Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Day 13 - For the universe and a star

Day 13 - J's flat. 12th and Q, Washington, DC. Overwhelmed and indecisive.

Can’t believe the last three days are real. They’ve just been so... there isn’t really a word for it, not a single word alone. I’m not even sure I can process it all.

I’m so glad Lauren stayed for the day! It was so nice to wander with somebody, even if we were wandering in silence half the day. (After a while, there is only so much you can say – I’ve always thought that the first true test of friendship has been that first prolonged silence.) I had just kind of assumed she had to leave first thing on Monday morning; I was kind of thrilled that she didn’t have to.

I’m a bit overwhelmed (and a bit sun-drunk) and all I want to do is sleep but I have so little time left here that I think I’m going to go out and take in a little bit more of all these things I can’t quite process!

daylight dying on one of the best days I have ever had

* * * * * * *

This is why...

Or my best attempt to explain because I don't think I can actually explain that day, even a week later. Its existence was the direct result of my selfish desire to spend an extra 5 minutes with Lauren. On our way out of the hotel, when she asked me if I would like her to stick around until my friend J. arrived, I said "yeah, sure" because frankly I'd have loved to drag breakfast out another two hours if it had been possible...

Best "yeah, sure" of my life.

[Now, it's about to become very obvious why my heart routinely gets broken... because I wear my heart on my sleeve. Can't help it. Won't change it for the universe and a star.]

I'm going to be blunt. Lauren is amazing. There's just no way around it. We were meant to meet. (By some miracle she think I'm cool too! Hark! There is still some sense in the universe!)

But that Monday morning in DC, we were still at that stage of okay-we-just-met-two-days-ago-but-I-feel-like-
I've-known-you-WAY-longer... which is a kind of tricky place to be, because if I had known her for way longer I would have done what CK and I do every time we have to part ways and moped over breakfast and gushed about how much I was going to miss her. Only how do you do that with someone you've just met without seemingly like a complete freak?

Answer: you don't. You thank the heavens that you have the kind of friend from high school who, after quick introductions asks Lauren (in his ever-so-characteristic politeness) what her plans are for the day. She needed to get home at some point. A four hour drive, but it... it can wait...

It hadn't occurred to me to ask Lauren if there was any reason she had to leave DC as soon as we checked out. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I didn't ask. I think I just assumed she had classes to get to, or work to do. (Part of me suspects that she did have work she could have been doing, but I'm glad she stayed anyhow!)

In any case, this was that day. In photos, because these are worth way more than a thousand words each. Way, way more.

As J. put it "one of an infinite number of statues of a guy on a horse..."

J. and Lauren making metal sing. J. reminded me of something I'd forgotten completely: there was installation art outside City Hall in Ottawa (next door to our high school) that sang when you walked through it!

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Yeah. Give us a gorgeous day, what do we do? Yup... we go to a cemetery...

As always, you can click to enlarge all these photos. The photo on the right is RFK's grave. The photo above is of a whole bunch of graves of unknown sailors. It really saddened me how many gravestones had "Unknown" on them.

I have now been to Virginia. Technically.

This next part I'm not even going to try to re-write. The next bit is verbatim from what I wrote on my other blog: this photo is kind of the epitome of my entire trip.

This photo that Lauren took of me (without my knowledge) sort of sums up the day. Washington, DC. The most incredibly blue sky EVER. The only reason I was in a long sleeved shirt was because it was SO WINDY crossing the Potomac that it felt like we were going to be blown off the bridge. Otherwise I was in a tank top. In Washington. On March 9th. Heaven.

Lauren doesn't know this, but as I was looking out over the water, I was thinking about how lucky I am. So. Unbelievably. Lucky. Lucky to have such lovely, crazy friends. Lucky to be living in one of the most privileged places in the world. Lucky to have such an amazing family. Even after all the crap I've faced in life, I am still so lucky. I am so grateful to the world because I don't deserve it (because the way I see it, none of us deserves anything, not really, because it's not like I'm a better person than an AIDS orphan in Sub-Saharan Africa who has nothing), but the least I can do is to be aware of just how lucky I am, and to make the most of it. And to be grateful for it.

I remember thinking that it would be too weird to ask her to take a photo of me like that, hanging onto the bridge as if for dear life, but part of me wanted to remember that moment, that feeling of grace and appreciation of the world, so I kind of froze it in my head. [Lauren, when I saw that you'd taken this photo, I nearly cried. It was one of those wow-we-are-on-EXACTLY-the-wave-length-even-when-we-don't-know-it moments... as if I needed more proof of this fact.]

I have a photo of my best friend of all time EVER, CK, (another gorgeous redhead!) that I took of her a few years ago on P & V's porch in Ottawa. There's sun in the trees and a red pick-up truck behind her. This is a completely different photo, but it captures the exact same thing for me and will have the same result: this photo is going to make me smile for the rest of my life.

Korea Monument in daylight; Lauren and I were both surprised to see that the statues were pale.
For some reason we thought they were way darker.

The Vietman Wall.
No matter what you think of that war, the wall is powerful. There are just SO many names.

So. Many. Names.

Being the gigantic IR dork that I am, I wanted to go see the FDR Monument. And we both wanted to see the Jefferson Monument. That was the plan. SO didn't happen. We got to the basin and took one look and just laughed and shook our heads: No way. It was already 4 p.m. or so and we only had a few hours of daylight left... so we got some nice woman to snap this of us. I think the monument looks better from across the water anyways :P

Instead, we ended up finding this little monument hidden in the middle of a little park. It was so, incredibly random and lovely and reminded me of a Jane Austen novel or of the random castle-y thing in Taylor Swift's 'Love Story' video. [This was one of the billions of times I thought of you Kylie!]

The escalator out of Dupont Station. Officially the largest escalator I've ever been on. After joking all day about the plethora of broken escalators all over Washington, Lauren and I shared a look and a thought: at least if maintenance is going to keep a few escalators in working order, it's these ones!

I felt like I was surfacing out of a dream. It was kind of bizarrely symbolic since it was almost the end our day and I never went back down into the subway system before leaving DC. I'm probably reading a little too much into, but it was incredible coming out into the late-afternoon light though...

So, I supposed it was inevitable that even after claiming I wouldn't I have made some attempt to express in words what this day was like, all the while knowing I'm incapable of actually doing so... even though words alone never really could convey what the day was like. The truest things in life, the things worth living for -those moments that take your breath away- those can never be quantified in anything as worthless as dollars or qualified in anything as crude as words.

I supposed there's no better way to conclude than with the epigraph with which Lauren prefaced this adventure on her blog:

It is not down in any map; true places never are.
~Herman Melville

I felt truer to myself that day in Washington than I had in longer than I really ought to admit to. I've been piecing my life back together for a long time now, and I'd begun to make some real progress on my own, but that day was like having someone come in and help you piece together the insanely complicated heart of a jigsaw puzzle that you're considering giving up as impossible.

Thank you Lauren, from the bottom of my heart. I would probably try to express it more eloquently if I didn't already know it to be a waste of energy. She gets it. That's why it was such a wonderful day. And it's why it won't be the last one.


Lauren said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say because anything I say would just be a waste of words. I'm completely floored - this is definitely another of those wow-we-are-on-EXACTLY-the-same-wave-length-even-when-we-don't-know-it moments.

Truthfully, I offered to wait with you because I didn't want to go home. Not that there's anything wrong with home, but after having an experience like that, it's hard to imagine going back to the "real world."

I decided to go on that trip on a total whim - gallivanting off to meet people I'd only previously met on the internet isn't something I'd ever done before - I never imagined I would come out of it having met someone so incredible.

I owe Jimmy a beer for asking me what my schedule was for the day. Well, I owe him a lot more than a beer, but putting a more finite value on it wouldn't do it justice.

Since we were both afraid of looking like freaks at breakfast, I'll say it now: I miss you, Mer! Vancouver is just too far away.

(On a lighter note, when we rode up that neverending escalator that was, thankfully, the only escalator in DC that was actually operating, it reminded me of the extremely long escalator at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Random, but I'll show you when you come to Pittsburgh and you'll see what I mean - since you ARE coming to Pittsburgh to visit someday.)

Lauren said...

Oh, and about the picture on the bridge: You can think I'm a freak if you want, but I remember taking it because I wanted a picture of you, and that moment just seemed to sum up the feeling of that whole day. It's one of my favorites from the whole trip.

mer said...

it's one of my favourite photos of myself ever. ever.