Monday, May 30, 2016


On Memorial day, it's only fitting that I talk about Arlington National Cemetery. I had always envisioned it in the suburbs, but there it was in Downtown DC. just across the Potomac River. From atop the hill at Arlington, I could see the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.Well, that's stretching it a bit, because the day was drizzling rain and a mist lay over the mall, but I could see parts of them. I also saw a building that looked uncommonly like the Pentagon. It was all so close--certainly within walking range, and if you are going to properly see Arlington, you are going to have to walk. The land is hilly and the paths curve, following the natural contours of the land. After entering the magnificent gated entrance, as you climb up the street within, you are immediately overwhelmed by the rows of white tombstones carved and decorated very simply with crosses, or an occasional star of David.

 More than 300,000 veterans are buried in this quiet place and the sidewalks and streets were crowded with people, yet even with all the visitors it seemed quiet.  We attended the "changing of the guard" at the tomb of the unknown soldier and watched as a family--a young mother and her children-- placed a wreath in another solemn ceremony. There were about two hundred people watching. Nobody made a noise. The silence felt like sympathy and solidarity.

 On our way to the top of the hill, we passed old tombstones, graves from those who were buried shortly after the land was acquired--bought from the son of Robert E. Lee, whose wife was a grandchild to George Washington. (The famous names in the history of these places!)

 At the top of the hill was a lovely, old home, not marble or granite, but lovely nonetheless. Behind it was a flower garden and an ancient tree. Both had seen times of joy under cool, misty skies like this one, and times of fear and panic. Just before the civil war, Robert E. Lee sent word from Virginia and his family fled to join him there before the Union soldiers could take over the hill--the vantage point overlooking the city, and a very likely target.

When I visited Arlington, in early May, white peonies were blooming in the garden, and irises--yellow as sunshine, purple as the night. It seemed very much like a garden for children, and for long-skirted ladies with baskets hooked over their arms. A place of tranquility, of rest. No panic today, as if the soldiers sleeping all over the green lawns had bought this safety for the house on the hill.

1 comment:

Carina said...

I loved Arlington, and want to take the kids when they can really understand its importance.