We’ve been in America, visiting the parents of our son-on-law at their beautiful home in Washington DC.   They were delightful hosts and we greatly enjoyed their company and hospitality.   As is often our good fortune, we were blessed with unexpectedly good weather – clear blue skies, warm days and in the north, an early Autumn with its lovely colours.   On our last day we had lunch by the seafront in Alexandra, in temperatures in the high eighties.

I had never been to Washington before (John had) and our host gave us a guided tour by car.   We also visited a museum on another day.   Washington is of course a rich and elegant city with many graceful monuments and a long axis similar to Canberra and Delhi.   Yet as with all capital ‘planned’ cities it smacks somehow of the  architects’ drawing and lacks – well, lacks city street cred somehow.   I thought Washington was like a pretty enough woman dressed in good enough clothes but somehow lacking in charm.   There is also the problem where many of the buildings are already well known to you, so sometimes in the flesh and lacking the legendary status its fame and your imagination have vested in it, it can appear somewhat prosaic.   Washington is a pleasant and attractive city, but it didn’t bowl me over.

We did visit some very pleasant smaller towns.  Annapolis could have been an English coastal town almost (say Falmouth) and was very charming, as was Alexandria on the Potomac.

Before the shut downs, we visited the Museum of Modern Art in Washington.   It was a very stylish building, with black marble pillars, a cupola, white marble statues, indoor gardens and fountains – elegant and lovely.   The Impressionist artists were well represented, if not always with the best examples of their work.       There were three fine paintings of the same London bridges by Monet, an arresting self portrait by Van Gogh, an unusual water reflection by Cezanne.   There was a portrait by Degas which showed the face in fine detail which, having seen his studies of ballerinas, we didn’t know he could do.   Turner and Whistler are always worth seeing, and there was a most elegant and beautiful painting of an elderly lady in black and white by the incomparable John Singer Sargent.   That was a lovely day.

We made an overnight trip north through Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to see the iconic Falling Waters, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, through which a river runs.    The interior was very much his style as we have seen in others of his buildings – masculine, organic, the living rock came through the floor in places, stylish but not especially comfortable.    I would not have liked to live in it but it was beautiful and I was thrilled to see it.   Plus there was a wonderful shop!

Our hostess and I did some shopping – nothing much has changed  there.   But she took me to some quilting shops where there was a fabulous selection of cottons at very reasonable prices, and gorgeous quilts made up.    I bought some material for a modest attempt at the craft.

Among the loveliest things we saw were the Great Falls on the Potomac where the river (running fairly low at this time) falls over huge jagged edge ridges of rock and is very beautiful.   There we saw the elegant (in the air) turkey vulture, plus  the American robin and the bright cardinale.    We also drove down the stunning Shenandoah Valley.

While we were there, but not affecting us, government departments, museums and national parks were closing down owing to some political dispute about funding.   The passport officer apologised to us as we left.   There is the difficulty that many people do not really speak a competent English and I sat and listened to the woman who was pushing my wheelchair at the airport discuss with two colleagues where our own personal wheelchair would arrive in a language which I could only just recognise as a very debased form of English in which they could not really understand one another – John obviously reckoned they would never get anywhere, and went off and found it himself.   There is an ever present air of slight anxiety, and you are aware that anyone could be armed and if things should go wrong you are only a heartbeat away from being shot.   The Americans are far less confident and withdrawn into themselves and if I had to sum up their present mood in a single word, it would be apprehensive.

There are still many lovely things about  America.   Although the people are less ebullient, they are still welcoming and polite.   America itself is on a grand scale and of unsurpassing loveliness.   It is an odd thing that in the country of arguably the richest and most weapon infested people on earth, you get a powerful sense of the fragile and transient nature of what man pleases to regard as human advancement.   Man inhabits America and has flung a threadbare blanket of civilisation over it.   But underneath this veneer, you can feel the land that is America, wide and generous and beautiful, home of the bear and the eagle, the bison and the wolf.    This, the real, the beautiful America, bides its time.   It still lives.   God bless this America.

(The photograph of Falling Waters, Pennsylvania, by Frank Lloyd Wright, is courtesy of John M Armstrong.)



About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

2 Responses to GOD BLESS AMERICA

  1. Sheena says:

    I particularly like your final paragraph, especially this line: man “has flung a threadbare blanket of civilisation over it.”

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