those toys are in my living room, waiting for another generation to claim their delights.  The Burrito loved playing with them, and I expect Little Miss and Grandmaster Z to find them just as fantastic.

I did no work while on holiday there, although I picked my brother-in-law’s brain for my next novel; he’s a builder and offered plenty of advice for the basis of the next tale.  I didn’t think much about The Hawk either, spending my time chasing after my grandson, walking the neighborhood with my other sister-in-law, or reveling in the peace offered by such a grand spectacle, be it dawn,

mid-day….

or late at night.

A good friend of my daughter’s drove from Indiana to visit; I’ve known that young lady since our days in the UK.  I chatted with my nephew, who I hadn’t seen in ages, and I observed my husband and his two sisters, how much they are alike, and their differences.  My youngest, her partner, and The Burrito were also in attendance, how blessed to have several generations together at once!  My husband’s mom turned 90 earlier this year, and it was great to see her with her great-grandson.

The Burrito also found the chickens a thrill; this place was like a wonderland for him, much as it has been for my children since they were his age.  And that’s another part of the expanse, memories being added as new family members are introduced to this magical land.  Sitting on the back deck, listening to water lapping along the shore, I found myself transported back to my first visit here in 1992; I was pregnant with my youngest, had never been west of Colorado.  Every time I return, it’s a mix of the past and present entwined, which increases the sense of how big is that moment, like my entire life has been spent near the healing waves or peaceful stillness.

Packing for the next leg of my journey, I recalled highlights; admiring stars in the night sky, taking my grandson for walks around the park, fantastic conversations with those I love.  While travel expands my sense of planetary scope, it’s time spent with my nearest and dearest to affect me the deepest.  And when these two notions are aligned, it’s as if time has no meaning, nor age, which I am finding a bit distracting, harrumph.  Crawling around the sleeping loft of the garage house, where my husband and I stayed, will be something for our children and their partners for next year.  And again my world is altered, as aging allows other traditions to emerge.

I might recapture the sense of being in my mid-twenties, but truthfully that was half my life ago.  And accepting one’s age is part of evolution too.  Years accrued elongate the horizon; perhaps age is a bigger element than I’ve ever previously noticed.  But it’s not overtly troublesome, other than making sure I don’t bump my head on a low ceiling first thing in the day.  For at night I can peer through trees, watching the sunset’s glory, the gentle hum of familiar voices announcing a perfect close to the day.

Summer holiday doesn’t get much better than that.

 

It’s a Big Wide World Indeed, The Prequel

After nearly two weeks away, it’s so good to be home!  I enjoyed time with family and friends, hanging out at the lake or visiting the nation’s capital.  Did some stitching and sewing and plenty of good eating, but this initial post-holiday piece focuses on my flight home yesterday.  The skies need to be noted before I get into what happened on the ground.

And to be honest, this post probably wouldn’t have emerged if not for what I saw on the last leg of my cross-country journey; I started Monday in Baltimore, heading for Silicon Valley.  Two stops, one in Minnesota, the other in Los Angeles, but schedules were smooth, and I kept myself busy with music and reading over what I’d just added to The Hawk.  My layover at Minneapolis/St. Paul was brief, but I managed a bowl of cereal with soy milk, charging up my phone for the haul across the southwest.  Back in Maryland, my hosts asked if heading to LA would be difficult what with the fires.  I said I didn’t think so, and sure enough, we landed safely at LAX with a minor two-minute walk to my next gate, providing me time to chat with my husband, who couldn’t wait to see me.

One of the best parts of coming home is being appreciated.

We discussed dinner; he had a watermelon in the fridge, which suited me perfectly.  We were thankful my flight was on time; he was leaving straight from work to collect me.  We noted that traveling becomes more wearisome as age steals some of our energy, but truthfully neither of us could complain outright, for his trip home had been fine, and mine seemed the same.  It makes for a long day, but after a couple of nights’ rest, life returns to relative normal, once the routines are reestablished.

Goodness knows I’m a creature of habit, but getting out of California is good for me, experiencing intriguing vistas only found far away.  Or up high in a plane where the scenery makes me snap shots that otherwise I’d never see.  As we left Los Angeles, I photographed the ocean, the remnants of fires in the background.

The haze grew worse as we ventured north.  Then suddenly amid the clouds appeared a large puff of smoke.  I kept snapping, wondering which fire this was, mesmerized from my vantage point.  The scene was unreal, yet all too authentic.  Clouds have always fascinated me, but this was wholly different.

As we flew past, the scope of that moment stayed with me; I’d just spent nearly two weeks in locales where summer rain is common, also plentiful.  As my flight passed from Nebraska into Colorado, the landscape began to alter, and by the time we flew over Denver, another America greeted me, that of mountains and high deserts, of rock and dryness and fire.  These two sides of The United States possess many opposing elements, but from green to grey to startling brown, the differences couldn’t be more stark.

On Sunday I’d stood in the rain at the National Mall, very near the Korean War Memorial.  Not even the trees could shelter me and a friend from that downpour, yet no rain falls in California in the summertime.  I shared that notion with my hosts as we drove back in a pounding storm; I grew up to the idea it never rained at all in summer.  Yet I spent much of Sunday in a muggy dampness that refreshed, also startled.  A day later, that notion was but a fleeting memory.   Yes I was home and glad to be so, but if only a little of that precipitation could have followed me.

As we reached the Bay Area, skies cleared some, but those images from minutes before remained within me.  When we landed, I was so excited to see my husband and be back in my element, which always seems more lovely when time has elapsed.  I mentioned what I’d seen, but in the exhilaration of being near my beloved, that cloud of smoke dissipated.  My hubby and I had been apart for nearly four days, and it wasn’t until later that I again considered the havoc, also the majestic but haunting beauty of that image.  Then I thought about this post.

This post-vacation entry was originally going to be packed with shots from the lake, some from the National Mall, with musings concerning how nice it was to get away.  Today’s title was what I’d come up with days ago, jotted down so I’d not forget it.  Hopefully I’ll find a minute to share those notions, although upon returning, there are revisions to complete, read-overs to do, place mats to make, some Christmas quilts to start, my goodness!  But in all those blessed and busy moments, first came this somewhat scattered but vital point; our planet is enormous and so volatile.  Floods destroy as easily as fire; Ellicott City in Maryland was recently devastated by saturating rains.  When I step out of my comfort zone, not only am I breathing in the goodness of those I love, I’m absorbing other vistas which broaden my outlook, increasing my empathy.  I’m no longer a world traveler, but America is vast enough to offer the opposing ends of the spectrum from one coast to the other.  Now back in dry California, I consider standing under that grove of trees as water dripped from leafy branches until our one dry spot was gone.  We stepped from that shelter onto the sidewalk across from a refreshments stand, watching as clouds passed over the Lincoln Memorial, the rain heading elsewhere.  If only it could find its way westward, I prayed….

Yours truly at the National Mall once the rain had stopped….