Friday, March 26, 2010
Battlefields, Blossoms, Bikes, and Beavers
This city cannot seem to make up its mind about the weather. Last weekend it was sunny and in the mid-seventies and the mall was filled with sun bathers and kite fliers. I awoke today greeted by rain and temperatures in the upper forties that continued to drop throughout the day. I had to bring back my fur trooper cap, gloves, and jackets that had been all but packed away for the season in order to survive being posted outside the Washington Monument throughout the day.
Despite such conditions I still decided to take advantage of my new acquisition of a bike and ride into work this morning. After looking for quite a while on craigslist I succeeded in finding a bike for a good price and went and picked it up. I rode into work the very next day and have continued to do so nearly every day since! I am going to try and ride as much as I can. It is actually faster than taking the metro, doesn't cost anything, and gives me the exercise! It does make getting my uniform to work and carrying anything else with me a lot more challenging though!
I am excited to take advantage of some of the other trails in the area in the near future also. One that I really want to do is the Mt. Vernon Trail, stretching along the Potomac River from Theodore Roosevelt Island all the way down to Mt. Vernon. Someday soon I will tackle that one!
I did get to go explore Theodore Roosevelt Island this last Tuesday and also headed into Georgetown where I viewed the stairs where the preacher tumbles down in "the exorcist" and got free ice cream at Ben & Jerrys. Yay free ice cream day! I also encountered a bar bearing my name. Seriously. Why it is there I don't know, but I had to get a picture of course, and even went inside and ate dinner. The food wasn't anything special, and neither was the establishment, but it bears my name, so it was exciting!
On Wednesday I embarked upon a Civil War Battlefield adventure. Over the course of 14 hours I traveled south to Fredericksburg and visited five separate Civil War Battlefields: Fredericksburg, Salem's Church, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. It was great fun for me to be able to actually walk the fields and see where all these things I have read about actually occurred! Highlights included Chatham Manner, a beautiful old house overlooking the Rappahannok that was a staging point for the Army of the Potomac's attack upon Confederate forces on Marye's Heights in December, 1962. I got to see actually trenches and earthworks in several different places, especially notable in The Wilderness where the battle came alive before my eyes as I walked the ground where the men had fought and died so long ago. I saw the place where Stonewall Jackson fell at Chancellorsville, shot by his own men as he returned from scouting enemy lines. I stood in the spot where Robert E. Lee famously stated, "It is well that war is so terrible: otherwise we would grow too fond of it" as he looked over the fighting at Fredericksburg. I walked along the route taken by Winfield Scott Hancock and 20,000 fellow soldiers to take the "muleshoe" and bloody angle at Spotsylvania.
And as I walked amongst the fallen on these fields of battle I made a decision. In May I am going to be doing a special program about the "better angels of our nature" as reflected in the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War. I decided on Wednesday that I am going to do the program in full uniform as Chamberlain. It is going to require a tremendous amount of work and effort to do so, but it is such an amazing opportunity to do something I have always wanted to do and to actually portray a Civil War soldier while teaching people about some of the unique stories of the people actually taking part in the fighting.
My job continues to provide significant moments of connection with a wide variety of visitors and I continue to receive unforgettable opportunities. A few days ago I once again gave the MLK program at Lincoln, adding several new elements and giving a much more engaging and passionate talk than I ever have previously. This time I had more than 150 people gathered to listen to me tell the story of how our understanding of freedom and equality has evolved and expanded in the last two hundred and thirty years. It never ceases to humble and inspire me to see people set aside time on their vacation to hear what I have to say as I attempt to give meaning to the core ideals, not only of this country, but of all of humanity.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining a discussion group about the principles of Jesus meeting in the carriage house of George Mason's old manor house in Arlington. A special guest came and spoke about the fruits of the spirit and described fascinating connections and understandings of those fruits in ways I had never known or thought about before. It was wonderful to be challenged to process and think in that way! And I also (of course) had to add my own thoughts and ended up speaking about the cherry blossoms as symbols of living life to the full, self-control, meekness, and honor through the story of the Samurai and the significance of the blossoms to their culture.
Tomorrow marks the first true day of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, but the official beginning came yesterday when the Parks Service gave a press conference along the tidal basin. I was selected to play a crucial part of the event by portraying "Paddles" the Beaver, the official mascot of the festival. I shook hands, gave high fives, and looked very beaver-esque. I also made the news in several different venues. Three such appearances are available through the links below... (I'm the giant bug-eyed "hoaky" beaver)
I am actually portraying paddles again tomorrow for the first official day of the festival! As the crowds descend the blossoms are out and beginning to bloom all throughout the park, forming quite the inspiring sight!
Attached you will find a few picture marking the highlights of the last week.
More adventures to come!