Today I took my class to Mount Vernon. We toured the house, the gardens, and the grounds. We walked to the tomb, to the wharf along the Potomac, and to the threshing barn. We visited the grist mill and the distillery.
The children carried crayons and their art journals so that they could draw some of the buildings, animals, and plants that they saw. They enjoyed the abundant honeysuckle, pausing to suck its nectar each time we passed a vine. For some, that will be the primary memory of this day.
I wore the earrings that I bought at a street market in eastern Germany five years ago. To me, they stand for structure: sturdy, combining metal, ceramic, and stone, one stacked upon the other.
I know that my image of George Washington is as much myth as truth. He may have been a shallow thinker, chosen to lead because of his height and wealth, as someone suggested to me today. But I choose to admire him for the sturdy foundation that he established as our first President, resisting military rule, autocracy--even the offer of a monarchy. I admire his creative industry in running his plantation, using innovative techniques to solve problems. I wonder at his generosity, hosting all who visited his home, hundreds of guests per year. I know little of military tactics and strategy, but I admire the way General Washington learned from his mistakes, treated his captives with dignity, and patiently used what resources he had to defeat a more powerful foe.
I think of him as a man grounded in the soil he farmed, seeking to create innovative structures that would stand the test of time.