Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let Us All Give Thanks

I have been reading Vernon Heaton’s The Mayflower and was reminded once again about the importance of giving thanks, regardless of our circumstances. Heaton chronicles the Pilgrim’s sixty-four day voyage as follows: “As the days drew into weeks, the weather steadily deteriorated: gale force winds blew up and the sea rose until the Mayflower found herself in the middle of a series of fierce storms. Below deck, the air grew stale, fetid and vitiated. Attempts to relieve the stench and drive out the stale air by opening the scuttles and hatches were frustrated by the rush of seawater that soaked the bedding, clothing and the bodies of the passengers. Seasickness broke out again and in the dank, stuffy … passenger holds, conditions became almost intolerable.”

About 15 years ago during a visit to Plymouth, MA, I had the good fortune to tour the Mayflower II. Obviously, the Mayflower II is a reproduction but if memory serves me, the ship builders made every effort to build a faithful reproduction. I still have vivid memories about how little space there was below deck; it was nearly impossible to stand upright and not knock your head on a beam. I can scarcely imagine how fowl the air must have become in the passenger holds when crowded with 102 Pilgrims.

Finally on November 9, 1620 “land ahoy” was called and the road trip from hell was nearly over. The Mayflower’s intended destination was the mouth of the Hudson River in New York State but the unrelenting storms had driven the ship far north. With winter upon them, the decision was made to find a suitable location to build winter quarters, finally on December 11th, the Pilgrims disembarked in what is now Plymouth, MA.

William Bradford, who was later chosen by the Pilgrims to be their first governor described their arrival as follows: “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. They had now no friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather beaten bodies, no houses or much less towns to repair to …..” Still, they all gave thanks!

As Thanksgiving approaches, if you have a roof over your head and your biggest worry is whether you turkey is organic or if it lived its life as a free range bird, then you have sufficient for which to give thanks. The older I get, the more I realize that life is more or less a matter of perspective, so lets all give thanks for what we have, regardless of how little it might be!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Washington DC - What A Place

In the continuing saga of working The Plan, I planned a vacation for my wife and myself to one of our most favorite destination, Washington DC. When discussing my goal with a friend recently, he informed me that as a retired person, you do not take vacations. Instead, you take trips to desired destinations. Ok, whatever!

Our first trip to Washington was in March of 1987 so needless to say, things have changed a bit since our last visit. In particular, security police were present at every location we visited along with endless metal detectors and bag inspections before entering any federal building. In some respects, it was as if we never left the airport and the TSA.

If you have never been to Washington, you are missing an experience which I believe has few equals. The opportunities to sight see are endless and every museum of the Smithsonian houses a national treasure that you should see before departing this earth.

Before you jump in the car and head to the "Big City", I offer the following recommendations for your considerations:
  1. Purchase a comfortable pair of walking shoes because you will need them. During our trip, we averaged five miles of walking per day.
  2. Get a guide book and read it before you go along with a map of the city.

  3. Develop a list of sights you want to visit and then establish priorities. Trust me, you will never see everything.
  4. The Smithsonian is not one museum, it's actually a complex of 16+ museums scattered across the city.

  5. Finally, forget about driving in the city because parking is extremely scarce. Ride the Metro subway or the bus.

I have included a few photos from our recent trip to hopefully peak your interest. As you might guess, most of the monuments and buildings are huge so it's difficult to get a picture without some of the endless distractions cause by construction, security fences, or traffic.

Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington is located about thirty miles south of the city but definitely worth the trip. In the photo, the house appears huge because of it's length but in reality it's much smaller because it's very narrow width. Once inside, you actually begin to feel a little claustrophobic.

This is the view of the Potomac River George Washington enjoyed while sitting on the back porch. It's easy to see why he loved the place so much.

A view of the main house from the upper gardens. We spent over two hours just exploring the grounds and gardens.

The Capital dome as seem from the Botanical Gardens.

The white structure in the distance is the Lincoln Memorial as seen from the World War II memorial.

The Washington Monument is visible from just about everywhere. This is how it appears from the World War II memorial.

The reflection wall inside of the Korean War memorial serves a reminder to all of us.

These soldiers are part of the Korean War Memorial

A volunteer polishing "The Wall" aka the Vietnam Memorial. The Wall is a very moving experience.

The boots of a fallen GI placed in from of The Wall

The World War II memorial looking east to the Atlantic Gate

The Jefferson Memorial as seen across the Tidal Pool

I was fascinated by the sheer size of the columns which support the roof over the Jefferson Memorial

Two fallen leaves from a Ginkgo tree located at the National Zoo