Last year before the pandemic changed everything, I was on my yearly pilgrimage to Charlottesville, VA. We had had a fine Dream Quest, dreaming our Soul’s Purpose –delighting in the sisterhood Dream Quest dependably ushers in. I took the commuter train to DC and settled into my commuter type hotel and spent the afternoon in the Museum of African American History and a stroll to the Lincoln Memorial. I was feeling a bit under the weather, wondering whether I had caught that virus we had begun hearing about, so my wandering through the empty expanses of official Washington DC was slow. It was an unseasonably warm day in winter. The reflecting pool was emptied and the trees and grasses were the color of East Coast February– a bland, slightly pink shade of beige. There were few people on the Metro and even in the most wonderful museum.
I reflected on the 4 long years of Trump’s presidency. It wasn’t hard to lay the empty, slighly dystopian vibe I was experiencing at the feet of his dismal failures.
I was buoyed by the magnificence of the Museum. It is such an immersive rendering of the African American experience, history, suffering, endurance and exhuberant survival. I have thought of the museum many times this year as BLM exploded on the streets this summer, seeking to remember how it traced MLK’s arc of history and came out hopeful.
On the fifth floor of the museum, there is a balcony with a good view of the Capitol. A friend had told me that it was a perfect place to offer prayers for all that goes on in that temple of democracy. I spent a long while praying for miracles of progressive legislation, praying for whoever the Democratic candidate would be. Last February, before everything changed, we had no idea who that would be.
I walked the very long way to Lincoln, sat with him a while, listened to frustrated teachers try to impart the stories to rowdy kids. It felt like part of the museum experience to pay homage to this President.
I felt better the next day and flew home to what would soon be the 2020 experience.
It was not until the siege, the impeachment and now the glorious Inaugural that I began to think of my visit with the Capitol. Like us all, I was horrified to see the beautiful inviolable dome desecrated by the mob. I had never before realized how I track to that building, how much power it holds in my American imagination– how constant a symbol it has been for me of what is right with my country. I felt disgust and rage and yet a strange type of relief that the Trumpian opera had seemed to reach its tawdry climax in the deranged insurrection.
And then to see that our congressmen and women got back to work, showing us the tedious process of recording the vote even after they had feared for their lives. It was stunning, reassuring. Those that opposed the certification will live on some kind of infamy, believing or pretending to believe the lies, now hopefully a vestige of a former sick and corrupt regime.
A turn to the new began with the swift impeachment and the deployment of enough national guard to secure us all. And then Inauguration week dawned and so much beauty filled the same space I had walked last year. Lanterns were lit after the simplest of ceremonies to memorialize the 400,000 covid dead, The ceremony was conducted in grace and quiet by Joe and Kamala accompanied by angel voices. The lanterns shone on the now filled waters of the reflecting pool
On Wednesday, the mall was festooned with flags and decorations to stand in for all of us who would have loved to be there standing shoulder to shoulder. In every long shot we saw of our national holy place, beauty rose and conquered the lingering images of desecration. And the Capitol, after her trauma, shone clear and bright like the beacon she is, providing us with the backdrop to what I will never again take for granted is the most sacred of our democratic rituals.
I’ve been taken with Light this year– light of hope that this was the last Trump year– light of hope with vaccines and the lessons of slowing that the unrelenting pandemic provides still , light of hope with this summer’s protests, light of hope in the participation of so many of us in the election. Our Dream Quest in November was entitled Dreaming into the Light. I led a meditation that featured a visualization of a labyrinth of light gently enveloping the Capitol infusing the stones with healing.
So when the remarkable poet, Amanda Gorman taught us that there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it, I saw Washington DC and all those who seek to be of service transformed in that light– an absolutely different reality than the one I experienced last year.
May there be gleaming and hope, bravery and the good hard work of truth and reconciliation for us all.