I am not a picture person. Other people snap photos of vacations and occasions to remember them, but when I take photos I am too focused on getting the shot instead of being in and savoring the moment I'm trying to capture. When I spend my time taking pictures -- which I'll never look at again -- I always regret it. My way of remembering is to form an imprint in my mind of the event I want to remember, and writing about it solidifies that memory. So, even though it happened a week ago, I need to write about last Thursday night. If anyone reads it, that's just gravy!
David and I went to pick up a Dustbuster that someone offered on Freecycle. I am trying to be more spontaneous and romantic, so I suggested that we visit a national monument since it was such a beautiful night. It was around 80 degrees and breezy following a day of brutal sun. We decided to head to the Jefferson Memorial, because neither of us had seen it in years and never together. And, let's just be honest, because Thomas Jefferson kicked serious ass.
Let me diverge for a second: I've never understood adults talking about summer unless they had kids or took regular summer vacations. The concept of "summer," as a season during which routines change, never made sense to me. I felt like I was missing something, at odds with a culture that reveres summer. Off the top of my head I can think of several songs that perpetuate this vision: "The Boys of Summer," "Summer Nights," "Summer Loving" from Grease, "Cruel Summer," and "Stone in Love," with its chorus, "Those summer nights are callin', stone in love, can't help myself I'm fallin' stone in love." When people asked me how my summer was going, I'd think, "The same as the other three seasons, only hotter." In fact, remember those magic pictures where you had to focus just right to see the hidden image? I feel like everyone else saw the image -- the iconic summer -- except me.
But there was something in the quality of last Thursday night, where I got it: a magical, balmy feeling, like we were living in an alternate reality. The reality of summer. The windows were down and we were headed down 16th Street, passing iconic D.C. architecture like the Mason's The House of the Temple. We heard one of the most beautiful modern songs that I've ever heard, Live's "Run to the Water." It has a melodic, flowing chorus and lyrics that can be interpreted as a profound religious experience or a profound relationship. Or more accurately, both, like the Song of Songs. If you are at all inclined to enjoy rock music, please do yourself a favor and spend 4 minutes listening to "Run to the Water" on YouTube or Grooveshark. Seriously, this song is so beautiful it makes me cry and get goosebumps.
So it was in this hazy, altered mood that we drove past the White House and toward the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial. It was a good 15 minute walk from the parking lot, and David and I enjoyed a conversation about what makes a monument work. At first I thought it was a "they just don't make 'em like they used to" kind of thing because I dislike the modern FDR Memorial so much, but David reminded me that the Air Force Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial are also modern, yet totally effective. We concluded that the single biggest predictor of whether a monument is effective is whether it picks a point of view and sticks with it. The FDR Memorial tries to be all things to all people, so it succeeds in touching no one (or more fairly, neither of us).
We got quiet as we walked up the steps to the memorial, stopping to turn around and have a clear view of the Washington Monument. My heart filled with gratitude and awe as I held hands with my beloved, and then looked at my beloved, adopted city -- the place I had planned to live (and be buried in) since I was 14 because it held such a magical sway over me. I looked across the Tidal Basin at the city and back up at the pantheon surrounding the bronze statue of Jefferson. At that moment I was completely in the moment and stupendously, ridiculously happy. I totally had a moment out of the iconic Rush song "Time Stand Still," a testament to mindfulness:
"Time stand still
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
Time stand still
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away"
David and I took our time at the memorial, exploring it from all angles, and listening to a tour by a Park Service ranger. Stealing a long kiss behind one of the columns seemed like the most natural thing to do, and a ranger even moved away to give us privacy after shooting me a "get a room" look. I assure you we were not inappropriate.
It was really late and we had to be up early the next morning, so we headed back to the car, but not before paying a visit to the George Mason memorial, which neither of us had ever heard of, let alone seen. We eased back into reality, laughingly, when an Iron Maiden song came on the radio. I don't know what made that summer night so remarkable and magical, but it was, and I loved it. I felt grateful to be alive, grateful to be with David, grateful to feel up to having that adventure that night, given the delicate nature of my health, and grateful to live in this remarkable city.