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.

a monumental day
October 10, 2010

On Friday, I went to downtown DC to explore the National Mall.  I had actually been planning on spending Saturday and Sunday sightseeing, but 1. the metro is under track construction and the Metrocenter stop is closed all weekend and 2. we were only at work for an hour, leaving me done and already in the area at 10am.  So I rode with work friend Melissa to Foggy Bottom, got off, and wandered down 23rd Street to the Lincoln Memorial, with the intention of working my way east towards the Capital.

I am a pretty big history nerd, so I consider myself extremely lucky to have so much history essentially in my backyard.  I literally have no fewer than 50 museums at my very fingertips, providing me with seemingly endless weekend entertainment.  I hope that I never take the history I have in this city for granted, as so many people probably do, because it is staggering how many fate-changing decisions for our nation were (and continue to be) made here in DC.

In case you have never opened a history book in your life, here are some amateur photos I snapped of the sights that I saw.

 


Lincoln Memorial

 

 

Hello, Mr. President

Washington Monument & WWII Memorial

 

 

National Museum of American History*

 

*This museum was AWESOME.  If you at all enjoy museums, this one is a must-visit.  They have a phenomenal exhibit on First Ladies and their Inaugural Ball gowns, and it was the magical link that united the political and fashionable pieces of my heart.  There is also a whole wing on pop culture, which offers enough childhood gems to keep even the most whiny anti-museum kid satisfied.  A (very) few snippets of what I saw here:

 

Thomas Jefferson's personal writing desk

 

TJ founded my alma mater, which makes him kind of a badass.  I guess he’s also famous for writing the Declaration of Independence, giving us Louisiana etc., and being an agricultural genius.

 

Mrs. Obama's to-die-for Jimmy Choo's. Hello, Lover.

 

 

Hillary, is that you?!

 

Seeing an impossibly young picture of Hillary Clinton makes a trip to this museum ENTIRELY worth it.

 

original Simba mask in The Lion King broadway show

 

The Lion King on Broadway might actually be the best show in the world.  It’s score/soundtrack is UNREAL– some of the songs are the most listened to ones on my iPod (and I’m 22 years old).  This mask took me right back to the part in the show when all the “animals” come walking down the aisle, which made me want to jump and celebrate the Circle of Life right with them.

[Excuse my rambling…back to the sights.]

 

Capitol Building

 

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So now you know roughly what I saw on my Explore DC mission.  But what did I really see?  These monuments are amazing, but I had a significantly better time observing every thing (and everyone) else that was around on a sunny Friday.  It’s unbelievable the things you can find if you actually stop and look for them.  Here are the things (and people) I found particularly interesting as I meandered along.

 

The Gettysburg Address

 

Have you ever really READ the Gettysburg Address??  Like, gotten past the first six words?  Read it here (http://www.gettysburgaddress.com/HTMLS/ga.html); you might be surprised at how something written 150 years ago is still so politically and emotionally relevant today.

 

War Veterans

 

These men were all so adorable– I wanted to give each one of them a huge hug and thank them for the tremendous service they have done for our country.

 

????????????????????????

 

This couple literally STOOD IN MY WAY as I was leaving Mr. Lincoln, begging me to take a picture with them.  (At least I think that’s what they were saying– I do not speak Chinese).  At first I thought they meant “take a picture of us,” but the woman GRABBED me (owww!) and made me stand next to her.  Then her husband stood next to me too (he was shorter than me) while his wife took the picture.  So bizarre.  The wife told me that I was “verrry beautifullll” so I left with less hard feelings than when I started.  But beware!!  These guys don’t mess around.

 

 

Gestures that made me sad...

 

 

Gestures that made me want to cry...

 

 

Gestures that did make me cry.

 

Be ready for this if you go to the Vietnam Memorial.  The wall itself is so sobering that it doesn’t take much to bring tears to your eyes.  This picture of a soldier with his brother made me weep for a time where war will be a thing of the past, remembered only by the very oldest generations.

 

High School science experiments

 

These students were testing the cleanliness of the water in the reflecting pool.  Judging by the looks of it,

I don’t think they got very good results.  CLEAN UP YOUR TRASH, AMERICA!!!

 

People with questionable educations fumbling with basic technology

 

I  literally watched this guy try to turn on his camera for no less than 6 minutes.  Maybe he should have gone to a different university.  Also, his child had a mullet.  I am not making that up just because of our college rivalry.  HIS CHILD HAD A MULLET.  So this man spent 6 minutes turning on his camera to take a picture of his mullet-headed son.  COME ON.

 

Segway Tours

 

There has GOT to be a better way to get around than using Segways.  First of all, YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS.  Second of all, YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS!

 

Children feeding the squirrels

 

At first I thought this was really cute.  (I have a soft spot for squirrels).  Then, I watched in growing horror as the squirrel actually took the food from the boy!!!  WHAT?!?!?!  How has society gotten to the point where we are unknowingly taming wild animals??  Are squirrels going infect the human race with rabies and then take over the world?!  You have been warned.

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So you can see that my Friday was jam-packed with some phenomenal sightseeing.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time, and am thinking of wandering around again tomorrow.  I hope I have given you potential tourists a little different perspective on Washington’s National Mall– maybe one a little less glamorous, but undoubtedly more entertaining, than what you would find in a brochure.  I’ve had a great weekend, and really hope that you have as well.