A Pilgrimage

23 Dec

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“If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy, “we shall sometime come to someplace” –Wizard of Oz

After a morning conversation with Mom about Granny’s flagging memory, this awful feeling has to change. Why is this huge and exciting place disturbing the small peace I had gained in Ocracoke?

Brunch was in order and after fussing about which to choose, I walked down the block to Birch and Barley. Marching in with a sunny smile at 10:45, I asked to eat at the bar. They acquiesced, but told me, “We don’t open until 11. You’ll need to wait outside.” In the cold? Seriously? Uh….no. Turning up 14th street, I took a left on the next block and found a small restaurant called Logan’s Tavern. The moment I walked in I knew, this is it. I feel happy.

The energy there was amazing, and the staff wonderful. I popped up to the bar and ordered a coffee and noticed the small sign which told me most everything on the menu comes from from local sources. Then, I spied a collection of gargoyles on the top of the bar. Yep, I’m in the right place. The bartender was so nice and the atmosphere simply sunny. It’s a place I could sit in for hours and not tire. Mornings ought to be comfortable in the sun, like a cat on the windowsill in winter sunshine. The hostess was quite friendly and she chatted with me while the day was just beginning. They all milled about mixing their tasks with friendship in great balance. The connections between them showed; that’s bound to spill over into service, I think. They chatted with me enough to make me feel welcome, but not too much to disturb my writing. I like a place like that. They all become part of my story. My french toast was so amazing I forgot to take a picture of it, but it was sprinkled with pecans and came with a massive load of eggs and a sweet peppery side of bacon. I had ordered only one egg, but I think it was almost four. I couldn’t eat it all, but it was altogether perfect.

After that tremendous breakfast, I walked all the way to the National Mall and then, around the tidal basin. It’s funny. I’ve lived here all my life and never really seen the monuments. So with camera and contemplation, I walked, and walked, and walked some more. This part of my journey has been like a pilgrimage, walking and letting go. Trying to be in the moment. Snapping picture upon picture, I continued. I tried to see each one as if for the first time on some grand European tour.

Each phrase gave me a reflection as if I actually was on pilgrimage.

Out of a Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope

Darkness cannot drive out Darkness, only Light can do that. Hate cannot drive out Hate, only Love can do that

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

With every stride, through every winding way, I was moved around inside my own thoughts, and it brought to mind a poem I teach, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. I thought back to the gravestones I have come to love on Ocracoke and this idea of why we raise them in memory of someone, to honor their part in the human story.

Yet e’en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

We all want to be remembered, to make our mark upon humanity in some small way. It seems at times the only way to immortality is through memory.

I ended up by the Smithsonian Castle at the end of this long walk, and I found a seed there that I need to water and grow. I’d never been into Smithsonian Castle before and through a fascinating exhibit on the civil war in Washington DC, I found a most interesting and handsome fellow: Robert Kennicott, a naturalist for the Smithsonian who died at 31. Something about his photo really captured my attention. I want to know more about him, his work, and the Megatherium Club, the group of men who lived in the Smithsonian Castle during four years of the Civil War.

This is someone hardly anyone has written about and he’s a mysterious fellow to be sure, and dashingly handsome, at least to me. As I took a cafe’ au lait and cake break at the castle, I began to allow my curiosity to fill me. My last stop of the day was the Natural History Museum, for one of the only books written about Kennicott was supposed to be sold there. I met a lovely gentleman who told me the book was sold out, but that I’d really need to go to the Chicago Institute of Science. That is where his papers are and more. Guess where I’ll be going in 2013?

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