Posts Tagged ‘Brookland’

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Autonautilus

During my lunchtime bike ride today I happened upon an eye-catchingly unusual vehicle parked on 8th Street in northeast D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood (MAP).  When I first saw it I thought of the DeLorean time machine in the “Back to the Future” movies.  At the end of the third and final movie, Doc Brown was married to Cora, and they had two sons, Jules and Verne.  And this vehicle is how I imagine their station wagon would look like if they ever had (or is it will have?) a family vehicle.

By far my favorite of the many unusual vehicles that I’ve run across during my daily bike rides throughout the city, I found out that this vehicle is actually a mobile art exhibit entitled “Autonautilus.”  But more than that, it also happens to function as a vehicle for its artist owner, Clarke Bedford.  Bedford is a local sculpture, performer and artist from nearby Hyattsville, and when he’s not working on his own creations or performing, he is also a conservator at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Autonautilus is one of several vehicles Bedford has created.  He refers to them as “art cars”, and thinks of them as “assemblages that live outdoors and which also happen to move down the road.”  And since they are the only cars he owns and drives, they are durable as well.  Comprised predominantly from metal parts such as metal tubes, fans, statues, car parts, and almost anything else he can salvage or buy and re-use as forms of art, they have to be durable in order to withstand driving down the road, or being parked in the elements at his house since he doesn’t have a garage.

And Bedford’s art is not confined to his cars.  Both the outside as well as the inside of his home is filled with works of art, or works in progress, or bits and pieces of miscellanea which will eventually be incorporated into future works.  Bedford is not a professional artist getting rich from his creations.  But as evidenced by what he surrounds himself with, it is more than a mere hobby.  Bedford thinks of himself as existing somewhere in between the realms of professionals and hobbyists.  A place where most artists live.  I think that it is a place inhabited by the type of people who English poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy described in his poem “Ode”, which reads:  “We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams; World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems.”

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[Click on photos above to view full size versions]

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The Georgetown Labyrinth

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a labyrinth as “a place that has many confusing paths or passages” and asserts that it is synonymous with a maze. But that definition is incorrect. A labyrinth and a maze are not the same. There is a distinction between the two. A maze is multicursal and refers to a complex branching puzzle to be deciphered with choices of path and direction, dead ends and either no exit or one that is difficult to find. A labyrinth, on the other hand, is unicursal, with a single, unambiguous path leading to the center and back which is not difficult to navigate.

The Labyrinth Society is a international organization whose mission is to support all those who create, maintain and use labyrinths.  According to the Society, a labyrinth is a tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation which is also thought to enhance right brain activity. Labyrinths have been an important part of many cultures spiritually for thousands of years, and have also been used to create decorative art. Walking through one is usually intended to be a meditative and contemplative act, and many religions, including some Christian churches, integrate walking meditation into their spiritual practices. For others, labyrinth walking is simply a great way to unwind on a beautiful day and clear your mind.

There are a number of labyrinths in the greater D.C. area – a dozen, actually. Two are nearby in Virginia. One is indoors, the other outdoors, and both are located at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria. There are also two in Maryland, one at the Hallowood Retreat Center in Dickerson, and the other at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. There are also eight which are located in D.C. proper. One is on the grounds of the The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, located in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood. Another is located on the rooftop terrace of a commercial office in northeast D.C. which houses the American Psychological Association.   There are also labyrinths located in some of the city’s churches. These include The Church of the Epiphany, Westminster Presbyterian Church, St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, and at Washington National Cathedral. The remaining labyrinth is the one I chose to visit and walk during this lunchtime bike ride.

Located in the Georgetown Waterfront Park, located at the southern end of 33rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, The Georgetown Labyrinth is the only labyrinth located on public property in D.C.  It was provided by the TKF Foundation, a private grant-making foundation whose purpose is to create “Open Spaces, Sacred Places.”  The Georgetown Labyrinth is meant to “foster human spirituality and connections for people of all beliefs, faiths, and cultures.”

No one knows for certain the exact number of labyrinths in the United States, but in addition to the seven in D.C. there are 112 more in Virginia, and another 71 labyrinths in Maryland. There are labyrinths located in every state, with some states having 400 or more. So if you’d like to visit and maybe even experience a labyrinth walk for yourself, but you’re not in the local D.C. area, there is bound to be one near you. You can find one using the online World-Wide Labyrinth Locater. And you don’t have to wait until World Labyrinth Day (which is the first Saturday in May) to do it.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail

The Metropolitan Branch Trail

On this ride I explored the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which is an eight-mile trail that runs through the middle of D.C. (MAP), from Union Station downtown all the way to the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Station in Silver Spring, Maryland. Seven miles of the trail are within the city limits, and one mile is in Maryland. The trail gets its name from the Metropolitan Branch Line of the B&O Railroad, which the trail parallels. It is technically considered a rail-trail conversion because a key section of the trail is on former B&O Railroad right-of-way.

The urban trail takes cyclists past graffiti, industrial sites, train tracks, a brewery, and a touch of greenery as it passes through several of D.C.’s vibrant and historic neighborhoods, including the NOMA, Edgewood, Eckington and Brookland neighborhoods. Used much more for utilitarian purposes than for recreation, the trail is an important transportation route providing connections to homes and work, as well as access to seven Metro stations, and the National Mall.

However, the Metropolitan Branch Trail currently remains unfinished.  Plans for the future include connections to the area’s trail network such as the Capital Crescent Trail, Anacostia Trails System, and integration into the East Coast Greenway.

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The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America, founded in 1887 by the U.S. Catholic bishops with the support of Pope Leo XIII, is the national and pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the U.S. On this ride I stopped by to see their campus, which is located in northeast D.C., and is bound by Michigan Avenue to the south, North Capitol Street to the west, Hawaii Avenue to the north, and John McCormick Road to the east.  The campus’ main entrance is located at 620 Michigan Avenue (MAP) in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood.  Brookland is also sometimes known as “Little Rome”, because in addition to the Catholic University, the neighborhood also contains 59 other Catholic institutions and organizations, including Trinity Washington University, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. 

The earliest origins of the Catholic University of America dates back to a discussion about the church’s need for a national university during the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866. Bishop John Lancaster Spalding then persuaded family friend Mary Gwendoline Caldwell to pledge $300,000 to establish it. In 1882 Bishop Spalding went to Rome to obtain Pope Leo XIII’s support for the University.  And on April 10, 1887, Pope Leo sent James Cardinal Gibbons a letter granting permission to begin the university.  It was incorporated later that year on 66 acres of land next to the Old Soldiers Home. President Grover Cleveland was in attendance for the laying of the cornerstone of Divinity Hall, now known as Caldwell Hall, on May 24, 1888, as were members of Congress and the U.S. Cabinet.

Over the years the University’s campus has been expanded to 193-acres, and Romanesque and modern design dominate among its 55 major buildings. Today the campus community includes over 6,000 students from all 50 states and around the world.  There are over 100 registered student clubs and organizations on campus for a wide variety of interests including athletics, academics, social, Greek life, service, political and, of course, religious.  In addition to 21 research centers and facilities, the Catholic University has 13 schools offering doctorate or professional degrees  in 66 programs, master’s degrees in 103 programs, and undergraduate degrees are in 72 different programs.  And while the university welcomes students of all faiths, 84% of undergraduates self-identify as Catholic.

On a personal level I found visiting the campus and learning about the university interesting because I also attended college founded by a church. I graduated from Eastern Mennonite College (now University), which was founded and is affiliated with one of the historic peace churches, the Mennonite Church USA. Despite vast differences in their sizes, enrollment, as well as programs, and the theological and doctrinal differences, they also share many similarities, which made my visit to Catholic University seem almost like I was an alumni returning for a visit.

The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

I rode aimlessly around D.C. on this ride, taking routes that I hadn’t taken before in an attempt to find something new that I didn’t know about.  And I did.  I found a monastery, named The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America.  It’s located at 1400 Quincy Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood.  Also known as the Monastery of Mount St. Sepulchre, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for thousands of visitors since the monastery and church’s dedication over a century ago.

Founded by Franciscan friars, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is one of D.C.’s little-known and often overlooked gems, with a stunning neo-Byzantine style church with Romanesque influences at its center.  Known as the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre and designed by the Italian architect and engineer Aristide Leonori, the cornerstone was laid in 1898 and construction was completed the following year.  The floor plan of the church is based on the five-fold Crusader Cross of Jerusalem, and it is intended to resemble Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.  The Church was consecrated in September 1924, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its dedication.

Greeting visitors as they enter through the main gate is a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone in 1226.  Saint Francis was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher.  He founded the men’s Franciscan Order of which this monastery is affiliated, as well as the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis.  Saint Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in the history of Christianity.

Surrounding the church is the Rosary Portico, with 15 chapels commemorating the lives of Jesus and Mary. Each chapel contains artistic ceramic plaques bearing the Angelic Greeting, also known as the Hail Mary traditional Catholic prayer, in nearly 200 ancient and modern languages. The façade of the portico is decorated with early Christian symbols from the Catacombs, and is intended to be reminiscent of the cloister of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Attached to the rear of the church is the monastery, built in the neo-Romanesque style. The meticulously landscaped monastery grounds contain replicas of shrines in the Holy Land, a labyrinth, as well as a greenhouse. In the early days of the monastery, the grounds were the site of a small farm, and also included a barn, grain silo, tool sheds and other outbuildings.  Today the grounds of the monastery contain beautiful gardens with more than 1,000 roses, as well as other flowers and plants.

I was able to park my bike and walk around the grounds of the monastery for a while.  It is a very beautiful and peaceful place, a true oasis within the city.  It was an enjoyable ride and experience, and I intend to go back again sometime soon.

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A Survivor's Journey

A Survivor’s Journey

This bike ride took me to the Brookland neighborhood in northeast D.C., where I happened upon a Domestic Violence Awareness Project mural, entitled “A Survivor’s Journey.”  The public artwork is located near The Catholic University of America, on the side of The Brookland Café building at 3740 12th Street (MAP), which donated the wall as a canvas for the artwork.

Local award-winning mural artist Joel Bergner, who partnered with the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), an organization that provides refuge and services to victims of domestic abuse, created the large and colorful mural in 2010.  The project was financed through fundraisers, and in part by a campaign on Kickstarter, an online fundraising site for all things creative.

Designed based on interviews the artist conducted with victims of domestic violence and staff members at DASH, the mural is intended to use their stories as inspiration for its message about overcoming past trauma and looking toward a better future.  The dedication for the mural reads, “Inspired by true stories of domestic violence, this mural depicts a woman and child’s journey from a painful past to a brighter tomorrow with a myriad of support along the way.”

A Survivor’s Journey generally depicts darkness transitioning into light as it progresses from the left to the right of the piece, with the sun shown in top right corner of the piece.  The details of the mural show a collage of images.  Among them, an older couple positioned down the road from a home, a woman holding a clipboard, and a group of woman who appear to represent a variety of races and ethnic backgrounds.  Another image shows a scene which includes a figure of a controlling man with his hands on his hips standing in a doorway behind a woman, who is painted using only black and blue, possibly representing the bruises and injuries she has sustained as a result of physical abuse. The woman is covering her ears while a child, presumably her son, is looking up at her and tries to console her.

The largest image, which is the central focus of the mural, illustrates the same abused woman after overcoming her violent situation and reclaiming her life. This time, however, she is depicted with bright green eyes and a warm, colorful complexion. Symbolically on her clothes is the image of people tearing down a brick wall. Her son is again with her, but this time smiling and seemingly content. According to the artist, “They now look toward a brighter future with the support of family, friends, and a case worker and are joined by women of many backgrounds, showing that this issue is universal across race, ethnicity and nationality.”

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