The Bigger Picture

Photo by Chris Albrecht

Photo by Chris Albrecht

Leaves discarded by hibernating elms danced in fluid circles around my boots, encouraged by a bitter wind and choreographed by the retaining wall that eventually guided them onto the frozen reflecting pool as I progressed methodically from the Washington Monument westward toward the Lincoln Memorial, turning my head only the slightest degree to watch them gently come to rest on winter’s window pane as I deflected the wind from my face. In time the ice will melt, absorbing the leaves into the pool, where they will be quickly forgotten, replaced by their newer, greener counterparts, waving in the warm, spring music, learning to dance for the first time in endless cycles.

DC in winter is lonesome of both warmth and tourists, though its stories and history are ever present. Two hundred years ago a much simpler vista laid before the lawmakers and politicians who traversed these grounds near the White House. Monuments to men yet born, dreams in the mind’s eye of their creators, to sit high above the people, icons of freedom and democracy, had yet no bearing on the landscape. Untouched, pristine, cultivatable. To imagine what thoughts took seed in their minds as they strolled the same land as I do today, over a country unowned, a land unclaimed, a soil undeveloped. Idyllic rules laid down to justify sovereignty from one nation and yet over another, freeing ourselves from inimical tyranny only to institute it ourselves, justified by language, melatonin, and boots.

What would they think of their creation today, two-hundred and thirty-two years after establishing laws over a land that until that point had none to speak of? I wondered, as I crested the final steps giving Lincoln a view of my face for the first time, what was their grand vision? To walk amongst them, unencumbered by television screens and radio signals, eavesdropping on plans to venture west, to establish a system that would prevent entropy by a system of checks and balances, to abolish slavery or to weave it into the fabric of a new, American society; a dream from which I don’t dare wish to awaken.

I stood at the pinnacle, in the shadows of Lincoln’s grand columns, and looked in return over the frozen pool to the jutting monument to a man who first led our troops in battle to secure our freedom before taking the seat to run our new country. A far cry from the current resident, a term applied loosely as he prefers to reside in places where his name is already plated in gold, (a measure of his own doing), declaring that the seat never known by the first president was not suitable for him. And long road it has been. The meticulously sculpted honorariums and landscape of the city would convince that it was a smooth one, it has been anything but.

The wind that enchanted my leaves to dance out onto their inevitable, watery resting place returned in a song that called my leave. I began down the steps, knowing that what my eyes saw before me was not the words over which we argue so indefinitely, but something that has been lost to the inimical masses. Arguments over passages more than two centuries old will continue to separate us, when really, we are missing the bigger picture.