Archive for June, 2010

MonumenTwilight

Panorama of the Mall

Washington Monument at night

Well, it only took a reservation months in advance, but I finally managed to get inside the Washington Monument. An exciting moment, to say the least. There were definitely some facts about the monument that I was unaware of. For instance, I did not know that when it was built it was the tallest structure in the world. I also did not know it was actually built in two sections. The first section was built and construction was abandoned when it was about 1/3 done. Of course, this was during the Civil War, so I can see how the nation would have more important things to do at the time. It wasn’t until years later that it was finally completed. If you look closely at the outside, you can see the difference between the first section and the second section. It’s even more obvious once you’re inside it, riding in the elevator. Additionally, I did not know that there were commemorative stones set inside the monument from various states and foreign countries. Lots of interesting information that made the wait and the trip down to Washington DC worth it.

Day

When I was finished with my tour, I walked out of the monument and heard the sounds of an orchestra playing some classical music. Adjacent to the Washington Monument is a stage where the President’s own Marine Corps band was holding a concert. I lay on the grass and listened to the performance. It had been quite a while since I had listened to some live classical music, so it was an enjoyable and nostalgic experience. Looking up at the sky, I watched the clouds go by and took the time to really relax. Since this has been my first summer in which I have been working and not just taking a break from school, I hadn’t really felt that I had given myself any of the simple pleasures of the season. Just letting time go by without a care fulfilled that need splendidly.

and Night

Even if I didn’t purposely plan my visit to the Washington Monument to be at sunset, I was definitely glad that it was. During my first visit to Washington D.C. in 8th grade, our group visited the monuments and memorials of the Mall at night, and it definitely left an impression on me. Sure, the architectures of these icons of our nation’s capitol are nice to look at during the day, but when the sun sets and the monuments get to control the light they are bathed in, their true beauty comes out. If I were to suggest any activity to someone visiting Washington D.C., it would have to be to visit the monuments and memorials at night. The pictures that I took don’t even come close to scratching the surface of the experience. Perhaps one of the most beautiful memorials would have to be the World War II memorial. I was even able to recreate some

of my previous pictures of the memorial with the lighting change being the only difference. Water plays a huge part in this memorial, so when the twilight descended, the lighting of the memorial utilized the water to splendid results.

Reflecting Pool at sunset

Lastly, the final lighting display that I enjoyed also happened to be another pleasure of the summer season. As I sauntered through the park,  making my way back to the Metro station, the fireflies were out in full force. Having lived the majority of my life in Colorado, which is not a climate that encourages fireflies, I always find that I enjoy watching and being surrounded by these insects. I think the fact that they can provide light like they do is what intrigues me about them. For me, they definitely convey memories of summers with grandparents in Kansas City, which was my only exposure to fireflies while growing up. I’m not sure if there’s just a time of summer that they come out, but when I came back to Alabama the next day, I noticed the fireflies here as well. Not nearly to the density that I experienced in D.C., but still enjoyable none-the-less.

Walking through the dark of the evening, the warmth of the atmosphere being comfortable and not overbearingly hot, I remembered why I like walking at night. There is a serenity and calm that is encompassed by the combination of the elements of the night. The hectic and frantic pace of the day winds down and goes to sleep in those twilight hours, and it is in this rest that peace can be found.

ResolutioNexus

A mid-term assessment can be a very useful tool for examining progress toward a goal. Back in January, I made a post (see “ResolutionarYear”) that put forth my plans for 2010. These plans were the attempt to change my life into some semblance of what I actually want. This list of goals was essentially the same list that many others would come up with in terms of content. Out with the old, in with the new. That kind of mentality. Now, a little past the nexus of this year, I can look back and see how I’ve done and what I need to do come December 31st.

My first resolution was essentially killed off within the first few weeks of the year due to my job. I had hoped to stay at my apartment and use it as a sort of “base of operations” for activities I wanted to do in Huntsville. Unfortunately, I was required to be in Maryland for the majority of this year. Fortunately, I did not have to give up my apartment, so I can still hold it as a “base of operations”, but not to the extent I wanted to. On the plus side, travelling as much as I do essentially brings in another paycheck worth of per diem, and the rewards of spending so much time in a hotel have made themselves more apparent in the form of Gold (soon to be platinum) membership as well as enough points to obtain the HD camcorder that I plan on eventually getting.

As for the bad habits that I wanted to quit, I lasted about a month. It’s unfortunate, but it’s life. Bad habits are hard to break. However, I have noticed that they are gradually becoming less of a problem. I will sometimes have to pull out the nail trimmers and give the ol’ fingernails a trim more often than I have in many years past. As long as the frequency of these habits decreases, I’ll count it as a temporary victory.

In terms of my health, I have continued working out, which is not that much of a challenge, since I purposely set aside time to do so. Now, controlling what I eat has become much more difficult, especially when I’m travelling. The accommodations I have when I’m away from Alabama do not allow me to do any cooking, so I must rely on fast food for sustenance. Sometimes for three weeks at a time. That can get very tiring, even if I’m forcing myself to not visit the same franchise more than once during a trip. Still, I hold to the practice of only eating when I’m hungry. Plus, the snacks are still under my control and are nonexistent. Therefore, I have as much control as I need, and it seems to be working out fine for now.

One of my greater successes this year has come in the form of my cooking resolution (see “CookinGoal”). Despite my frequent absence from my apartment, I make it a point when I am home to cook something out of one of the cookbooks I own. So far, I’ve been able to cook something for 61.5% of the weeks that this year has had to offer. An interesting development from this goal was that I started having dinner parties. The main goal for these parties was to get rid of all this food that is inevitably made when recipes have servings for many more than one person. However, I took the opportunity of food and turned it into an opportunity for fellowship with my new found Huntsville friends, thereby deepening my connections in town.

Yet another advantage of being in a hotel for most of the year is the removal of distractions. There is so much to do in my apartment that I sometimes get bored just trying to figure out what to do. In a hotel room, all I can do is read. And read I have. My friend, Andrew Ferguson, has a goal to read a book a month this year, and I applaud him for that. I, however, have already managed to read 25 books this year, and that’s not even including the volumes of manga that I’ve read. Part of the problem with trying to read the books on my bookshelf that are unread is that I keep buying more books. Luckily, my purchasing has gone down as of late, so I’m starting to really make some progress.

When I’m back in Huntsville, I also try to watch some of the DVDs that I own that I haven’t seen yet. Of course, my DVDs suffer from the same problem as my books. Movie rental stores are starting to close down, so I expanded my collection many-fold at a minimum cost to myself. Of course, that means that I have in my possession many films I have yet to see. A handy visual progress system I have implemented (that I apply to my unread books as well), is that I will turn the unseen movies on their side. This provides me with a quick indication of how far I have to go. I also added a goal of watching the remaining Best Picture movies that I haven’t seen yet. I haven’t really started on this goal, but there is plenty of time left in this year to accomplish it.

Even though I set my mind on participating in the National Novel Writing Month this year, I can’t actually write anything until November. However, that hasn’t stopped me from preparing for this feat. The distraction-less hotel room has given me a lot of time to develop the characters and plot of what I eventually plan to write. Right now I just hope that I can get all my ideas into the November novel. At the time of this post, I have a little more than 10 pages of bullet points, structure and outline prepared for my endeavor. There are definitely times that some pieces of plot click together that I’m glad that I’m spending the time preparing now.

Lastly, the growth of my spiritual life was the final goal I had for this year. I haven’t really put any effort forward on the prayer front, but I have managed to do some development in other areas. When I’m back in town, I make it a point to participate in the choir at my church. I feel that this is probably the best way that I can minister at this point in my life. At least until I can use my acting skills again. I’m also nearly finished with my second read-through of the Bible, and should be starting on round 3 in the next few months. The next time I read through the Bible, I plan to do so in its chronological order, so it should be different read compared to the last two times.

So, even despite my circumstances, I have managed to fulfill most all of my resolutions this year, as well as pick up a few more along the way. I didn’t even go into depth about how I’m starting to learn how to read sheet music so that I can accomplish one of my five-year goals of learning to play the piano. Still, six months is a long time, so I’m looking forward to what I can accomplish in the remaining half of this year.