Lake Lucerne and a Greek Slave in D.C.

Washington Monument July 6 2018

Last weekend, Friday July 6 through Monday July 9, my family spent it wandering around our historic nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.  We walked those four days and got quite the workout.  Except for the first day that was sweltering hot, transforming me into a soggy, drippy human puddle, the walk was absolutely beautiful and a good challenge to my under-exercised body.

Lincoln Memorial July 6 2018

We visited the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and Martin Luther King’s Memorial on the first day.

MLK Monument July 6 2018

On the second day, which was the most pleasant weather wise, we visited a few museums:  The Natural History Museum, American History Museum, and African American History Museum in the National Mall (all part of the Smithsonian).  My sons who had not been excited about coming, did enjoy some exhibits.  Both of them loved the butterfly pavilion and insect area in the Natural History Museum.

My oldest, Nicholas, also liked the African American History Museum.  We both did.  It was a very moving and impacting experience.  It is three stories full of the history of African Americans, starting with their origins in Africa to the slave ships, slave trade, sugar plantations and the like, and the distinguished men and women in the latter years, including Phillis Wheatley, for whom I wrote about in a blog post a couple of weeks ago!  That was especially cool for me to read an excerpt from her poem on display and see her statue.

Each floor progressed further in history.  The second story was my favorite.  It held the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights artifacts and videos.  It also had a special exhibit going on while we were there.  What timing!  They had on display for a limited time, the casket that young Emmett Till had been buried in until 2005/2006 (can’t remember which year, but it was one of them).  There was a line meandering through the second floor.  We waited about forty-five minutes or so to go into the room where the coffin was to read about it and look at it.

Gospel music was playing when we entered the room, which tested my ability to keep my tears at bay, and a large sized photograph of Emmett’s destroyed face taken by a newspaper (I think it was Jet) was in a gold picture frame set in the coffin representing him.  Thankfully, the casket was elevated, and the coffin’s ledge of the open casket was at my eye level, and I couldn’t see the photo.  Incidentally, I’d already seen the photo when I’d watched the excellent documentary Eyes on the Prize a couple of years ago.  I didn’t need to see it again.

My oldest son, Nicholas, was behind me sniffling.  He said he saw a sliver of the side of Emmett’s battered face and couldn’t bear to see anymore, so he looked away.  We walked out of there feeling the grief of the murder of a young boy.

A video was in an alcove explaining the murder of Emmett.  Nicholas, poor guy, shed many tears and sniffled a lot.  What a huge heart my son has!  I managed to stave off the tears that had collected in my eyes.

The next day we went to the Air and Space Museum and looked at all the airplanes and early aircrafts used to fly.  We also watched a twenty-five minute film in the planetarium on dark matter, which was fascinating.  Don’t ask me to explain dark matter because most of what was presented in the film was quite complicated.  But we collectively agreed that was the most interesting film we’d ever see in a planetarium, and we’d seen quite a few in the past!

Air and Space Museum July 8 2018

We then headed to one of the museums I’d been waiting for, the National Gallery of Art.  This was a HUGE edifice, as were the others, but this one had two unattached buildings that were a West and an East building.  We only got through the first floor and partially the bottom floor.  There was too much to take in in the few hours open and available to us!  But I saw the early art work by the American artists I’d studied last term in my American Art class, and that was really cool.

I took a picture of one of the paintings of my favorite landscape artist, Albert Bierstadt.  It’s called Lake Lucerne, if I remember correctly.  What a beauty!  I wanted to walk into the scene, it’s so peaceful and gorgeous.

Bierstadt painting lake Lucerne July 8 2018

Lastly, I took a picture of artist, Hiram Power’s incredibly beautiful sculpture, The Greek Slave.  I studied this piece in my American Art course.  It was quite the talk of the public and controversial at the time.  Here’s an excerpt on the story behind the sculpture via The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

“The full-length female nude represents a bound prisoner being sold in a Turkish slave market, an allusion to the atrocities that the Turks committed during the Greek War of Independence, and, by implication, to the ongoing debate over slavery in the United States. The Greek Slave toured American cities from Boston to New Orleans between 1847 and 1849, and again into the 1850s, where it drew huge crowds and brought forth, alternatively, outpourings of protest and praise. Miner Kellogg, manager of the statue’s organized tour, assembled a descriptive pamphlet emphasizing the figure’s “high moral and intellectual beauty,” suggesting that—though nude—it was “clothed” in Christian piety. The Greek Slave was also shown in London in 1845 and 1848, and was a centerpiece of the United States display at the Great Exhibition in 1851.”

The Greek Slave statue July 8 2018

I’d seen a black and white photo of it in a linked article in my American Art course and a color one in the printed textbook I have, but that did little justice to what I saw in person.  It was beyond beautiful in person.  A real brilliant and gorgeous work of art!

We then walked up to Chinatown that my son, Nicholas, wanted to see so much.  We bought a few souvenirs there and headed back to the hotel.

Chinatown DC July 8 2018.jpg

We finished off our vacation with a visit to Arlington Cemetery where we saw the graves of some well known figures in American history.

JFK grave July 9 2018

(John F. Kennedy grave)

Robert Kennedy July 9 2018

(Robert Kennedy grave)

Medgar Evers July 9 2018

We’ll be back some time soon to see all the other museums and the rest of the art museum!

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A Place That Brings You Joy

RMNP Colorado Rockies June 2017

Have you ever been to a place, or lived in a place that brought you such joy and peace that every day you looked out your window or stepped outside your door, you smiled at the grand and scenic landscape around you?

I grew up a military dependent, so we moved around every two to four years.  I was painfully shy growing up, and it took me many months to make friends, and that friendship was enjoyed for a couple years or less, and then it was off to another place.   The moves were difficult, but I adapted.  I kept in touch with my friends over the years via actual snail mail that seems unheard of these days, but it was great fun the years my friends and I wrote each other.  I still remember the excitement I felt when I got a letter from a friend.

The pattern of my emotions in each move consisted of initial sadness when I found out we were moving, to tingling anticipation in the last few weeks before moving day, wondering what the new place would be like.

Here’s a short history of where I’ve lived up to the place I found to be my happy haven.  I was born in Maine, and from there moved to Taiwan, then Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama, Germany, Illinois, Virginia again, and then Colorado.  All the states and Germany (which was amazing, clean, and gorgeous) pretty much had the same climate–four seasons, humid and hot in the summers, various bugs depending on the area….bigger ones down South (ugh).  So I knew no other type of climate other than hot, muggy buggy, and cold, humid in the winters. Until Colorado.

I remember when we drove into the state and I first stepped outside the car at the local Air Force Base’s gas station.  We were headed to the TLF (temporary lodging facility) until the house Dad and Mom had purchased, was ready to move in, as it was a new house in a new subdivision down in Castle Rock.  As soon as I stepped outside the vehicle, I noticed immediately the difference in the air.  It was light, thin, and fresh.  The sky was an incredible deep azure, with the sun shining so bright, it was nearly white.  Although it was mid summer, it didn’t feel as oppressive as it had in Virginia, Illinois, or Alabama.  And the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains, I caught my breath.  They dominated the western landscape, and demanded respect.  If it were at all possible in some type of sense, I fell in love with Colorado right then, and this has never dissipated.

Colorado Rockies and elk

I was blessed and lucky enough to have lived there twice.  The first time was from 1987 to 1995, and the second time was from 2007 to 2013.  Both times that I left this wonderful haven was not because I wanted to, but more because I didn’t really have a choice.  The first time was when I was in my early twenties, and my job was being phased out, and therefore, I moved south to Northern Louisiana where my parents had moved months before me, and also where my sister had been living for many years because her husband was from there.  The second time was because my husband believed he had a calling to the priesthood, and so we needed to go to Boston for him to attend the graduate school there.  But for several reasons, his degree at that time didn’t come to pass, and because our house in Colorado was being rented out, we couldn’t go back to it, and at that time, my husband wasn’t sure if he’d return to school at a later date.  Therefore, we ended up in Pennsylvania, the state in which my husband had grown up. Also, his family still resided there.

We settled in Lancaster, and struggled for the first year and half as my husband searched and applied for many jobs.  Finally, he was hired last May in 2017 at a local school district.

Lancaster is a lovely area dotted with many farms, rolling hills, and Amish buggies.

Lancaster, PA

We were fortunate to take a vacation back to Colorado in June of 2017 where we stayed at Estes Park in a beautiful, little rustic cabin and hiked the Rocky Mountain trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, and then visited our spiritual father and his family, and our parish family in Colorado Springs.  It was a great respite that truly felt euphoric.

Lancaster is charming, but we knew when we moved into our rental home here and know now that it really is a temporary place in which we have been blessed to regroup, work out personal issues, heal, and grow.

We don’t know how long we’ll be in Lancaster.  I only know that Colorado is always in my heart and in the back of my mind, and the urging to return never goes away.  My husband feels the same way, which works out well for us; no arguments or disagreements on where we want to retire.  God willing, we’ll return some time in the future to this glorious state that has me literally smiling and my heart soaring every time we drive into it and spot those majestic Rockies.

RMNP June 2017

Do you have a place that makes you happy and causes your heart to swell?

 

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An Encounter With St. Andrew

St. Andrew the first called

 

As my family and I stepped inside the Church of St. Andrew in the town of Patras, Greece, we immediately observed its huge interior with frescos and mosaics in brilliant colors encompassing the walls and ceiling. The large space was cool, and our feet shuffling on the marble floors echoed through it. Straight ahead was the narthex, or foyer of the church, and further in, the nave. There were chairs on either side of the aisle leading up to where the marble-laden icon screen stood, beautifully ornamented with the altar in the center.   Large crystal chandeliers hung down from the lofty ceiling, where in the center, the Pantocrator (Christ – ruler of all), painted in the dome, gazed down and blessed us.

Eventually, my sons and I, along with my mother, came to the white tomb where St. Andrew’s head lay under a silver and glass enclosure. Vases with beautiful flowers were on either side of it. I kneeled on the step before the tomb and bent my head, saying nothing at first. A glorious, mystical fragrance permeated the air around me. At first, I thought it was the flowers next to me on my left and right, but I leaned over and inhaled their scent, and none of them had this wondrous aroma. The smell closely resembled flowers. Gardenias, perhaps, but it wasn’t. It was emanating from the relic below the silver and glass box covering it. Moved to tears, I struggled to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. Just then, St. Andrew’s life and ministry flashed through my mind like a motion picture.  His pain at his crucifixion swept through me, and I caught my breath. I asked St. Andrew to pray for us , kissed the glass dome, and crossed myself.

Housed in wood and glass next to the marble sarcophagus were the original pieces of the cross on which St. Andrew was martyred. As I had done a moment ago at St. Andrew’s tomb where his head lay, I kissed the glass encasing the remnants of the wooden cross. My faith was affirmed and strengthened that day.

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This is a piece written for my Introduction to Creative Writing Class back in early 2015.  This is a true encounter I had with St. Andrew at the Cathedral named after him in Patras, Greece.  Below is a picture of my husband, sons, and I in 2010 standing in front of St. Andrew’s Cathedral on our trip to Greece in May 2010.

family in Patras, Greece May 2010

(Inside the nave of St. Andrew’s Cathedral)

St. Andrew's Cathedral

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Have you ever had encounters with Saints or the heavenly hosts?

 

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall Fell: A Personal Childhood Experience of Visiting East and West Berlin and the Wall

fall of berlin wall 1989

For the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), I am posting a short piece I wrote two years ago in my creative writing class that is a true story about my experiences, to the best of my recollection, in West and East Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie.

allied checkpoint charlie

Our tour bus rumbled to a stop at Checkpoint Charlie. It was a bitter cold day, and the gray sky promised an outpouring of heavy snow. A white guard tower occupied by East German soldiers with machine guns was just beyond the checkpoint and its red and white striped arm. Behind us, the museum on one side of the road and the pizza parlor on the other emitted liveliness and the typical aura of a well-visited venue for tourists — the West Side of Berlin.
As my family sat waiting in our seats on the bus, a man in a military uniform climbed into the vehicle with a scowl on his face. “Passports! Passports!” he shouted.
The man’s crimson face and bulky, rigid figure frightened me.
 I was sitting next to my mother, closest to the window. My dad and sister sat in front of us. Mom was clutching our passports, waiting nervously for the man to get to our row. I slid down the seat, hoping to disappear. He then stood over my mother. She quickly showed him our documentation. He continued down the narrow aisle, his boots punching the floor.
 Finally, he left, and the bus chugged through into East Berlin. As dreary as the pewter sky, the buildings and houses were drab in color and character with few people walking the sidewalks. Our bus passed one person sitting on a lonely bench, bundled up in a coat that seemed to mesh into his surroundings.
This childhood experience of East Berlin made a lasting impression on me that I can still see clearly to this day, over thirty years later.
berlin wall piece at RR Pres. Library
(A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library)