Posts Tagged ‘NoMa’

Walking a Labyrinth for World Labyrinth Day

Starting in 2009, The Labyrinth Society designated the first Saturday in May, which this year falls on May 5th, as World Labyrinth Day.  And although that is not until tomorrow, during today’s bike ride I decided to stop and walk the labyrinth located in the sanctuary of The Church of The Epiphany, which is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00am until 3:00pm.

At different times, the practice of walking a labyrinth has been associated with pilgrimages and pagan rituals.  More recently however, labyrinths have popped up in modern spirituality for contemplation and as prayer.  People walk a labyrinth for as many reasons as the number of people who walk one, including centering, feeling grounded, as prayer, as meditation, or as a great way to just unwind and clear your mind.

If you would like to walk a labyrinth tomorrow to celebrate World Labyrinth Day, there are nine labyrinths here in D.C., and more than a dozen more now exist within a ten-mile radius of the city.  Of these, there are at least a half a dozen outdoor labyrinths that are open to the public, and most are open daily from sunrise to sunset or shortly thereafter.

One of a few local labyrinths located outdoors and available to the public, the Georgetown Waterfront Park Labyrinth provides a means to walk a labyrinth in a scenic location.  It is located at the southern end of 33rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.

The American Psychological Association also has a labyrinth on the green rooftop of their building at 10 G Street (MAP), near Union Station in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.  The 42-foot labyrinth features trellises, plantings, tables, a journal, and a finger labyrinth that you can “walk” with your fingers—a good option for those with ambulatory issues. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 7:00pm.  You can sign in at the building’s security desk to go up to the roof, or call Holly Siprelle (202-336-5519) to arrange a guided walk.

There is also an outdoor labyrinth that is available to the public at Barton Park, located across the river at the corner of North Barton and 10th Streets (MAP) in Arlington, Virginia.  Originally part of the former Northern Virginia Whitman-Walker Clinic’s healing garden, the 37-foot labyrinth of precast stone and pavers went into storage when that branch of the clinic closed.  It was later moved to Barton Park in late 2013.

Set among old pines and other trees, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, also has a public labyrinth.  Located at 8531 Riverside Road (MAP), the 40-foot labyrinth is made of rubber mulch with white stones outlining the path and is set near a memorial garden with benches. At the nearby Art at the Center, parishioner Kathryn Horn Coneway offers workshops on making finger labyrinths from clay.

The city of Bethesda’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 6030 Grosvenor Lane (MAP), has a 62-foot labyrinth made from turf and pavers, as well as a 36-by-36-inch Plexiglas finger labyrinth, available to the public.  At this labyrinth, a journal to record your thoughts is available, and is located under the bench.

The University of Maryland’s Garden of Reflection and Remembrance, located at 7600 Baltimore Avenue in College Park (MAP), also has a labyrinth adjacent to the campus chapel. Guided walks, yoga sessions, and special events are regularly scheduled. Benches, trees, and water elements help visitors connect with nature.

If you want to walk a labyrinth, but these options are not readily available to you, I encourage you to find one that is.  To find others labyrinths here in the D.C. area, or anywhere else in the world, just use the Labyrinth Society’s online worldwide labyrinth locater.  And if there is not a labyrinth near you, there are also finger labyrinths now available as a smartphone app.  Just check the Google Store or iTunes.

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Holodomor (1)

The Holodomor Memorial

During this bike ride I picked up some take-out in Chinatown and then rode over to a Lower Senate Park across from Union Station to watch the travelers coming and going while I ate my General Tso’s chicken. But on the way to the park I happened upon a memorial I had not seen before.  I would come to find out that it is The Holodomor Memorial, and it is located at the intersection of North Capitol Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and F Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.

The Holodomor Memorial was designed by Larysa Kurylas, a local architect.  Her design, “Field of Wheat,” was chosen for the memorial through an open competition.  It built by the National Park Service and the Ukrainian government, and opened on November 7, 2015.  Formally known as The Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–1933, it was built to honor the victims of a brutal artificial famine imposed by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime on the Ukraine and primarily ethnically Ukrainian areas in the Northern Caucasus in 1932 and 1933 that killed an officially estimated 7 million to 10 million people.  Also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, it was part of the wider Soviet famine of 1932–33, which affected the major grain-producing areas of the country.

The word Holodomor is from the Ukrainian word Голодомо́р, which is derived from морити голодом and is translated as, “to kill by starvation”.   Using Holodomor in reference to the famine emphasizes its man-made aspects, arguing that actions such as rejection of outside aid, confiscation of all household foodstuffs, and restriction of population movement confer intent and, therefore, define the famine as genocide.

Despite a targeted loss of life comparable to that of the Holocaust, many people remain unaware of the genocide.  So in addition to honoring the victims, another purpose of the memorial is to educate the American public about the genocide.  And today it achieved its purpose by educating one more.

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain

It has rained, and occasionally stormed, every day for the past couple of weeks here in D.C.  And as indicated by the ominous-looking skies in the background of the photos from this bike ride, it rained again today. But I haven’t let that keep me from my lunchtime bike rides. And on this ride, I went to see the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain, located in the middle of Columbus Plaza (MAP), in front of Union Station in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.

The fountain, also sometimes referred to as the Columbus Monument, is a memorial to Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, navigator, and first colonizer of the Western Hemisphere or “New World.”  It was designed by American sculptor Lorado Zadoc Taft, a distant relative of President William Howard Taft, in collaboration with architect Daniel Burnham. It is a semicircular double-basin fountain with a shaft in the center. The front of the shaft bears a full-length portrait of Christopher Columbus staring south toward the U.S. Capitol Building with his arms crossed in front of him. He is flanked on his right side by an American Indian, who is facing west, representing the “New World.” On Columbus’ left side is an elderly man facing east, representing the “Old World.”  In front of the shaft is a ship prow that features a winged figurehead leading the way.  That represents “discovery.”  And above Columbus is a globe representing the Western hemisphere, with four eagles, one on each corner connected by garland.  Two lions, placed away from the base, guard the left and right sides of the fountain.

In a day the New York Times referred to as “second only to the inauguration of a President,” the fountain was publicly unveiled in a dedication ceremony and parade on June 8, 1912. After the Knights of Columbus’ successful lobbying for the sculpture which had begun a half a dozen years earlier, the festivities at the dedication ceremony included approximately 50,000 members of the organization. The ceremony was presided over by then Secretary of State Philander Knox, with invocation given by Father Thomas Shahan, the Rector of The Catholic University of America.  Other notable participants included Italian Ambassador Cusania Confalonieri, Apostolic Delegate to United States Archbishop Giovanni Vincenzo Cardinal Bonzano and other Catholic Church notables, as well as President Taft.  It also included 15,000 troops, 2,000 motor cars, a 21 gun salute, and elaborate horse-drawn floats depicting noteworthy incidents in Columbus’ life. And it was all viewed by around 150,000 spectators.

During his formal address at the dedication ceremony, President Taft said, “It is most difficult for us by any effort of the imagination to take in the problem which Columbus solved.” And as I visited the fountain today, I contemplated that statement. In this age of technology-assisted navigation and easy travel, it is almost impossible to fully comprehend the both the difficult conditions and the uncertainty of the outcome of Columbus’ journeys. Not only did he not have GPS or satellite imagery, Columbus didn’t even have a map.  That’s because no maps existed at that time of where he was going.  All he had was a compass and an astrolabe.  His boat actually started to fall apart on his first voyage.  They nearly ran out of food and water, facing starvation and dehydration.  In fact, Columbus wrote in his diary in 1492, “We ate biscuit which was a powder swarming with worms. It smelt of rats. … We ate sawdust from the boards.”   They also faced the threat of many diseases, and many people died on the ship.  They encountered severe storms and weather challenges as well.  And with all these problems, his crew not only wanted to turn back, they wanted to kill him.  So next time you’re headed through Union Station or Reagan National Airport on your way somewhere, stop and think about how good you’ve got it.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

The National Postal Museum

The National Postal Museum

You don’t have to be a philatelist, more commonly known as a stamp collector, to appreciate today’s destination, but it helps. On today’s lunchtime bike ride I went to the National Postal Museum, located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood. The museum is across the street from Union Station, in the historic City Post Office Building that once served as the main Post Office of D.C. from 1914, when it was constructed, until 1986.

The National Postal Museum was established through a joint agreement between the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution, and opened in July of 1993. As you might expect, the museum houses on of the largest stamp collections in the world. Known as the National Philatelic Collection, it was originally established at the Smithsonian Institution in 1886 with the donation of a sheet of 10-cent Confederate postage stamps. Generous gifts from individuals and foreign governments, transfers from government agencies and occasional purchases have increased the collection to today’s total of more than 5.9 million items.

In addition its vast collection of stamps, the museum also houses many exhibits and interactive displays about the history of the U.S. Postal Service as well as mail service around the world, including postal history materials that pre-date stamps. Among other various items from the history of the postal system, it also has on display vehicles such as stagecoaches and airplanes which were used to transport the mail, as well as mailboxes and mailbags, postal uniforms and equipment, exhibits on the Pony Express, the use of railroads with the mail, and the preserved remains of a dog named Owney, the unofficial Postal Service mascot. The museum also houses a gift shop and a separate stamp shop where visitors can purchase stamps and other collectibles.

The National Postal Museum receives funding through three primary sources: the U.S. Postal Service, the Smithsonian Institution’s annual Federal appropriation, and gifts from private individuals, foundations, and corporations. So for visitors, admission is free.

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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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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

The Washington Coliseum

The Washington Coliseum

The Washington Coliseum, originally known as The Uline Arena, is an indoor arena located at 1132 3rd Street (MAP) in the NoMa neighborhood of northeast D.C.  It is just north of Union Station, directly adjacent to the railroad tracks, and bounded by L and M Streets.  The venue once hosted the Basketball Association of America’s Washington Capitols, coached by Red Auerbach from 1946 to 1949, and the American Basketball Association’s Washington Caps in 1969-70. Over the years it also was host to many performances and athletic events of varying types, including ice skating, hockey, martial arts, ballet, music, circuses, speeches, as well as a couple of Presidential inaugural balls.  At one time, it was even used as a makeshift jail for up to 1,200 male and female prisoners arrested during protests against the war in Vietnam.  But it is perhaps most famously remembered as the venue for the first concert in the United States by The Beatles.

On February 11, 1964, less than 48 hours after their now famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles arrived by train in D.C., where they were to later play before a sold-out crowd at the Washington Coliseum.  In fact, despite the fact that only a few months earlier the group had been largely unknown in the United States, the concert was actually over capacity by approximately 1,000 people according to estimates.

Before the concert, the group clowned it up during a televised press interview in the cavernous Coliseum.  When asked, “Where did you get the idea for the haircuts?” Ringo Starr responded, “Where did you get the idea for yours?”  And later, when asked what they thought of then-President Lyndon Johnson, Paul McCartney quipped: “We don’t know. We’ve never met the man.”  After a pause, he then asked, “Does he buy our records?”  Interestingly, the interview ended with John Lennon being asked if The Beatles were a fad.  He replied, “Obviously. Anything in this business is a fad. We don’t think we’re going to last forever. We’re just going to have a good time while it lasts.”

The concert was supposed to be opened by The Chiffons and Tommy Roe, but they were prevented from getting to D.C. by an East Coast snow storm that blanketed the area in over eight inches of snow that day.  Instead, the replacement acts that night were Jay and the Americans and The Righteous Brothers.  The Beatles then played for approximately 40 minutes, opening with “Roll Over Beethoven.”  Tickets to the show at the Coliseum ranged from $2 to $4. The performance was filmed and later shown in American theatres in March of 1964 as a closed-circuit video feed.  The film, entitled “Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964,” has recently been released on DVD.

Even with a small stage about the size of a boxing ring, both the audience and the performers were delighted to be there. Every few songs, in fact, the band oriented their setup to face a new part of the crowd. In return, audience members squealed, screamed, and threw jelly beans onto the stage. (Earlier in the week, the Beatles mentioned their fondness for the candy in a New York interview.)

Unfortunately, The Washington Coliseum has seen better days. It was most recently used as a waste management site, and with the building falling into disrepair, the site today is used only for parking.  Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in May of 2007, renovation plans for the graffiti covered building continue to languish.  But 50 years ago, the historic site hosted one of world’s best musical acts ever.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

UPDATE:  Renovations were recently completed on the former coliseum building, which had been sitting empty and abandoned for years.  It reopened on 10/21/2016 as an REI sporting goods store.