You see, I don’t love my legs, and I have very big feet. So when I wear tennis shoes, their clunkiness makes my feet look even bigger, and I feel like I lose whatever femininity my legs do possess. That’s the story behind my desire to only wear flip flops, dainty flats, or heels while visiting these beautiful cities.
But then the walking – oh the walking. And oh the pain in that one little spot on my foot that made me hear things in my head like “spur” and “foot surgery”. Between those thoughts and the knowledge that we would be touring Arlington that day, I didn’t even hesitate. Nike is our friend, People.
Arlington National Cemetery was everything I imagined D.C. to be. The hills and grassy spaces, anchored by beautiful white marble structures that represent all things good and noble about our country. The day was flanked by this – Arlington in the morning, the Lincoln Memorial at sunset. In the first two days I had things confirmed that I had thought to be true (e.g., it really is better to have a guide; they know so much more than you…) and I learned new things too (e.g., not all the gravestones in Arlington are the standard white military issue, because that wasn’t required until later).
On this day we saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was beautiful, as I knew it would be, but I also think it’s beautiful that there shouldn’t be unknown soldiers ever again thanks to DNA testing. And I was sobered by the image of every brave soldier who signs up for our military providing a bit of their DNA for this very reason. It’s amazing what theses men and women sign on for.
We went to the National Holocaust Memorial Museum next where I was sobered again, this time by the depth of human cruelty and the thrill, the hope, the tiny glimpse of humanity that rejects the common beliefs of their society and instead reaches out in love and compassion. That museum is absolutely amazing if you ever get a chance to go.
Next I walked in the footsteps of Benjamin Gates (i.e., Nicholas Cage in National Treasure) and viewed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. They are very old, and I was moved. We saw Ford’s Theater then and the Petersen House where President Lincoln died. I felt afraid as I viewed the balcony where he was shot and sad when I walked through the room where his wife waited for the news. That’s the beauty of these landmarks, they’re truly history preserved.
In the afternoon I discovered three more Smithsonian museums – Air and Space (the most visited museum in the world, I hear), American Indian (I really only got a glimpse of this one, but the building design is very, very cool), and the National Gallery of Art. I stepped outside of the heat into the latter and felt such immediate relief and serenity. The interior is so elegant and beautiful, for one. And then the exhibits so simple. At the other museums, I walked in and felt overwhelmed. There are videos playing, lines building, and words, words galore – far more than anyone could take the time to read. And I never knew where to begin or how long to spend at any one exhibit. (This, of course, was partly due to our compressed time frame which normal people would avoid in their itinerary). So when I stepped into the art gallery, I was so happy to stand before one simple painting at a time. And although our exploration of space amazes me, it’s way over my head. But here, I was in my element. Art, after all, is the way I approach my world as well. I sympathized and admired the people who attempted to capture their culture, and the history in which they lived, by painting or sculpting it.
That night we toured the monuments and memorials, my favorite part of D.C. I’m not sure there’s any view in our country like the one from the Lincoln Memorial. It’s just beautiful. And like all the other structures in D.C., I was overwhelmed by its size. There’s no way to capture it on paper or on film. It’s nothing like actually standing in its shadow for myself, and the thrill settled inside me to that place where I keep all the things that make this life so liveable.
I’ll tell you one thing, though. It’s a very strange thing to be out of toilet paper at the Ronald Reagan Building and paper towels at the Lincoln Memorial. The elegance didn’t always extend to every nook and crany, and I felt sad sometimes that our nation’s capital isn’t employed by the entire cast of Disney World.