Friday, June 29, 2012

Bivouac of the Dead

Over three days, we visited the Naval Museum in Norfolk, the settlement of Jamestown, and the battlefields of Yorktown, Spotsylvania, Chancellorville, and Fredricksburg. By Friday afternoon, my mind was awash in bloody statistics of men dead in battle. The numbers were overwhelming. Over 50,000 men dead at Gettysburg. Almost 30,000 at Fredricksburg. Over 8,500 American men died in British prisons in the Revolutionary War.

How can you even take in numbers like that? By the afternoon of the second day I was ready to declare that I couldn't take one more battle site tour. My heart hurt and I did not want to hear one more sad story.
Plus, Virginia was in the middle of a heat wave and I was tired of being hot and sweaty.

And then, on the third day, I reluctantly tagged along on some walking tours around the Civil War sites in the vicinity of Fredricksburg. When you are standing on the very field where tens of thousands of men died, it is impossible to remain hard of heart. If, I thought to myself, I cannot stand here and honour these men in my heart and shed a tear or two for the lives they didn't get to live, for what purpose did they die? It matters not for which side they fought. They all experienced the horror of battle, the cries of pain, the terror of a futile attack, the cold, the heat, the deprivation of war. 

And so, I drank it in.
I hid behind monuments and cried a little.
I took photographs like a woman possessed.
I listened to every word of the National Park tour guides, who were passionate about their subjects and brought the stories of the battles and the men who fought them to life. 
If you ever go back east and visit these sites, take the free walking tours. Trust me, you will be glad you did. 

And so, I paid homage to all of the men who have died in wars that were started by men in high places. And to those who came home but were irreparably damaged.
And to the families they left behind.

There is a poem that is found in Confederate cemeteries all over the South. It was written by a man named Theodore O'Hara to honour Kentuckians who died in the Mexican War of 1846, but has been used to remember the fallen on both sides of the Civil War. It is also quoted on the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery.

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the marrow's strife
The warrior's dreams alarms;
No braying horn or screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell.
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor time's remorseless doom,
Can dim one ray of glory's light
That guilds your deathless tomb.

 From: "Bivouac of the Dead"
By Theodore O'Hara, 1847

In memory of 
who departed this life
October the 13th
in the Year of our Lord
Aged 30 years
Ah cruel ball so sudden to disarm
And tare my tender husband
from my Arms
How can I grieve too much
what time shall end
by Mourning for so good
so kind a friend

There is no end to the stories. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Garden of Eden is in Norfolk, Virginia

We arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on Wednesday, twenty-one hours after leaving home the day before. It was a long litany of waiting in airports and late flights. When we pulled out of the surprisingly lovely Norfolk International Airport in our rented Dodge Avenger, we were ready to navigate to our Airbnb host and collapse in a puddle of sweat and exhaustion.
Not one hundred yards from the airport exit was a sign that said Norfolk Botanical Garden.
You know what we did.
We turned that car right around and parked it.
We entered the visitors' centre and paid our entry fee and picked the brain of the lady at the information counter. This was the first thing we saw!

We took the tram ride around the garden to check out the best places to visit after we had rested. We paid for a boat ride for later in the afternoon. 
And then we went to find our rented room.

After meeting the hippie host (he makes rain-water barrels and brews alcoholic concoctions) and showering and resting, we drove the two miles back to the gardens. I was armed with camera and baseball cap.
It was hot!
The gardens are just over this rise from the airport. You can climb the berm and sit and watch planes land and listen to pilots' chatter over a speaker.  

Question: Why does Jeff strike such dorky poses?

You can walk along the top of the berm that divides the dusty airfield from paradise. 
The tram driver said that there is a gate between the edge of the airfield and the gardens so that travelers with a few hours to kill can enter the gardens for a relaxing respite, free of charge. All in the name of beautifying Virginia.
Now, that is a nice concept, but the gaping hole in the logic is that we didn't see any evidence of that information in the airport. 

Norfolk has a thing about really ugly mermaids. They're all over the place, like the cows used to be in Portland, only not as pretty. In fact, kind of creepy. I had to threaten Jeff with dire things to get him to pose.

We slithered around the gardens and Jeff waited patiently while I photographed every lovely bloom that caught my eye. The temperature was 94 degrees and HUMID! 

I'm pretty sure this is the same flower that captivated me in Haiti.

This is called a honey rose and as I was snapping the photo, Jeff said There are bugs in there!

I hadn't even noticed, but sure enough, as we made a commotion, they flew away. I barely caught this one as it climbed out.

Baby pomegranate.

The boat ride took us down a river and around a lake that is created by a fresh spring. It supplies the water for the people of Norfolk and tastes mighty good.

This is for a certain piratey girl of my acquaintance.

There are a few houses around the lake. 
I would probably live in this one if someone gave it to me.

Or this one. It would do.

You could live in this one and we would be neighbours.

 ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ And our friends are all aboard,
Many more of them live next door.
And the band begins to play  ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬  ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ 

A male eagle lives on the lake, along with four younger females. His mate was killed last year by a plane and he hasn't hooked up with another lady yet. We saw him several times and the last time he was flying off while being dive-bombed by several smaller birds.
Apparently, he gets no respect.

We saw several varieties of turtles, a blue heron, a water snake, and lots of whirligig bugs that made spirals in the water as they ran away from the boat. The boat ride was a relaxing, slightly cooler interlude in our day.

Then we walked several miles around the gardens, looking and sniffing and dripping perspiration.
They say anything will grow in Norfolk and I believe it.

I love mandevillas. I grew one a few years ago but it didn't survive the winter, of course.

Lilies of all kinds were everywhere.
I didn't notice the ant in this one until I edited it.

Angel statues scare me, but this one was nice.

I love the bud shape on mountain laurels.

Norfolk is very flat. This mound was built of excavated earth. We had been hearing the strains of an Irish flute as we neared the hill and we climbed the stairs to locate the source.

A man was sitting under a tree, playing his Irish flute just for the fun of it. It was quite beautiful and I treasured the melodious sound as we continued our explorations.

Crepe myrtles abound and I couldn't stop photographing their well-pruned shapes and smooth bark.

Australian tree ferns. Jeff wishes his looked like these.

We saw these corn stalks when we were on the boat and the same dragonfly was sitting on top. I thought maybe it was dead, but it was not.

Mmm. I do love passion flowers.

I was determined to visit the butterfly house, but when we arrived it was closed. I said a few choice sentences about people who closed butterfly houses before poor, tired, sweating tourists from Oregon could get there. Then I walked around the outside and was industriously trying to get a good shot of some of the butterflies through the netting...

...when I looked past the butterfly and saw my sneaky husband inside the building!
The back door was open, so in I sidled.

A few intrepid butterfly couples were making whoopee.
I took about fifty photos of these two.
What does that say about me?

We decided that the botanical garden is like heaven for bunnies. Unlimited food and no predators.

I told Jeff not to squint as I took this photo of him sitting under a great old magnolia tree.

This is a replica of the US Constitution.

The captain is at his table!

See? I am unreasonably fond of crepe myrtles.

Now these are good children!

I dragged an increasingly grumpy husband and footsore self to the hydrangea garden.

Let's face it. I might as well just succumb to the inevitable and call this a photoblog.
A phlog? Do you think that one will catch on? Or did someone already think of it?

The security person at the gate recommended Captain Groovy's Grill and Raw Bar for dinner (we take our recommendations where we can) so off we went.

I told Jeff he needed the Groovy Daddy burger.
Turns out he did.

Thank goodness I asked for the Cajun sauce on the side. Just a thin scraping on the baguette sizzled my senses.

The sun was setting as we drove to the house. 

We were asleep almost as soon as the sun.