Saturday, July 22, 2006

Monticello and Liberty

During the middle of June (2006), my husband and I traveled down to Charlottesville, Virginia. Having had a grand few days canvassing the area – University of Virginia, housing, and the dog-friendly downtown mall, it was time to visit another home – Monticello – and literally walk into the late-1700’s. To my relief, Buddy-roo was allowed on the grounds. As a happy Advanced Basic Obedience class graduate, in training to be a therapy dog for children and patients in hospice, he (14 months old) won the heart of Molly (a 17 month old toddler in her ball cap, pink-T, and toddle-sized denim shorts). He behaved exactly as he should have and Molly petted him, scrunching her chubby fingers in his thick fur and floppy ears with glee and bubbling laughter. A win for Buddy-roo! The charmer. As I walked through the rooms of Mr. Jefferson’s home knowing he had walked, worked/written, and mourned there for the loss of his wife, Martha, I was again awed by the fragility of this wonder we call life. We know that life is short yet as we live we cannot imagine a world without us in it, yet I stood in his bedroom-office where he had passed away on July 4, 1826, scanned the books in his library, stood in his dining room and then stood in the Madison Room, the guest room used by the same Dolley Madison who protected the art work in the President’s House which was put to flames by the British around 1812, as was the Library of Congress. When my tour was complete, I walked with my Maltese friend across Thomas Jefferson’s lawn, and sat on the grass in the shade of a large, old tree next to the fishpond waiting for my husband to complete his tour. Facing the home, I flipped open my cell phone and called a friend in Valley Center, Ca. It was noon in Virginia and 9am in California. I told him of the view. He said, “You are in the cradle of our republic.” Yes, I was ⎯ sitting on Mr. Jefferson’s lawn, taking in the clean, crisp air he had breathed, musing on the accomplishments of the men who risked their fortunes and their lives in the American Revolution to give birth to a new nation. Had the American Revolution failed, their heads would have been hoisted on stakes, their fortunes gone, and we possibly would be colonies of the Queen. Allow me one digression here. I am sad that Louis XVI lost his head largely as a matter of the debt France incurred getting our revolutionary breeches out of the fire. When my husband’s tour ended, he joined us on the lawn and, after a brief stop for water and a cold drink, we trekked down the path to the family cemetery. A large monument marks Mr. Jefferson’s resting place. Today, people toss coins upon the steps of the monument and make wishes. We were no different and tossing coins alongside a couple from Massachusetts, we each made our respective wishes. In the shade of ancient trees whose limbs touched the sky, I tossed a coin upon the flag-decorated steps. I made two wishes. The second one was for my family. The first one was for our nation. In that quiet, wooded place, with the sounds of small animals rustling the brush, birds chirping and flitting around us, my words came as a silent prayer, “Mr. Jefferson, thank you for our nation. I pray we will be able to keep it.” Leaving the cemetery, we followed the dirt path down to the parking area. The white fur on Buddy-roo’s paws and legs soon took on a reddish tint from the dust. The heat made the going rough, but he forged ahead down the path, leading his women folk. The pathway was dappled with sunlight. After a few turns at the base of the mountain, we found ourselves on Interstate 64. Traveling backward and forward in time in the space of a few hours takes its toll on the soul but we are richer for the journey. I believe it was Ben Franklin or perhaps Edmond Burke who said something like, a people who will give up liberty/freedom for security will end up losing both. To me, that is where we are in America today. Our journey to Monticello reminded me how great the accomplishments of our Founding Fathers are and how fragile have become the scales upon which our freedoms rest. As our presidents say, "God bless you and God bless America!"


Blogger John said...

I have never toured that area of the country... and I think, now more than ever, we need to remember, and in some cases learn more about our founding fathers. The original quote is "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." and it was Ben Franklin that said it.... and we, as a country, need to exam our current ideas on security before we head down a garden path that leads us in a direction where there is no return.

11:15 AM  

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