Tag Archives: Washington DC

Last images of D.C….

gle-p1050914

I had spent five nights with Kate by the time she needed to return to work,
and I was ready to proceed on the next leg of my trip.
Many images of Washington, D.C. had been imprinted on my mind
and recorded by my camera.

p1050917
The Navy Memorial, showing western North America.

It looked like winter down by the Potomac, where in Georgetown
they were building up the ice rink for skating, “Coming Soon!”
A man was spreading the freezing water around with a sort of push broom.

gle-p1050918crp

We had been out for a yummy dinner in that neighborhood,
where I was surprised to see, next to buildings along broad sidewalks,
people bedding down for the night on the red bricks.

gle-2016-11-10-14-03-06
Unidentified building with square theme.

My time was up, I had my ticket in hand already, to depart on Train 86 – Northeast Regional Line, to visit my cousins in Philadelphia. Tom drove me to Union Station where I was immediately transported into a compartment of my mind where emotions linked to other train stations throughout my life seem to be stored all together.

My primary experiences of rail travel, thoroughly positive and exciting, were my childhood trips to see my grandmother. Then there was the year that I rode trains from Munich to Istanbul, and back to Amsterdam, young and alone and meeting strangers who were sometimes like angels. That was also my first experience of a huge railway depot like Victoria Station in London, where the first angels appeared.

Mr. Glad and I had a blissful train ride down the coast of California long ago, the day after becoming engaged…and with Pippin I experienced English railways in modern history. God only knows how to sort out all the train events, and speculate about what rivulets of that stream were running through my heart as I entered Union Station gawking. It was early enough that I could wander around a little and feel the vastness of space and excitement — though I think for most people it was routine, and for me the excitement was probably largely drawn from the well of memory.

gle-union-station

When I went through to my gate, I had some trouble finding the right queue to get into. I think I was just a little early, and after the earlier 8:10 boarded things were easier to figure out, partly because I asked people for help.

I should have put my suitcase in the floor-level storage area at the end of the car, but before thinking very long I just hefted it up, balancing it for a second on my head, and it landed in the overhead bin okay. Then I had two hours to look at the scenery, and to read or pray. I was a little downhearted for the first while – probably because I had left my dear daughter and son-in-law behind. Parting is the uncomfortable side of train-station drama.

Soon I was meeting more family and hugs at the other end of my ride and being taken care of again. And that will be the next happy chapter of my travel story.

The Library of Congress

p1050884
Ceiling of the Great Hall

The Library of Congress, the Thomas Jefferson Building, was a joy to visit, primarily for its architecture and design – which is not what I had anticipated. Before I had left home, when Kate suggested that we go there, I had naturally thought first of books, and exhibits about books.

We heard a story about how it ended up so beautiful: The first two construction attempts failed at the level of the foundation, and a third person was called in to complete the project. His son, who had recently graduated from the University of Beaux-Arts in Paris, took over the design and completion of the interior ornamentation. Or so our tour guide told us 🙂

When I was trying to review these facts online for this post, I discovered another version of the story in a book about “German Achievements in America.” That story does not mention any failure on the part of the original (German) architects, but rather emphasizes that they spent twenty years perfecting the design and were never given adequate credit for it.

p1050894
Main Reading Room

This page on the LOC site gives broader detail about the drama of these events — involving “the selection of the proper cement for the foundation” — and eventual completion in 1897 of the main building of the library, which was not named for Jefferson until 1980.

p1050904

Thomas Jefferson deserved to be honored this way, because he offered to sell his whole personal library to Congress after their collection of books was destroyed by fire in the War of 1812; at that time the library was stored in the Capitol. He said he would accept whatever price they decided upon. Previously they had owned only law books, but Jefferson persuaded them that “…there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer,” and they bought his 6,487 books for $23,950. That amount was based on the number and sizes of the books.

Jefferson’s generosity was not because he no longer needed what he named “unquestionably the choicest collection of books in the U.S.” He used the money gained to pay some of his debts, and began right away in a “frenzy” to assemble a replacement library for himself, saying, “I cannot live without books….”

gle-g-at-thomas-jefferson-library-exhibit-loc
(A little part of) Thomas Jefferson’s Library exhibit

Two-thirds of the new Jefferson library was destroyed by another fire in the Capitol, in 1851. In the last decades efforts have been made to restore all the books that were in the original collection bought from Jefferson, and by 2008 replacements had been found for all but 300 of the original books; together with the volumes not destroyed by fire, these all comprise the exhibit of Thomas Jefferson’s Library which has been on display since then. Though we wandered through a couple of other exhibits in the building, this one is where Kate and I spent the most time. I had been to Jefferson’s home at Monticello ten years ago, but through this unhurried perusal of his books I felt more connection to him than ever before.

p1050890

Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford, an appointee of Abraham Lincoln, had wanted the Library of Congress to be not just a resource for legislators but a library for the whole nation, and he was responsible for the copyright law of 1870,  which required every author of any copyrighted map, book, piece of music, etc., to deposit two copies in the Library. This method of acquiring materials worked very well, and soon Spofford was pressuring Congress to approve a separate building dedicated to housing the collection, and to do it quickly, because books “were being piled on the floor” and he could see that his job would soon devolve into “presiding over the greatest chaos in America.” Though it took 25 more years before the new building was ready to store the books in a more orderly fashion, Librarian Spofford stayed on all that time, presumably presiding over chaos with hope.

In order to fully appreciate all of the art and architecture of the Library, someone who knows as little as I of fine arts and literature would need days of viewing and background studies. Many short quotes decorate the walls, without reference to the work quoted, and I was curious about these. I did look up this one that I liked (below), and found that it is from a Shakespeare play. Though it is a statement about what we can learn not from books but from nature, I will close with it, as I myself must leave the Library and go now to explore some other good things.

gle-quote-crop
Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones,
and good in everything.

-William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”

Strolling Kate’s neighborhood.

gle-row-housesThough Kate has lived in Washington, DC for almost eleven years, I’d never spent a night in any of her dwellings before. This time, I stayed five nights with Tom and Kate in their apartment that I was seeing for the first time.

I am a country girl who lives in the suburbs – I’ve never in my life been a city-dweller. When I get the chance to take any kind of walking tour of a city with this much history, I find myself stopping and staring a lot. Just the brick row houses could keep me occupied for hours, if I had hours to spare.

131 neighborhoods are unofficially recognized in our nation’s capital. One of them in the “Old City” is Dupont Circle, arranged around streets that extend like spokes from the traffic circle that was part of the original plan for the city, designed for President George Washington in the 1790’s. This is Tom and Kate’s neighborhood for a few more months; you can see it just west of the center of this map:

dc_neighborhoods_map-lg

Pierre Charles L’Enfant was the architect who laid out the streets of what is now called the “Old City.” Much of the area was not developed until after the Civil War; in 1871 the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the traffic circle that was then called Pacific Circle. About ten years later Congress renamed it Dupont Circle after Samuel Francis Du Pont, to honor his service in the Civil War. He was the grandson of another Du Pont I heard about a few days later. Here is one of his original drawings:

dc-1280px-lenfant_plan_original-lg-ca-1794

I arrived in D.C. the day after the presidential election. The next morning Kate and I walked through her neighborhood….

gle-dupont-circle

…and on to the White House, where the President-Elect Donald Trump was meeting with President Obama. Some quiet demonstrators were there, too. Lots of construction was going on and we couldn’t get as close as usual.gle-demonstrators

gle-talking-at-the-white-house

This young woman was talking for as long as I would watch, to the boy in the Trump t-shirt. He was listening meekly. I wondered if he ever got a chance to talk, or had anything to say. There at the White House, I didn’t see anything hateful, and I don’t believe in speculating about the thoughts of other people’s hearts.

We spent quite a while touring the Renwick Gallery – so much beautiful artwork, which my pictures don’t do justice to, so I’ll just share one bit of Jennifer Trask’s art; she creates her designs with the antlers, teeth, and bones of many different animals including snakes, water buffalo and camels.

gle-bone-art

My daughter and her husband have been living the best kind of city life, the kind where you sleep, work and worship all in the same neighborhood. On Sunday we walked a couple of blocks to their church, the Cathedral of St. Mathew the Apostle, where I also had not been before. I was sorry to leave after the service, there were so many beautiful mosaics to gaze upon, and quotes from St. Francis in the side chapel dedicated to him.

img_3728

gle-st-mark-and-dome

 

 

 

Because that first photo blocks the face of St. Mark, I will share another, which shows a part of the beautiful dome, and all of St. Mark.

 

 

 

 

gle-st-francis-water

This quote from the prayers of St. Francis took my thoughts back home, where we really appreciate every drop of moisture that falls on our farms and gardens. Speaking of farms, Kate’s neighborhood boasts a farmer’s market, which we walked through after church, to sample fruit and salsa and pickled jalapeño okra. We bought apples and a jar of the okra.

gle-kate-apples

gle-columbian-embassy

Right next to that market is the Colombian Embassy, and in front of it a fiddler was busking.

A bookstore-café, Kramerbooks & Afterwords, is a popular spot in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. It was the first of this kind of duo to open in the capital. We browsed in there, too, and I even took pictures of books 🙂

gle-voting-dangerously

gle-speaking-american

Tom bought a different book that afternoon, Speaking American by Josh Katz, which kept us busy for hours afterward — and afterwords in this case — because it is full of statistics on regional differences in word usage: Do you say sneakers or tennis shoes, sub or hoagie? Maps show where you likely live, if you prefer one word or the other. Tom seemed to be “from” all over the place.

This example from the book shows something I already knew from living in that neighborhood for a few days, that in D.C. they say “traffic circle,” not “roundabout. But all in all, it’s a pretty inexact science.gle-speaking-american-exampleBeing in the nation’s capital during this particular week meant that I engaged in more political thinking and talk than is usual for me, but as a group we weren’t entirely consumed by the kind of emotions that the media stories seem determined to rouse. We were too busy exploring all the rich cultural, natural and even culinary riches to be had close at hand. Oh, yes, if you don’t mind I will indulge in just one food photo, of some coconut milk panna cotta I had for dessert at a restaurant that actually wasn’t in their neighborhood. We got there via Uber!

gle-panna-cotta

Another reason for our relative calm may be that we have been influenced throughout our lives by the truths and reality exemplified in another quote that I found in the neighborhood, right in Tom and Kate’s living room. The words from the Bible were part of a gift that Kate’s brother made for them the first year they were married, and they do help keep things in perspective.

gle-trip7

In my next post there will be more books, buildings and quotes.
Come back again if you also like this sort of thing!