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!

~*~*~*~

 

 

Pieces of Paradisiacal Prose

butterfly beauty

We all know and enjoy the written beauty that is found in poetry.  I know we readers also appreciate beautiful prose in fiction (and in creative nonfiction). When I come across such glorious text, I have to read it at least three times, drinking in the imagery, language, and writing style of the author’s work.  I’ve read a few books in the past two year mostly for my World Literature and Romantic Literature classes, and some of the writing really struck me at how stunning and masterfully written it was.  So, I’m going to share with you a few excerpts from three books.

plain truth book

First is a more contemporary piece.  It’s a piece of lovely writing from author, Jodi Picoult, in her novel, Plain Truth, that I read in my free time and finished a couple of weeks ago.  One of the main characters has been longing to have a child for the past several years, and she finds out she’s pregnant, which is a total surprise to her.  Here’s what the text says:

In the past five years, I had wanted a baby so much I ached. I would wake up sometimes beside Stephen and feel my arms throb, as if I had been holding a newborn weight the whole night. I would see an infant in a stroller and feel my whole body reach; I would mark my monthly period on the calendar with the sense that my life was passing me by. I wanted to grow something under my heart. I wanted to breathe, to eat, to blossom for someone else.

As a mother of two sons, I can not only relate to these words of hope, longing, and love, but also admire how she wrote it.

 

dr. jekyll & mr. hyde book

I read excerpts from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my World Literature class several months ago, and I fell in love with Stevenson’s writing style.  It was beautiful.  Beautiful prose about the struggle of good and evil within a person.  I do plan to read the whole story one of these days!  The excerpt I’m going to share is the evil side that possessed the doctor as Hyde whenever he drank that nasty potion!

Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror. A mist dispersed; I saw my life to be forfeit; and fled from the scene of these excesses, at once glorying and trembling, my lust of evil gratified and stimulated, my love of life screwed to the topmost peg. I ran to the house in Soho, and (to make assurance doubly sure) destroyed my papers; thence I set out through the lamplit streets, in the same divided ecstasy of mind, gloating on my crime, light-headedly devising others in the future, and yet still hastening and still hearkening in my wake for the steps of the avenger. Hyde had a song upon his lips as he compounded the draught, and as he drank it, pledged the dead man. The pangs of transformation had not done tearing him, before Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. The veil of self-indulgence was rent from head to foot, I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood, when I had walked with my father’s hand, and through the self-denying toils of my professional life, to arrive again and again, with the same sense of unreality, at the damned horrors of the evening. I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul.

Nearly all of Dr. Jekyll’s confession at the end of the book is like a psalmody.  Amazing and glorious writing style.

 

the last man by mary shelley

Lastly, I read The Last Man by Mary Shelley for my Romantic Literature class and absolutely fell in love with Shelley’s poetic, beautiful, flowing prose.  I was so moved by it, I read it at least five times, and to my husband, son, and friend.  It has to be some of the best writing I’ve ever laid eyes on!  Here are three excerpts of her aesthetic work:

The laughing morning air filled them while sun-light bathed earth, sky and ocean–the placid waves divided to receive our keel, and playfully kissed the dark sides of our little skiff, murmuring a welcome.

Behold us now in our frail tenement, hemmed in by hungry, roaring waves, buffeted by winds.  In the inky east two vast clouds, sailing contrary ways, met; the lightning leapt forth, and the hoarse thunder muttered.

I thought I saw Adrian at no great distance from me, clinging to an oar; I sprung from my hold, and with energy beyond my human strength, I dashed aside the waters as I strove to lay hold of him.  As that hope failed, instinctive love of life animated me, and feelings of contention, as if a hostile will combated with mine.  I breasted the surges, and flung them from me as I would the opposing front and sharpened claws of a lion about to enfang my bosom.  When I had been beaten down by one wave, I rose on another, while I felt bitter pride curl my lip.

 

Unbelievable talent!  I hope these pieces of paradisiacal prose made your day and life richer and more beautiful. 🙂  I’d love to see your favorite excerpts of aesthetic writings.  Please feel free to share them below. 🙂

 

~*~*~*~