Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

oak hill cemetery
February 27, 2012

As I start gearing up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler round two (hopefully followed by a half marathon in Charlottesville a few weeks later!), I’ve been doing a lot of running along the Rock Creek parkway.  One of my turn-around points is this quaint little bridge, and a few weeks ago I noticed for the first time that the bridge actually lines the back side of a cemetery.  On each of my runs since then, I’ve been looking closer and closer trying to get more details of what lies behind the ivy-covered cemetery fence. 

Simply looking was not enough to satiate my curiousity, so I embarked on an intense Google search for more information.  The cemetery is actually called Oak Hill and is a sprawling, romantic place that was established in 1848 by Mr. Corcoran (of The Corcoran Gallery fame, which, p.s., has a STUNNING Degas exhibit in town right now).  The website describes the cemetery as “a major example of the 19th Century Romantic movement, the natural and not formal English garden, an acceptance and blending of nature rather than a geometrical imposition.” 

Of course, I had to visit.  I went on the first Friday I had off that offered decent weather, and was lucky that my friend who owns a real camera was interested in accompanying me.  (No more iPhone pictures, yay!) 

{click on any of the images to make them bigger!}

Oak Hill is beyond beautiful.  It has all these cracked stone paths and crumbling gravestones, and I think because it had been sunny all week, teeny little flowers were starting to bloom all over.  It was quiet in the way that places warranting respect tend to be, and I felt my mind immediately go calm.  There were intricate wrought iron benches tucked away throughout the cemetery, and I could easily picture myself on one of them, curled up with a book on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

In an eerie way, I find cemeteries to be very romantic.  One gravestone of a soldier who had died in the Civil War was etched with: “For all eternity, I will love you.”  What a searingly beautiful tribute to your relationship–we should all be so lucky to have someone write that on our gravestones! 

Even wilted flowers seemed so tender resting on a tombstone, a remnant of a visitor who had been thinking about someone they lost. 

We saw an old couple wandering the cracked paths, him in a three piece suit and a cane, her in a lovely black pillbox hat and gloves, and simply observing them, I felt like I was infringing upon the most private of moments; they had an obvious connection to the cemetery and I couldn’t help but wonder who they were visiting. 

I am in no way an expert on cemeteries, but it seemed to me that Oak Hill had some extraordinary details in its’ graves, perhaps because of the era in which it was founded.  I particularly loved the gravestones that had been worn away by rain and were thus unreadable, they lent such an air of mystery to who was buried there.

I was drawn to the intricacies of the stones, and wondered if such handiwork can still be found in headstones today.

Death is actually what I am most afraid of.  I try to never think about it, because it makes me extremely anxious.  It’s funny a little because doing things where I have a chance of dying, like skydiving, doesn’t scare me at all; rather, I relish those activities.  But the actual thought of being dead is really tough for me to wrap my head around.  Sometimes I think about my life and how it is so much to lose–it scares me and I start to worry a lot. 

Just a little pause for introspection here, sorry.

This is the Corcoran mausoleum (the guy who founded the cemetery, if you remember from earlier). He lost almost all of his sons in WWII. The mausoleum was designed by one of the architects of the U.S. Capitol.

I thought these flowers in the tree were so striking, such a pop of color against all the gray. I wonder if someone planted them in the hole, or if the seends were blown there over time and grew all on their own.

Oak Hill has a very eclectic list of people who call it their final resting place. Notables include Jefferson Davis and his infant son; Bettie Duvall, a confederate spy who hid messages in her hair; Joseph K. Barnes, the surgeon who attended President Lincoln on the night of his assassination; Joseph Henry, who discovered electromagnetism; and Dean Acheson, President Truman’s Secretary of State. Unfortunately I didn’t print out the cemetery map beforehand, so I didn’t actually get to see any of these graves. Next time, though.

Do you enjoy spending time in cemeteries?  I’ve been thinking about Oak Hill ever since I went, and I’m surprised by how much I feel like I miss it.  I bet that would change if I was actually going to visit someone, but maybe not. 

I hope you enjoy your week.  It’s been staying light outside later and later, which THRILLS me.  I think spring is just around the corner.


georgetown flea market
December 12, 2011

Happy Monday–only 11 days until I board a plane to go home for Christmas!!  Can’t wait to see my parents, my kitty, Caitlin, and my humongous collection of stuffed animals and American Girl Doll accessories.

This past Sunday, fellow Pleasantonian and my neighbor Rachel and I went to the Georgetown flea market to scout out vintage goodies and potential Christmas gifts.  I had been wanting to visit the flea market for a while, but in true female fashion, didn’t want to go by myself (at least for the first time!).  Rachel is just about done with her finals, so she took the morning off from studying and we drove down Wisconsin to check it out.

First things first–we found FREE parking right across the street!!  What?!?!?!  I literally didn’t know that this city had an inch of parking that didn’t cost you $45 to use!  It was a Christmas miracle!

Secondly, the flea market was awesome.  I like Eastern Market as much as the next preppy-but-likes-to-think-they’re-unique-and-buys-secondhand-items-on-a-very-rare-occasion girl, but sometimes it’s a little too artsy and antiquey for me.  I much prefer junky and unrefined, because it’s so much cheaper and also easier to put your own personality into it.

I didn’t see anything that I had to have, but Rachel found a vintage print for her kitchen and a cool book for her mom.  Here are some pictures–

There were TONS of beautiful old Christmas ornaments, and the boxes they were kept in reminded me of the ornaments on our tree at home.  They even looked like the orbs that my parents got when they were in Germany–super sparkly and delicate.

This is the new background for my phone!  I don’t think anything says Christmas like a big box of shiny ornaments.  My favorite one was the solid teal one right in the middle; it looked like something straight off an Anthropologie tree.

We found a teensy table piled high with breads from a little farm out on the Eastern Shore.  The guy was really friendly, and told me all about his baking techniques, his dreams for his farm, his love life, his daughter’s volleyball games, the gloves he wants for Christmas, and the new tiles he’s installing in his bathroom.  Way too much information, yes, but his breads were DELICIOUS.  Since I was stuck there in a 35 minute, one-sided conversation, I took advantage of the opportunity and scarfed down the equivalent of two loaves of his amazing Blue Cheese Walnut bread.  He also had a really dark German rye bread that my dad would have died for; unfortunately, he doesn’t have a physical shop, instead choosing to only come to the flea market on Sundays, so I won’t be able to bring any home next week.

I found these adorable little bud vases, which I thought would be perfect for the top of a dresser, maybe to hold makeup brushes. 

I also found this little plate? statue? of everyone’s best bud Mao, tucked casually between a vase and a salt shaker.  I could just imagine sneaking it onto my sister’s nightstand while she was sleeping–imagine waking up next to this guy watching over you!  (P.S. Happy 22nd Birthday, Lisa!  I promise I won’t actually do this to you.) 

This amazing frame was something that I actually DID really want, but unfortunately it wasn’t for sale.  Some lucky guy had just bought it, and when he saw me with my hands all over it, he freaked out a little and ran away with it.  It was huge–almost as tall as me, and would have looked amazing unframed on this one wall I have that’s the size of a football field.  I’ve been looking for something to put on it for over a year now, and am slightly heartbroken that I couldn’t take this frame home with me.

There were tons of creepy hands all over the place, but I could get better costume jewelry from my Grandma any day of the week. 

Isn’t this old flask really pretty?? I bet it holds way more than present day flasks do, but I also bet that it wouldn’t fit into any of my boots or the waistband of my jeans. 

Rachel and I both thought that this old collection of crystal glasses was beautiful, but neither of us really had an occasion to use them.  I felt like chugging the gas stations finest $4.99 bottle of wine out of these highballs would be criminal, so I left them for a more cultured customer.

Um, gross, right?  I saw a bunch of kiddies clustered around a table piled high with frames, and the last thing I expected to find in those frames were creepy crawly bugs.  Dead, preserved insects make me kind of squirmy inside, so even the pretty butterflies he had out didn’t appeal to me.  The children, however, thought the giant scorpion was great, and a girl next to me ended up buying one for her environmental scientist sister. 

Oh yeah, I wasn’t quite done–here’s a tarantula, no big deal.  Yum. 

This nutcracker cutie caught my eye, how festive is he?!  I looked in the back for the little thing to make his mouth open, and surprise–

–he was a beir stein!!  AMAZING.  I literally think there would be nothing better in the entire world than seeing my dad drink eggnog out of this guy on Christmas morning while we opened presents–imagine all the photo opportunities!  Unfortunately, I had no clue if this was good quality or not; I know my dad would not want to include this in his stein collection unless it was actually German.  The painting looked less than professional, and the sweet lady was asking a little bit more than I would have paid for it.  But Dad, if you would like to unwrap this on Christmas, let me know and I’ll go back next weekend and try and get it!  (Other opinions on getting this for Dad are welcome.)

I also found this adorable mini set of mid-century style furniture; I know there’s currently a world-wide obsession with couture dollhouses, and this set would be unreal in a doll’s office area. 

rachel & me

Rachel and I of course took the obligatory we-were-here photo as we left, and I actually think it turned out really cute.  I got a great deal on my J.Crew heart sweater (and I had a gift card!), and I can’t wait to wear it every single day from now until Christmas.  It’s the perfect holiday sweater!  Also, guys, Mrs. Obama wore it in a pink/orange color to a basketball game a few weeks ago which practically makes us best friends.   

Have a great week!!

the end of fall
November 17, 2011

Fall on the east coast is dwindling down to bare bushes and spindly branches, leaving little behind except for wet sidewalks hidden under colorful, glistening leaves.  As my favorite season ebbs away, out comes my ultra-warm Northface jacket, my hidden stash of whiskey, and my seasonal depression.  I miss the sunlight!    

Luckily the past few months have regaled us with more than our fair share of stunning autumn scenery.  Few things bring me more joy than walking down the street with a steaming cup of coffee, looking up at a fiery ceiling of crisp orange leaves, invigorated by the spicy air and clear sunlight. 

Before I burst into tears reminsicing about something that isn’t even quite gone yet, let’s all look at these–

This is Mount Vernon–the grounds are absolutely STUNNING in the fall. I can’t wait to go back for Christmas and see their storied holiday decorations.

Isn’t this foggy one so pretty? I love how eerie and almost spooky it is; we hardly ever get fog like this in DC, and it reminds me of the bay area.

This one’s a little hazy, but I loved the organic shape of the tree branches.

This group of trees is right by my apartment! It’s so nice to walk off the metro and be greeted by such gaudy colors, it really wakes me up after a stressful day at work.

This is Mount Vernon’s backyard–ahem, Mr. Washington, you were not doing too bad for yourself, my friend.

I found this dainty little maple (?) on a super urban street in Baltimore. It brought so much color to a really dreary street.

This is my absolute FAVORITE. I have no clue what kind of tree it is, but it is so ridiculously bright that I just fell in love. Looking at it, I for some reason think of an old Russian ballet I read once before bed–The Firebird–and the main ballerina’s vivid red costume.

me & beales

This is the last one–Beales and I standing on the Potomac outside Mount Vernon.

national gallery of art + andy warhol
October 26, 2011

I believe I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, but I am a big fan of Andy Warhol’s art.  I like how you are unable to look away from his crazy use of colors, and how the seeming inane repetitions remain implanted on your brain even after you turn away, like how the sun is imprinted on your eyelids if you look right at it on a clear day, or how you continue to hear the blaring bass from a dance club even when you are home in your quiet apartment, the remnants of the night following you home. 

Whenever I see works by Warhol, I always think about this random, unrelated print by Craig Damrauer:  


Isn’t that so true though?  I look at Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings and Warhol’s colored Marilyn Monroe photograph and think, man, I seriously could do that.  But I, we, no one ever did. 

I drew my inspiration* for my framed hi print from Andy Warhol’s Campbells soup cans.  See?



Ehh?? Eh? (There’s a lot of elbow nudging going on here.)  Definitely some similarities. 

Regardless of the obvious parallels between myself and Warhol, I still like his stuff.  So when I heard there was not one, but TWO exhibits of his lesser seen works coming to town, I was excited.  I chose this past Saturday, grey without being gloomy, to visit the National Gallery of Art for my first time.

I’m a huge fan of doing museums by myself.  I think it’s from the annual summer vacations my family used to go on, 99.1% of the time to museums only, where I would be bored to tears looking at colonial artifacts and reading about Civil War battle strategies.  I would stand in front of (probably the world’s most amazing) painting and pick my nose, growl at strangers, and chew on my hair until my parents would be so embarrassed that they’d take me out to the rental car where I would blissfully play with the automatic windows.  In short, a nightmare for everyone involved. 

My appreciation for art/culture/history/sightseeing has improved dramatically since those days.  I still believe, however, that there is absolutely no shame in spending .001 seconds looking at an exhibit, or skipping it entirely.  Everyone has different things that appeal to them, and you are not obligated to act interested in every single grain of dust that floats by just because it’s famous.  So, I fully support museum-going alone–it is my perferred method.  Nobody is judging me for skipping the Something Something gallery, and I don’t have to wait on someone while they read the Blah Blah plaque. 

So I went to the Art Gallery by myself, obviously looking like a baller because 43 people asked me for directions on the way there, to go see the Warhol: Headlines exhibit.  This time, I was that person reading the whole Blah Blah plaque–and I learned a lot.  (Huh.  Who would’ve thought.) 

The introduction described Warhol’s obsession with Consumerism, and how he viewed the media as just another product, its’ loud and visual headlines the label on another omnipresent package.  Warhol was especially attracted to the subjects of death, disaster, and celebrity, and loved the “stark contrast between the sensational and the mundane.”  [Source.]  He started to satiate his interest in the headlines by simply replicating them, two virtually identical images.  As he studied them more, perhaps becoming more frustrated? more engrossed?, he began twisting and manipulating the front pages until they reflected less the news of the day and more the inner workings of the artist. 

As I wandered through the exhibit, I thought it was interesting to see Warhol’s liberties with the headlines expand.  I got the sense at the end of the exhibit that he was just so fed up with the outrageous front pages and the rather dull news that was being reported; it seemed to me that he relished clawing apart the papers and piecing them back together into his own vision.  There was almost a franticness to his art–this message MUST be changed!  I liked it.

I bought an overpriced catalog book on my way out–the NGA has the best gift shop!–and it’s sitting on my coffee table.  I actually should read it, since it has full pages of text dedicated to explaining each work, and I would thus be more knowledgeable when reviewing the exhibit here.  But I really enjoyed just looking at each headline without necessarily knowing the history behind it–this way I can make my own.

five things
October 20, 2011

I’m not sure if it’s the crazy weather DC has been having (rain in the morning, oppressive humidity at night), or the flu-type sickness that I contracted on Tuesday, but this week has been dragging by.  I feel like I’m slogging through the workday only to go home, swaddle myself in any and all available blankets, and blubber over X-Factor.  Also, thanks to the heavy doses of Nyquil I’ve been taking each night, I’ve had some crazy dreams–ones so vivid that when I wake up, it takes 5 minutes before I can sort through what actually happened and what didn’t.  So to get me out of the slump I’ve been in all week, I gathered a few things that I am loving right now.

colleen, les, madison, me

 {Homecomings was this past weekend at UVa–I had been craving some serious Lawn time, and I got it.  Guys, UVa is the best place in the universe, and undoubtedly food for my soul.}

{This is my favorite photograph EVER.  Ever ever.  I stumbled upon it when I got a Groupon for Jen Bekman’s 20×200, the hands-down best website for affordable art by up-and-coming artists.  Unfortunately, I had discovered the site too late to get this print (sold out, tear) but that doesn’t mean I can’t oogle it practically every morning.}

{This tree right outside my window.  I think Fall is what I love most about the east coast.}

{I think this living room is absolute perfection.  Using a file cabinet as an end table?!  Brilliant.}


{I finished this book on Monday and found it incredibly inspiring.  I was worried that it might be a slow read, since it’s biographical, but it turned out to be quite a page turner.  I felt particularly connected to the story because of Louis Zamperini’s athletic background; the author suggests throughout the book that serious athletes have a stronger will to live than most other people, which I thought was an interesting theory.  A highly recommended read.}