A Nostalgic Morning

I will soon be returning to Illinois after a few years in the Washington, DC area, and since I am about to leave here, I’ll let you in on the “secret” to seeing the sights of Washington. Oh yes, millions come here from all around the globe to see the sights, the great public buildings, the landmarks, the memorials and museums. They descend upon the city in huge numbers, only to fight tremendous crowds and steamy hot summertime temperatures. If you want pictures to take home with you of the great sights, it can be almost impossible to get an unobstructed view in the summertime, especially on the weekend.

If you can, visit Washington in the off-season, when the kids are in school, then do your sight-seeing in the middle of the week, after rush hour, and you’ll be fine. But if you are taking the family on a summer Saturday, just show up early, at say, 6 or 6:30 in the morning. This has two great advantages: First, you will have the place virtually to yourself; the tourists are still asleep! Second, you can cover the great sights while it is cool; great time for your “walking around” part of the day. Then, as the temperature begins to climb, the museums open up and you can spend the hot portion of the day seeing the museums of the Smithsonian.  Yes, they will get crowded, better a Tuesday morning in October, but if you can only come in the summer, this is the best way to see things… like the “natives” do.

This past Saturday, Mrs. M. and I took our last trip into town… that is, unless we do it again next week. At this hour (we arrived in town at about 6:15 am) there are actually parking places… everyplace… something that is normally only a dream. We parked near West Potomac park, very near the Lincoln Memorial. Right next to our parking spot, I was greeted by this scene…

…and a bit of nostalgia as recollections of a Saturday morning over 30 years ago came to mind. I remembered being on a walk one fine October morning, and as I walked by this place, I came upon a group of young  Congressional staffers, roughly my age, who were trying to make up a touch football game; they were a man short. I volunteered to play, and the game was on. Nine Congressional staffers, one White House staffer; opponents during the week, playing football together on Saturday; Washington was different in those days.

One of the really neat things about taking pictures early in the day, particularly when there are clouds in the sky, is that as the sun rises and the clouds move, you can stand in one place for 10 or 15 minutes and take several completely different pictures of the same thing as the light and colors shift before your eyes.

The Arlington Memorial bridge only looked like this for about 45 seconds. After that, it looked just like every other picture you’ve seen.

Here, the Lincoln Memorial has a pinkish hue as the sun struggles to poke out above the low clouds.

Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial and looking down the reflecting pool towards the Capitol, the Washington Monument is in silhouette against the rising sun, lost behind the clouds giving a different effect than you usually see from here.

Millions come to Washington to visit the Vietnam Memorial. At this time of day, the only other people here are the crew cleaning the wall. In this light, the black wall becomes a mirror, as you can see.

In addition to the cleaning crews and the garbage collection crews, the squirrels are busy looking for tasty tidbits before all is collected…


Of all of the war memorials for which Washington is famous, my favorite is the Korean War Memorial. Since the Korean War is often called the “forgotten war” I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that it is not nearly as well attended as the others. Yet at least for me, it is by far the most poignant and moving. I don’t think there is any particular glorifying of war here, nor is there the great sadness of the Vietnam wall. This one is all about the men who fought. The central part of the Memorial is a life-sized group of figures in winter gear; a patrol. Here, nothing is way up on a pedestal, there is only you and the guys. They didn’t ask to be there, they aren’t the policy-makers calling the shots, they are the men who paid the price for the decisions and orders of others. This one is up close and personal; you can look these guys right in the eye.





We headed back to the car, there was still time for mobility. As we left the Korean Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial was in “regular” sunlight, and was beginning to look its normal self…


We moved to the Tidal Basin for a view of the Jefferson Memorial and a beautiful stroll along the water…

…and the reflections on the calm water, stirred only by the ducks that live there in the middle of the busy city. As in each of the other places we visited Saturday, memories flash through my head of earlier visits, earlier times, earlier experiences in a city that has vanished as time moves on and the world around us changes. Those were times that were not so bitter, not so divisive, in which people on different sides of politics could still work together to solve a problem… but that is all gone now… Maybe these are the tired reflections of an old man recalling the days of his youth in his sunset years. But then again, maybe not…

We know of course that our Lord rules this universe; if only He would open the eyes of Mankind to see the folly of our ways under the sun! But then, we also know that He sent us to bring His light to our dark world; so that He could shine through us.  Maybe, instead of wistfully wishing He would do something, our time would be better spent doing the work He has called us to…

I have no idea whether or not I will ever see these sights again, but I took quite a few photos, many more of which will no doubt find their way into one of my blogs in the coming months. Yep, they are digital so they will last forever, which as we all know, really means until the hard drive crashes!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
This entry was posted in Christian Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A Nostalgic Morning

  1. PhilipMac says:

    Thank you Don, wonderful post. I hope to take your advice some day and make the early morning visit……

  2. Beautiful shots, will you miss it? When I think of the capitol these days I think, Imperial D.C. and all those wonderful monuments to freedom seem foreign now, as if they belong to another nation…but in my heart, I know America is a spiritual nation and the spirit of America lives on in many people. If we persevere, God may restore America to the seat of His blessings, once again.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I will miss some things, but I’ve never regretted going home in the past. I’ve been here 3 times for my job, and now for my wife’s and I doubt going home will be different this time.It sure is cheaper to only have one home to pay for!

  3. Bette Cox says:

    Greatly appreciated, Don.

  4. paulfg says:

    Wherever you travel, stay or stop – you will always connect. You have another gift I can now verbalise. Your are a connector. You connected me with something bigger than a post and some pictures here. And you do that because you are you – no trying required.

    “Maybe, instead of wistfully wishing He would do something, our time would be better spent doing the work He has called us to…”

    Thank you.

  5. Pieter Stok says:

    GrEat photos. I trust the move will go well.

  6. wonderful pictures and reflections

  7. gaustin00 says:

    Having lived in Annapolis and taking numerous field trips to DC I can totally agree with the comment: go early! The only benefit of being a teacher is that the buses do the driving and all I had to do was corral the kids–not an easy task in the midst of so many visitors.
    Your pictures bring back sweet memories of life in the DC Maryland area. Loved it all! Miss the beauty of this area but not the traffic…Dallas has enough of its own. Thanks for sharing all of this and may your new home in Ill. be as sweet as the many yrs you spent in the DC area. — productive too.
    Nostalgia is a great tool of reflection.
    Thanks for sharing all of this!

    • Don Merritt says:

      I can remember walking around the Mall a few times and seeing teachers trying to keep their kids together in the midst of the crowds: Yikes!

      I always thought they deserved a big bonus if they lose anybody in the process 🙂

      • gaustin00 says:

        I did lose one twin one day at the Natl Zoo…now that was scary to say the least…and yes it is a “YIKES” when you have 35 kids in tow and parents that are one of two kinds. overprotective or underprotective. And then you have the wiseacre bus driver who drives off and leaves you …now that was another I do NOT want to revisit!

  8. secretangel says:

    Wow… These pictures are wonderful. I have never even heard of the Korean War Memorial! I was totally shocked. Now I really need to go see all of this in person. Thanks for sharing.

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