Monday, March 29, 2010

Three Hundred and Fifty Steps



Every now and then members of Congress conduct tours of the dome of the Capitol. It involves climbing hundreds of steps up through all the layers of the dome to the very top where those who have mustered the valour to climb that far can stare directly into the Apotheosis of Washington, a huge painting that, according to the Architect of the Capitol, is the "eye" of the Capitol. Who knew it had an eye? Though, that said, ... I always thought of the painting as a lens placed very specifically at the center of the four quarters of the city, focusing energy down through all the floors of the building into the ground below, and upwards, through the apotheosis, into the sky. Thinking of it as an eye gives it purpose, consciousness, even - qualities I would not associate with a lens.

Talk about the All-Seeing Eye. Wow!

One of these days between now and June, whenever it works out, I'm going to be a part of one of these hikes up and up and up to the eye of the Capitol. I am so jazzed!

Before September 11th I spent a considerable amount of time on the floor of the dome, usually alone, just sitting, watching all the swirling energy. It was quite thrilling. (There was public access to the Capitol then.) On August 17, 2001, a group of cohorts and I cast a triangle of stillness around the center of the dome, using three beautiful chunks of rose quartz. One of us recited "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes. It was quite a dramatic ritual, but back then, you could do stuff like that in public places without any fear of being thrown out, or worse: sent to Gitmo.

Sure enough, not quite one month later, after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon burned, we were vamoosed from our casual visits there. Though never still at the center, the dome remained empty for some time afterwards. We certainly anticipated something with that work. Oh yeah.

I still miss having access to that incredible, magical space. But a walk up to the top? Up to the eye? Wow!! That will be SO cool! I hope they let me take pics. I can't wait.


I wish I could remember which building this is. Look at the size of that sculpture! Wow.

18 comments:

Washington Cube said...

The statue is the Department of Labor. I climbed the dome with my former employer once. I am very surprised they haven't shut that activity down (and I assumed they did) after 9/11. Glad to know you can still get up there, but do they let you go outside, still?

Barry said...

Having read Dan Brown's latest (but not very good book) I've been amazed by what a mysterious place Washington is.

Hecate said...

I think it's called "Man Controlling Trade" and is outside the Federal Trade Commission.

analogman said...

I hope you get to climb soon. That's not why I came here, though. I just wanted to say hi and that I love ya. See you in October, maybe.

John Hayes said...

Fascinating painting from the glimpses of it at the link you provided. Somebody should be generating some sort of goodwill vibes at the Capitol these days!

Ronda Laveen said...

The artist of that sculpture certainly knew his anatomy. Wow!

I loved your ritual with the rose quartz. Too bad they banish all the good with the potential for harm.

The all seeing eye of the capitol almost sounds like a third eye. I hope you get to take pictures too!

ewix said...

I was terribly impressed with Washington when I went there in the 1980's.
Can't even remember who was president.......
I chaperoned a school trip and escaped my then young children.....
Time for another visit!

willow said...

Oh, I hope they let you take pictures, too! Can't wait to hear all about it!

Meri said...

That's thrilling! And I do hope they'll let you take photos. Interesting about the chilling effect on ceremony -- the Egyptian government is trying to limit ceremony in their sacred sites. It takes money crossing palms to get away with it. Have you done the tour under the Lincoln memorial to see the limestone formations?

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I'm so glad you take us on your journeys and I hope you are able to take photographs!

Reya Mellicker said...

I haven't been underneath the Lincoln but I should do that! Great reminder, Meri.

YES the FTC. That is definitely one crazy sculpture. We have lots of big ole dudes sculpted in stone here in DC.

Cube I have no idea whether I get to go outside. Wow. That would be beyond the beyond. It'll definitely be enough to see the fresco up close. And - all the layers between.

Barry, Dan Brown's book is so awful that it's funny, but I LOVED all the underground tunnels, etc.

Elizabeth YES it's time for a visit!! I need to come up to NYC too.

Linda Sue said...

I would bet a nickle that photos would not be allowed- you could be a bomb planner planning a bomb...

Reya Mellicker said...

Linda Sue I love your new profile pic. Since the tour is lead by the congressperson, I MIGHT be able to take pics. We'll see.

California Girl said...

the statue looks like a WPA project because of the strength and design. Is it?

Reya Mellicker said...

California Girl - I wish I knew. I think the building is newish - actually, I have no idea. But it is a hulkin' sculpture, isn't it?

Reya Mellicker said...

"Man Controlling Trade" was created in 1942.

Here's a link to more info about the sculpture.

Karen said...

Re: the sculpture: I love how muscled both figures are, how embodied they are...

Have fun on your tour!

I had one very rare encounter with the dome: I sang in it one inauguration day! (Reagan's second, which was moved indoors due to frigid temp.s; I was in the U of Md. chorus; I had voted otherwise, but oh well...)

Janelle said...

love that big old horse!!!! WOW. xx j