Today, while exploring a new museum, some folks asked in passing what my favorite bar in town was.
Without thinking, I answered “I don’t go to bars, I go to museums.”
(Like, seriously Adrian?! Think, think first THEN speak!)
They laughed (slightly uncomfortably I might add) before wandering off in search of libations and the kind of amusement I apparently sacrificed for a Saturday spent in the archives of time.
Now, before continuing, I must admit to enjoying both on occasion for different reasons, obviously. However, if I’m totally honest…
I prefer the museum, and for that I cannot apologize!
When I first moved to Washington, I spent a few weeks just revisiting my favorite monuments and historical sights from childhood. A year down the road, and it still feels as though I have only scratched the surface of the many art galleries, museums and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered in this town.
And because of that, today, I ran away to explore. .
Readings for next week’s classes were left for a later time, and I rushed out the door to the National Museum of the American Indian with tickles in my tummy. The museum itself is a part of the Smithsonian Institution (did you know it’s the world's largest museum complex?) and they care for one of the world's most expansive collections of Native artifacts. The museum contains objects, photographs, archives, and media that extends across the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.
My two favorite exhibits were “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces” (which was supposed to end in November, but thankfully was still on display!) It was beautifully done, and told the personal stories of Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Native veterans who served in the armed forces of the United States. The second, simply titled “Americans,” is a combination of traditional and contemporary images and artifacts ranging from a Tomahawk missile to braintanned and quilled plains Indian war shirts.
Wandering through displays and exhibits and making notes or taking pictures of each and every treasure is such a gift. In some ways, I might have been spoiled as a little girl when it comes to museums and history. The places our family lived and explored never lacked in long-established historic ties, and I became quite used to living in 500+ year old cottages, playing piano recitals in stone castles (remind me to tell y’all about THAT sometime) and casually climbing over hills and rock both Romans and British once roamed.
History wasn’t just something to be studied and written about for school as a child. It was a precious gift passed on from my parents.
It was meant to be lived more than learned, and questioned more than quizzed.
My mother, who people sometimes mistake for “tame” at first glance (Yo, BI mistake) is truly the adventurer of our family. Travel, daring and adventure run through the veins of that little woman like you wouldn't believe. Her careful guidance and attention when it came to where, and what we explored around the world as kids even with no money, made more of an impact than I think she realizes to this day.
She is forever in my mind the “yes” woman.
Yes to Ukraine not long after the Iron Curtain fell. Yes to hitchhiking, living in tents and allowing her feral little girl to remain wild rather than proper and live in a tipi. Yes to jumping off Swiss mountains (Ohhh another fun story, remind me to tell you guys that soon!) Yes to it all. Even when we could not afford to stay, eat or (probably even walk) in certain places around the world, my mother made sure many of my earliest memories were of art, literature and history in all its forms. It simply was a part of life, as natural as breathing.
Today, I suppose that love of the past could be called an obsession, but I prefer the term comforting-passion.
The peace and calm I find in a museum or lost in a history book is comparable only to the calm similarly felt on the back of a good horse in big country.
Today was spent in the arms of history and time, filled to the brim with that deep sense of peace and joy.
And I am grateful.