Friday, November 11, 2011

Sacred Spirits/Washington, DC

Our nation’s capital is beautiful in the fall, shimmering in gold, red, and yellow foliage, white marble gleaming in the light, water fountains catching the rays of the autumn sun, monuments bold against gold-leafed trees swaying in breezes that foretell the coming of winter white.

I’m visiting my PCV friend and travel buddy Jud Dolphin, who now lives in Washington. Our conversations are sprinkled like golden leaves with memories of Ukraine and lots of laughs at our survival mechanisms and mistakes. These are definitely fall conversations, leaves falling from changing trees. Intimations of snowflakes on sunflowers against a deep blue sky. The colors of the Ukrainian flag draped over the splendor of the living neighborhoods in the shadows of the nation's capital.

Yesterday we walked from the metro stations (Van Ness, where Jud lives, to Judiciary Square) to the National Building Museum, a powerful museum of architecture, crossed over to Pennsylania Avenue past the Museums of Art (the East Building, the Pei building, covered in scaffolding for some fixing up), and across the National Mall, the Capital glistening at one end, the Washington monument at the other. We stopped to admire and reflect, reveling in the place and the majesty.

In front of us shone the unique and breath-taking National Museum of the America Indian, rising from the earth, curving in four directions around the sun and the moon, resplendant in native surroundings and gold trees on a crisp and overcast day. “We are still here,” this museum tells us. The message whispers, sometimes shouts, as we take a guided tour beginning in the symbolic center of the building, the Potomiac Atrium, with its large colorful medallion sculpture of red cedar, paint and copper, called ‘The Beaver and the Mink.” The building alone astounds, round and natural, flowing yellow sandstone, weaving its way around itself. The permanent exhibitions and the new exhibit “A Song of the Horse Nation,” tell about the lifeways, history and art of Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere. It's about the present as much as the past. It’s a spiritual place.

How wonderful to be in the political center of the nation and the world and to feel the presence of its native peoples and its native spirit. This is Washington, DC at its finest, away from the cacaphonous hustle and antics of political voices, in native dress, in harmony with the environment and the sacred.

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