I'm flying home to London this morning, and I wanted to do something special for my last day in the U.S. yesterday. With the caveat that on this mid-August day in über-humid Washington, DC, it felt like approximately 1 billion degrees outside (conservative estimate).
So, I wanted to do something special and indoors for my last day in the U.S.
Luckily, there isn't any shortage of interesting places to visit in the nation's capital, and I ended up at one of my favorite museums in the world: The Smithsonian Air and Space, which has the world's largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft.
It's such a cool place. I've been several times before, but there's still something fun about walking into the giant entrance hall and seeing airplanes and space capsules floating above your head. "Hey, it's The Spirit of St. Louis!" "Hey, it's Apollo 11!" "Hey, it's the 1903 Wright Flyer!" One thing that always catches at my heartstrings a little is the aspect of dreams to make such realities possible. It's become so banal for us today to walk onto an airplane and fly halfway across the world--much as I'll casually do in just a few hours.
But I simply cannot imagine how brave one would have to be to, say, lift off the surface of the earth on a fragile structure made of muslin and wood when no one's ever done it before. Or to fold your body into a cramped cockpit for the first, 33.5-hour flight across the Atlantic. Or to launch into space, uncertain whether you'd actually return home. If you think about it, in the space of one lifetime, between 1903 and 1969, mankind went from the first powered flight to walking on the moon! That really takes a lot of dreaming, a lot of daring, and a Hell of a lot of just-not-giving-up. There's something beautiful and emotional about that, I think.
Also emotional? After the Air & Space, I walked a few minutes to get to the National Archives Museum, which among many other exhibits, houses all three of the main documents that established the United States: The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Bill of Rights.
No photography is allowed inside the Rotunda that is the permanent home to all three of these documents, which is probably for the better. It's not really an atmosphere for selfies, I think. There's just something about standing there and looking down at the faded ink and aging parchment and thinking, wow, THIS is how it all started.
I suppose that took a lot of dreaming too.