By Emily Dickinson
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.
Quasi-nautical poem as I have been having a quasi-naval week, which today included visiting the Naval Heritage Center at the United States Navy Memorial downtown. Our original destination was Huntley Meadows Park, but it started drizzling while we were on the Beltway and we turned down the George Washington Parkway into the city, figuring we had better go somewhere indoors. Of course it then stopped raining, but we had a nice afternoon anyway at the Museum of Natural History -- where the insect zoo recently reopened -- plus the National Archives, which has a very fun exhibit on the school years of 20th and 21st century presidents (many of whom were mediocre students, and I didn't realize Gerald Ford was so hot when he was young). I'm sure the shopping malls of DC were crowded but the National Mall was not.
After sunset we set out for Brookside Gardens' Garden of Lights, but after waiting 20 minutes to get into one of the packed parking lots without success, we turned around, got back on the Beltway and made an impromptu visit to the Washington DC Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' Festival of Lights, which is not as imaginative as the one at Brookside -- no sea monsters, no giant dragonflies in the trees -- but is quite stunning anyway. I had never been there before, though I visited the temple the year it was completed and actually took a tour before it was closed to non-Mormons, but I was in elementary school at the time and remember nothing but a lot of stained glass. The gardens around the visitor center are ringed with light-covered trees and flowers fashioned out of bulbs, and inside there are concerts, art displays and many trees and nativity scenes; there is also a live nativity pageant outdoors. It's beautiful, but not the place to take the kids if you prefer secular holiday displays!
A snowman "looks" through the eyepiece of the 6-inch transit circle telescope in the lobby of the US Naval Observatory. The telescope was constructed in 1897 and used until 1995 to observe the positions of the sun, moon, planets and nearby stars.
This is the observatory's 12-inch refracting telescope, through which we looked at the moon's craters. It is housed in a dome in the same building as the library that affords spectacular views of Washington, DC from the balcony.
This was our initial view of the 26-inch refracting telescope, which is too large for me to have photographed with the camera I had with me even while it was several stories over our heads.
And this is how it looked after the floor had been raised and the dome opening turned to allow people to reach the eyepiece and the telescope to be focused at the night sky, though because of time constraints we didn't actually get to look through this one.
I don't know exactly what the micrometer does but it was used for more than a century to observe double stars. The sign on the lower corner of this amused me.
An even older telescope housed in the same building as the library, decorated for the season...
...and I'm not sure what this device is called or how it works, but it's also centuries old.
We watched The Simpsons movie in the evening -- the kids' choice -- and we have just watched the unfortunate end to the UCLA-BYU matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl (down to a UCLA field goal that a BYU player got a hand on and kept from going through the posts -- did I mention that I was rooting for UCLA, my cousin's alma mater?). Sunday the weather is supposed to suck and I think we are going to try to get to an early show of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which we're all in the mood for after being in the Archives!