cocktail hour on the mossy patio

Sunday, August 30:  I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve invited you over for a cocktail hour.  I’m so happy to see you!  It’s taken me a long while to get settled in back home here in Virginia.  Please come in and help yourself to a drink. I have some Bud Light Lime, which Mike calls a fake beer but I find cool and refreshing in the summer heat, and some Montes Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you prefer a cool glass of white wine, I have some La Granja verdejo viura, a Spanish wine I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  Though the weather’s warm (88 F today), we haven’t had humidity all week, so it’s quite pleasant outside this evening.  We’ll have a seat on my patio, covered in moss as it as, as there really is nowhere else to sit outside.

me on the moss-covered patio
me on the moss-covered patio

Our house here in Oakton is rather a mess, so I apologize.  Our kitchen and deck badly need replacing, and we’ll be embarking on a major construction project soon to redo the kitchen, possibly knocking down the wall between our family room and kitchen.  We’ll also tear down the deck and replace it with a screened-in porch, and change our laundry room into a mudroom/pantry/laundry room.  Because of this, the only good place I have for us to sit outdoors is on our patio, which is also in a state of disrepair and is covered in that moss.  It’s Virginia, after all, a state prone to damp summers and wild foliage growth, so the moss taking over our patio isn’t a total surprise.

Mike suggested I have the cocktail hour on the patio, and he quipped, “Unlike our mossy patio, no moss will grow on this rolling stone” (meaning me).  He is endlessly patient with me and my restlessness and my wanderings. I don’t know why he puts up with it; maybe he enjoys having a break from me after going on 27 years of marriage (with a 7 year break ending in 2013). 🙂  Anyway, he’s joining us tonight, so you can ask him yourself!

Please, tell me all about you.  Have you been enjoying the last bits of summer?  Have you traveled to exotic lands or had a staycation?  Have you gone to any outdoor concerts or plays?  Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges?  Have you been on any retreats?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners?  Have you eaten at any good restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  Have you harvested fresh vegetables from your garden?  Have you been to the beach, or gone swimming in a lake?  Have you been exercising and eating healthy? Have you been on any shopping sprees?

The one thing I have done most religiously since I returned home is to exercise every day.  I started out walking every day for 3 miles.  I’ve only missed two days since I returned home, so I’m quite proud of myself.  I gained 7 pounds when I was in China, and I was already heavier than I would have liked BEFORE I left for China.  Thus, I have been keeping track of my calories and exercise on my fitness pal, and so far I’ve lost the 7 pounds I gained in China and am working on losing more. Here’s a chart of my weight loss, which mistakenly states that I started at 150 lbs.  My actual weight when I returned from China and California (where I went a little crazy with American food!) was 152.2.  As of today, I’m at 144.8.  I’m really hoping to stick it out and get down to 135!!

Slowly but surely chipping away!
Slowly but surely chipping away!

A couple of weeks ago, I started going to Oak Marr RECenter twice a week to work out with weights.  Last week, I started going to a Zumba class.  I’m so hopelessly uncoordinated, but it’s a great workout and lots of fun! I sweat like crazy for an hour, so it must be doing some good.  I don’t feel so bad about being uncoordinated as there are a bunch of Korean and Japanese ladies in the class who seem almost as uncoordinated as I am.  I’m not going to let it bother me that I can’t get the steps right; I’m just going to enjoy it and poke fun at myself for my hopeless inability to keep up!

While I was in China, I had set up an appointment with a GI for August 3 because I had been so sick in China all year. However, as soon as I got home, all my stomach problems mysteriously disappeared. Hmm.  Since the appointment had already been set up, I went in to see the doctor anyway.  He was baffled as to why I had come in, and he told me to keep eating healthy and exercising and I would probably continue to feel fine.

I helped Alex, my oldest son, move to Richmond at the end of July.  He’s now attending Virginia Commonwealth University, where he hopes to get a degree in Exercise Science.  His sister, Sarah, already lives in Richmond and should finally finish her degree in English at the end of the fall semester.  Here is Alex’s new house and him in his room with his sister. Sorry the pictures are a little blurry, but my camera has been acting up.  I will need to be looking for a new camera sometime soon, possibly by my birthday on October 25. This will be my 60th.  Ouch. 🙂

Alex's new abode in Richmond
Alex’s new abode in Richmond
Alex's room
Alex’s room
Sarah and Alex in his new room
Sarah and Alex in his new room

Other than exercising, I’ve been working on a 5-hour free grammar course (more like 10+ hours!) and a pre-task for the course I’m taking beginning September 21 at Teaching House, which runs the University of Cambridge CELTA (the Certificate in English Language Teaching), the most widely accepted TESOL program in the world.  It’s a month-long highly intensive course. I think I won’t have a life during that month, or in the coming weeks, as I prepare for the course.

I was surprised on Thursday, August 6, to get a text message from one of my Chinese students, Christine.  She wrote that she was on a train from New York to Washington with her mother and they hoped to take me out to dinner in Washington.  It turned out that Mike and I trekked downtown and took Christine and her mother to the Lincoln Restaurant.  Christine’s English is not bad, and her mother could understand and speak limited English.  When the server tried to explain the complex dishes, such a far stretch from Chinese dishes, Christine said immediately that all she wanted was meat.  She ordered the plate of BBQ ribs, and we had to demonstrate how she should eat them! The plate was almost as big as she is.  Neither she nor her mother had any interest in the small plates Mike and I ordered: Ricotta gnocchi, Shrimp & Grits, and the Pennsylvania Chicken Pot Pie.  When the waitress put the Shishito Pepper Hush Puppies on the table, Christine asked tentatively: “Is that dog meat?” We were taken aback momentarily by her misunderstanding of the word “puppies,” and we all got quite a laugh out of it. 🙂

Christine, me, and her mom, Li
Christine, me, and her mom, Li
Li, Christine and Mike
Li, Christine and Mike
Me with Mike
Me with Mike

Our dinner with Christine was on Friday, August 7, and on Sunday, the 9th, Mike and I went downtown to Arena Stage to see the emotionally moving musical, Dear Evan Hansen. The play explores how far we’ll go to fulfill our need for connection.  According to the playbill: “In our social media world where ‘friend’ is now a verb, and we only share the highlights of our life, what happens when we reveal our true thoughts and feelings?”  The sets were wonderfully done, with columns displaying Tweets and Facebook posts and rotating sets of Evan’s bedroom and the living room of a family whose son committed suicide.  The opening number of the play brought tears to my eyes, as I know how isolating our digitally connected society is for young people, and frankly, for all of us.  It was a phenomenal performance.

The following weekend, August 14-16, I went to Richmond to have dinner with Sarah and Alex at a Greek restaurant called Stella’s and then drove from there to Monterey in southwestern Virginia, where I attended a women’s mid-life retreat organized by Annette of Beauty Along the Road. I stayed two nights at the Laurel Point Bed & Breakfast, a lovely place overlooking the mountains in Monterey.

Before attending the workshop, we were asked to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths quiz on the University of Pennsylvania: Authentic Happiness Questionnaire Center.  It seems anyone can take this quiz, so you might try it yourself.  I found after taking the quiz that these were my top five strengths:

  1. Curiosity and interest in the world
  2. Love of learning
  3. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  4. Fairness, Equity and Justice
  5. Humor and playfulness

We did a lot of interesting activities on the retreat, including making a timeline collage of our lives.  Here’s mine:

My timeline collage
My timeline collage

We also brainstormed as a group the issues women face in mid-life; we wrote a letter to someone who we feel has held us down in our lives and then we burned that letter; we did individual brainstorms in answer to the question: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? We also visualized what our life what will be like in 5 years and then we created a plan of action for the next year to achieve that goal.

To make ourselves accountable, we were asked to declare our intention. My intention is to have my novel published in one year, by August 16, 2016.  Here are the steps with a timeline to reach that goal:

  1. Research agents at the library and online and from books I like.
  2. Find at least 10 agents by August 31 and note what each agent requires: query letter, synopsis, number of pages/word count, format of 1st 50 pages or first 3 chapters.
  3. Finalize my query letter by September 20.
  4. Write my synopsis by October 31.
  5. Send out whatever is required to 10 agents by November 30.
  6. Repeat the process and find 10 more agents.  Sent next 10 queries to agents by January 31, 2016.
  7. Continue to repeat this process.
  8. If I can’t get anywhere, look into self-publishing.

Next we had to list the obstacles we might encounter.  Mine are:

  1. My word count is 107,000 and most agents won’t look at a novel over 100,000 words.
  2. My query letter needs work.
  3. I haven’t written a synopsis.
  4. I may need to edit the novel again.
  5. Procrastination.
  6. Lack of knowledge of the proper steps to take.

We also had to list some allies who might be able to help us achieve our goals.

At the end of the retreat, we each took a seat in a special chair while everyone said words about us that were recorded by a group member.  Here are the kind words that people said about me.  I was humbled and flattered by the whole process and will keep these words with me to look at whenever I get discouraged.

The final wrap-up
The final wrap-up

The retreat was a wonderful experience.  I learned a lot about myself and the issues other women are struggling with.  I hope I can stay on track with my big goal despite the time commitment of my upcoming CELTA course. I’ll be reflecting often on what I learned at that retreat. I highly recommend it for other women in the area.

Other than my constant exercising, household chores, de-cluttering, moving my kids out and onward, and attending the retreat, I’ve also seen some interesting movies in theaters, including A Borrowed Identity, Trainwreck, Samba, The End of the Tour, Phoenix, Ricki and the Flash, and Mr. Holmes. You can see I’ve been busy making up for the time I lost in China! I’ve also watched the last season of Last Tango in Halifax and have gotten involved in the Danish political series, Borgen. I’ve also been watching some of the series Rectify.

As for books, I’ve read I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum and Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, both of which I loved!  I’m now reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I’m also enjoying immensely. 🙂

I’ve eaten at Lebanese Taverna, Cafesano (Italian), Saba’ Yemeni Restaurant and Guapo’s (Mexican).  I’ve been shopping for healthy foods at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and trying to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and watching my portion sizes. Other than an occasional treat of cheese and chili rellenos, I’ve been pretty self-disciplined!

Most of my friends know how I love to shop. I’ve been on a few shopping sprees mostly to buy various types of jeans and some cute tops, and even a kimono wrap thingy. I hardly wore jeans at all in Oman or China because it was just too hot, and I realized I didn’t have any that fit me.  So, yes, I’ve done a little shopping and I’ve probably gone a bit overboard.  Here’s me at some of my recent weights and wearing some of my cute purchases.  I do love fashion, but it sure helps if you’re tall and thin, neither of which I am!

As for reverse culture shock, I haven’t experienced it as much this time as the first two times I returned home from abroad. The main reason is that I’ve let go of all expectations.  I don’t expect any friends to contact me, and slowly but surely, I’ll make an effort to contact those people I’d like to see. I find myself weaning out my list of friends each time I return as I don’t feel like bothering to contact people who never make any effort with me.   After all, what’s the point?  There are people I love and care for: people who don’t judge me and people who make me laugh and people with whom I have a shared history; those people will continue to be part of my life.  As for anyone new I meet, I’ll be happy to share my life with them if they’re interested in doing so!

I’m so happy that you joined me tonight for cocktail hour on the mossy patio. I hope you feel relaxed, even though you had to listen to a lot from me!  I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve been up to; hopefully it’s something that has brought you laughter, peace, tranquility, and even adventure.  I’ll try to have a cocktail hour more frequently, so we don’t have quite so much to catch up on.  Please, do come back and join me again!

Hugs to each of you! 🙂

 

 

saint sophia greek orthodox cathedral: haghia sophia

Thursday, July 31: Yesterday, FedEx delivered my papers from the university in China where I’ll be working, so after my class today I head downtown to the Chinese Embassy’s visa office on Wisconsin Avenue.  The process seems pretty straightforward.  I have to return next Wednesday, August 6, to pick up my passport with my visa in it. It looks like I’ll be on my way before too long.

As there’s nothing else to do at this point but wait, and as I’m already downtown, I go to visit Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  It’s another on my list of places to photograph in D.C., and it’s not far from the visa office, so I show up on the doorstep of the Cathedral only to find all the doors locked.

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral

According to the Cathedral’s website, each of the transliterated Greek words which make up the name, Haghia and Sophia, has two meanings: the former means “holy” and “saint” (like, the Latin sancta), while the latter means “wisdom” and is also a female name. Probably through the Germanized Latin rendering of the name of the Cathedral in Constantinople, Sankta Sophia, Saint Sophia came to be accepted in English. However, Greek name means Holy Wisdom, for the cathedral is dedicated to Jesus Christ, who is the Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24), and not to a saint named Sophia. The word Saint is by custom always spelled out in the name.

On the facade, surmounting an arch which embraces the three main entrance doors, is found in relief the two-headed eagle which expresses the unity of the Byzantine State and the Church. The early Byzantines felt that the Church would baptize the whole spirit and organization of society and the Emperor would provide for the physical welfare of the people as the vicar of God on Earth.

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Around the side of the Cathedral, I find a doorbell and ring it.  As I’m about to give up and leave, a man appears from around a corner.  I tell him I’m a photographer and have heard the Cathedral is a beautiful place to photograph.  He’s happy to take me in and show me around.

Inside the cathedral
Inside the cathedral

It’s quite dark inside, and he offers to turn on the lights, but he can’t get the light switch to work.  I take some pictures in the dark.  Finally, he comes out from a room where he’s been flipping switches and tells me he can’t get the lights to come on.  They have trouble with them periodically, apparently.  I tell him not to worry; I’ll just come back another day.

The architectural style of the Cathedral is Byzantine, with the typical central dome about 80 feet high symbolizing Jesus Christ as head of the Church.

under the dome
under the dome
Stained glass windows
Stained glass windows
ceiling
ceiling
iron doors
iron doors

This parish was established in 1904 by newly arrived Greek immigrants. After worshiping in rented or makeshift quarters, the community built its own church at 8th and L Streets, N.W.  It was completed and dedicated in 1924, remaining there until moving to this site, which was purchased in 1943. Ground breaking and foundation stone laying occurred on September 25, 1951.

stained glass
stained glass

The building, designed by architect Archie Protopapas of New York City was ready for occupancy on February 19, 1955. The first service was celebrated on February 20, 1955. The cornerstone was laid by President Dwight D. Eisenhower with His Eminence Michael, Archbishop of North and South America, officiating on September 30. 1956. Saint Sophia was elevated to the status of a cathedral on September 24, 1962.

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
the Virgin
the Virgin
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arched ceiling

I hope I’ll be able to get back to take better pictures another time, but I don’t know if I’ll make it before I leave.  There’s always next year!

The dome of Saint Sophia
The dome of Saint Sophia

 

the george washington masonic national memorial

Friday, July 25:  Today, the day after my mother-in-law’s memorial service, I have to drive Sarah to the Greyhound bus station so she can get back to work in Richmond this evening.  Since the bus station is in Springfield, I hop over to Alexandria to visit the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  I’ve seen this building towering over Old Town Alexandria, but I never knew what it was until I heard it was a nice place to take photos.

entrance to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial
entrance to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a memorial and museum, an active Masonic temple, a research library, a cultural space, a community and performing arts center, and an important regional landmark, according to a brochure handed out by the Memorial.  It’s a nine-story neoclassical structure erected and maintained by the Freemasons of the United States to express their high esteem for George Washington and to preserve the history and heritage of American Freemasonry.

The Memorial Hall is symbolic of Greek and Roman temple entrances. The Hall features eight green granite columns 40 feet high and more than four feet wide.  A marble floor, painted elaborate ceiling and two murals surround the room.

The painted ceiling of the Memorial Hall
The painted ceiling of the Memorial Hall

The mural on the north wall shows General Washington and his officers attending a St. John’s Day Observance at Christ Church in Philadelphia on December 28, 1778.

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Mural of George Washington and his officers attending a St. John’s Day Observance at Christ Church in Philadelphia

The mural on the south wall depicts President Washington in full Masonic regalia laying the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol on September 18, 1793.

Mural of George Washington and his officers attending a St. John's Day Observance at Christ Church in Philadelphia
Mural of President Washington in full Mason regalia laying the cornerstone of the United States Capitol

In a rounded niche at the end of the hall is a huge statue of George Washington wearing his Masonic apron and jewel.

George Washington
George Washington

Next to Memorial Hall is the Replica Lodge Room of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22.

The Replica Lodge Room of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22
The Replica Lodge Room of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22

In the lodge room are artifacts, paintings, and a portrait display of past Masters of the Lodge.  It also includes the Chamber clock of George Washington, stopped at 10:30 p.m., the hour Washington died on December 14, 1799.

Chamber clock of George Washingon stopped at the time of his death
Chamber clock of George Washington stopped at the time of his death

On the third level of the Tower is The Family of Freemason Exhibit, featuring organizations such as the Grottoes of North America, The Order of the Eastern Star and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.

On the fourth level of the tower is The George Washington Museum. The space draws on the old reading room of the Boston Athenaeum and portrays Washington’s life.  Alcoves feature Washington as: Virginia Planter, Model Citizen,Military Officer, the Nation’s First President, Mourned Hero, and American Icon.

The George Washington Museum
The George Washington Museum
Staircase in the George Washington Museum
Staircase in the George Washington Museum
The George Washington Museum
The George Washington Museum
The George Washington Museum
The George Washington Museum
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Death notice for George Washington

On the observation deck of the Tower, we can see a view of Old Town Alexandria all the way to the Potomac River.  We can also see the great Washington icons: the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the Naval Observatory and Washington National Cathedral.

view of Old Town Alexandria to the Potomac River
view of Old Town Alexandria to the Potomac River
views of Washington and the Washington Monument
views of Washington and the Washington Monument
Views across the Potomac River
Views across the Potomac River
Views of Alexandria, Virginia
Views of Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
The observation deck
The observation deck

I can’t remember which level this was, and what it symbolizes:

Looks like a Crusader
Looks like a Crusader
Stained glass of Christ on the cross
Stained glass of Christ ascending into heaven

Below Memorial Hall is the Grand Masonic Hall.  The prominent features of this room are the eight Doric New Hampshire granite columns (4 1/2 feet wide by 18 feet high)  which support the entire Memorial Tower.  The room is enclosed by six etched glass panels featuring the Memorial Crest and the Square and Compasses.

The Grand Masonic Hall
The Grand Masonic Hall

In the east alcove is a bust of Washington backed by a mural of Mt. Vernon.

Bust of Washington with Mount Vernon surrounding
Bust of Washington with Mount Vernon surrounding

So, what are the Freemasons?  Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that traces its origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of masons and their interaction with authorities and clients.

View from the front steps of the Memorial
View from the front steps of the Memorial

According to Freemasonry: A Fraternity UnitedFreemasonry exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around three million (including approx. 480,000 in Great Britain and under two million in the United States). At its heart, Freemasonry is a self-improvement organization. Through three initiation rituals, lectures and other ceremonies, combined with social and charitable activities, Freemasons seek to improve themselves as they improve the communities in which they live. To join, one must believe in a Supreme Being, be upright, moral and honest in character, and be recommended by a Mason.

Freemasonry employs the tools and instruments of stonemasonry to teach a system of morality, friendship and brotherly love, hence, the standard emblem of Freemasonry is the square and compasses.  

It sort of brings to mind a top-secret boy scout organization for men.

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial

Our guide at the tour today asks us if we know how many U.S. Presidents were Freemasons.  She tells us that 20 were, beginning with George Washington.  However, according to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, only “fourteen U.S. presidents have been Freemasons, meaning that there is conclusive evidence that these men received the Master Mason degree: George Washington; James Monroe; Andrew Jackson; James Polk; James Buchanan; Andrew Johnson; James Garfield; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; William Taft; Warren Harding; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Harry S. Truman; and Gerald Ford.”

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial

According to some sources, there is much opposition to Freemasonry because of its secretiveness, its cult-like nature, and some of its practices.  There are many groups that oppose Freemasonry, including religious groups, political groups and conspiracy theorists.

To learn more about Freemasonry or the Memorial, you can check out the following links:

Wikipedia: Freemasonry

Freemasonry: A Fraternity United

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial: A Brief History of the Memorial

 

last days at the corcoran

Saturday, June 28:  The news about the Corcoran Gallery of Art‘s proposed collaboration with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University seems to mean the demise of the Corcoran as we know it.  According to a New York Times article, the Gallery was “facing mounting debts, a shrinking endowment and tens of millions of dollars in renovations”: The Corcoran Gallery of Art May Cede Control of Its Collection.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art
The Corcoran Gallery of Art

In a February 19 article in The Washington Post, Phil Kennicott says: After decades of erratic and often incompetent leadership, {the Corcoran’s board} has seen the institution through to its demise. They will hand over the art to the National Gallery, which will take the pick of the lot and then distribute the rest through some program yet to be announced. A small “legacy” gallery featuring beloved works closely associated with the soon-to-be-defunct Corcoran brand will be maintained somewhere in the old building, which will be given to George Washington University. GWU will absorb the college and teaching functions. As a legal entity, the Corcoran will continue, although this will consist primarily of an advisory board and a name on the wall of the museum building on 17th Street NW.

Stained glass and reflection
Stained glass and reflection

For more details about the demise of the Corcoran, please see the Post article: The end of the Corcoran.

Since the gallery portion of the Corcoran will only be open until October 1, 2014, and since the Corcoran is offering free admission during Saturdays through the summer, I decide to visit the venerable art gallery one last time.  I’ve been to the gallery numerous times over the years, and was even inspired by a photography exhibit here to write a short story: The Red Star Sky.

According to a Washington Post article, The Corcoran Gallery’s Hidden Gems: In the center of the museum’s Salon Doré, a gilded 1770 French drawing-room designed by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin, is a contemporary work the museum acquired specifically to display in this spot. Yinka Shonibare’s “Girl on Globe 2” is a politically charged sculpture of a headless African girl wearing a Victorian costume of Dutch wax fabric, which was manufactured in the Netherlands but intended for a colonial market. She is balanced on a globe that maps the effects of global warming.

Girl on Globe 2 by Yinka Shonibare
Girl on Globe 2 by Yinka Shonibare

According to the Arts Observer: “Girl on Globe 2″ by Yinka Shonibare is rife with symbolism. According to the museum, “Fascinated by the culture of 18th century Europe and its aristocrats, Shonibare intends for his headless figures to evoke the beheading of the French aristocracy during the Revolution of 1789-99, as well as to serve as a reminder of our own capacity for mindlessness in contemporary life.”

Girl on Globe 2
Girl on Globe 2

One exhibit is American Journey – Visions of Place.  This is a new installation of the Corcoran’s pre-1945 American paintings and sculptures that conveys the changing notion of place in the history of American art.

A sculpture on the Corcoran’s second floor announces the metal exhibit.

On the 2nd floor of the Corcoran
On the 2nd floor of the Corcoran

Another extensive exhibit here today is titled American Metal: The Art of Albert Paley. Spanning Paley’s 50-year career, the exhibition traces his work as a jeweler and progresses through his recent large-scale sculptural projects to reveal the artist’s unique place in American art.

Finally, the statue of Venus is surrounded by a 360 degree light show.

Venus in string lights
Venus in string lights

I’m sad to see the closing of a great art gallery in Washington.  It seems that bookstores and art galleries are toppling around us.  I can’t help but wonder what will be left in the future.  Will we all sit around staring mindlessly at our computers and phones, withdrawing increasingly from face-to-face and real life interaction?

the basilica of the national shrine of the immaculate conception

Saturday, June 28:  This year, I joined the Vienna Photographic Society, which has given a boost of inspiration to me and my photography. In early June, professional photographer Brandon Kopp gave a presentation to the group about great spots for photography in the D.C. area.  The first place he mentioned, among many, was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I took note of all his ideas, all the while brewing plans to visit his recommended sites.

This morning, I venture into the city to check out the Basilica.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Main entrance of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Main entrance of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Front entrance of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Front entrance of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The U.S flag dancing in the breeze
The U.S flag dancing in the breeze
The view of Michigan Avenue from the steps of the Basilica
The view of Michigan Avenue from the steps of the Basilica

Brandon mentioned that the Basilica is the fourth largest cathedral in America.  What he loved about it were the diverse side chapels, each with their own distinct flavor.

I’m first smitten by the Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel.  I love the starry skies, the lettering of the Hail Mary prayer and the gold arches.

Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Lady of the Rosary

According to the Basilica’s brochure, in 1847, at the petition of the bishops of the United States, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary patroness of the United States under her title of the Immaculate Conception.

Walkway along the Incarnation Dome
Walkway along the Incarnation Dome
The Incarnation & the Redemption domes
The Incarnation & the Redemption domes
The Upper Church, looking toward the Crossing and the Sanctuary
The Upper Church, looking toward the Crossing and the Sanctuary

In 1910, Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, rector of the Catholic University of America, suggested building a national shrine to honor Mary.  The foundation stone was laid on September 23, 1920.  The Crypt Church was completed in 1926 and the Crypt level in 1931.

Dome in the Miraculous Medal Chapel
Dome in the Miraculous Medal Chapel
Miraculous Medal Chapel
Miraculous Medal Chapel
Miraculous Medal Chapel
Miraculous Medal Chapel
Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel
Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel
Dome in Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel
Dome in Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel
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The Chancel

The death of Bishop Shahan in 1932 and the Great Depression brought construction to a halt. In 1953-54, Catholics throughout the U.S. contributed enthusiastically to a fund-raising effort to complete the Shrine, which was finally dedicated in 1959.  Pope John Paul II elevated the National Shrine to the rank of a minor basilica in 1990.

East Transept / Creation
East Transept / Creation
Chancel
Chancel
North Apse / Christ in Majesty
North Apse / Christ in Majesty
North Apse / Christ in Majesty
North Apse / Christ in Majesty

The interior embellishments and the addition of more than 70 chapels and oratories, bring the interior of the shrine close to completion.

Chancel domes
Chancel domes

Chancel

Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Our Lady of Siluva Chapel
Our Lady of Siluva Chapel
Mosaics in Our Lady of Siluva Chapel
Mosaics in Our Lady of Siluva Chapel
Close up of mosaics: Our Lady of Siluva
Close up of mosaics: Our Lady of Siluva
Mosaics in Our Lady of Siluva
Mosaics in Our Lady of Siluva
Our Lady of Siluva Chapel
Our Lady of Siluva Chapel

After wandering around for a good long time, I walk outside to visit Mary’s Garden and to see the back view of the Basilica.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, going around the back
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, going around the back
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, from the back
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, from the back
Mary's Garden
Mary’s Garden
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The colorful dome of the Basilica
The colorful dome of the Basilica
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

I’m in awe of this amazing Cathedral.  I’m also once again amazed that this Cathedral has been in my neighborhood since I moved to northern Virginia in 1988, and I’ve never seen it before now!

Since I am in the city, I decide to head next to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which is in its final days of existence as we know it….  At least I’ve been here before!

kenilworth park & aquatic gardens

Saturday, June 22: This morning, I get up extra early to drive to northeast Washington (I live southwest of Washington) to see the water lilies at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.  Word has it among photographers that one must arrive here when the park opens at 7 a.m. to catch the lilies before they close up in the heat of the day.  This is yet another place in the region that I’ve never visited before, and I’m glad I make the effort to drag myself out of bed so early.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Wealth, the beauty of youth, and flowers are guests for only a few days. Like the leaves of the water-lily, they wither and fade and finally die.” ~ Siri Guru Granth Sahib

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to the Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, this is the only national park devoted to cultivated water-loving plants. This unique habitat, featuring exotic water lilies and lotus, is an oasis for nature lovers, a haven for walkers, hikers, photographers and birdwatchers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The marshes along the Anacostia River have a rich and varied natural and cultural history. From the Nacotchtank Indians to early American settlers, to contemporary African American communities, the area we now know as Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens has been home to a variety of people for more than 4,000 years.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2014-06-22 08.41.14 2014-06-22 08.41.34 2014-06-22 09.20.33 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow many more discoveries can I make in this area in the next two months, before I head off to China? 🙂

the district’s eastern market

Sunday, June 8:  Isn’t it funny sometimes how we’ll spend thousands of dollars to travel to distant lands, yet we’re often too lazy to venture out to discover new places in our own backyards? It takes some prodding, but this morning, I talk Mike into going with me into DC to visit Eastern Market.  I’ve heard about it over the years, but I’ve never been before.

Welcome to Eastern Market!
Welcome to Eastern Market!

Even though we live in the District’s Northern Virginia suburbs, it’s not often we feel like trekking into the city.  Parking is a hassle and at this time of year, the city is thick with tourists.  Today is no exception; we have to drive around quite a long time to find a parking spot, and then we have to walk quite a distance to the market.  We could have taken metro, but honestly, I find that more of a hassle than dealing with parking.  Here are some of the houses in the Capitol Hill neighborhood around Eastern Market.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to its website, Eastern Market is Washington DC’s original and premier food & arts market. Located in the heart of the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, Eastern Market is DC’s destination for fresh food, community events, and on weekends, local farm-fresh produce and handmade arts and crafts.

Fruits & vegetables for sale at Eastern Market
Fruits & vegetables for sale at Eastern Market
Hats, anyone?
Hats, anyone?
the indoor market
the indoor market
fruits and vegetables
fruits and vegetables
flowers
flowers
grape tomatoes
grape tomatoes

We come across a cute shop with exotic things for sale. The shop reminds me of all my travels through Asia, making me nostalgic.

An exotic shop in the neighborhood
An exotic shop in the neighborhood
Goods from exotic lands
Goods from exotic lands
pretty rugs
pretty rugs
and painted cabinets
and painted cabinets

We’re lucky in that we’ve picked a beautiful day.  At this time of year in Washington, it’s often too hot and humid to be outdoors, but the weather today is in the 70s and breezy.  It’s a perfect day for an outing.  I manage to control my impulses to buy anything, despite many temptations.

Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Mirrors at Eastern Market
Mirrors at Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market cabinets with a taste of Asia
Eastern Market cabinets with a taste of Asia
Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market

We do have lunch after we walk through the sprawling market.  I’d highly recommend visitors to DC visit this lively market: Eastern Market

Getting chubby on American food!
Getting chubby on American food!