As soon as Cliff put the gear shift in “park” that night, the rain started falling. It did not let up all night. When we lived in a metal-roofed house with cathedral ceilings in Franklin, the sound of rain was such a comfort to me. Not so much in the fiberglass Chieftain.
I wondered if we could “get our money’s worth” at Monticello today, since it was mainly an outdoor attraction. I enjoyed the grounds extraordinarily more than the home at Mount Vernon last week, and I expected no different from Thomas Jefferson’s estate. Yet we had to skip the Jefferson Memorial while we were in DC, and the rain was no more than a heavy sprinkle now. So we proceeded with our plan. We’re so glad we did.
We had a little bit of time to kill before we had to meet our shuttle to take us up the mountain, so we dawdled in the Visitor Center awhile,
viewing a short film and then strolling through the fascinating architectural gallery.
We were dropped off near the front entry and corralled behind white velvet ropes to await our tour guide, a petite and knowledgeable woman.
I immediately felt different being at Monticello versus visiting Mount Vernon. There I endured a rushed, cattle-herding experience. Here I was treated as a guest and was offered information as if I were an interested and thinking individual. Cliff and I enjoyed the way T.J. intertwined beauty with practicality. Details like windows moving in multiple ways based on the seasons,
flat roofs on the building’s wings that incorporated a series of peaks and troughs underneath to collect rainwater from the walkable surface,
and utilizing a cellar storage area underneath the house to lift mealtime items to the main floor,
among others. The design of the home was so cool in so many ways.
I’d encourage you to learn more, if you’re interested. (There’s a cool book at the JCPL called Thomas Jefferson: a Day at Monticello by Elizabeth Chew that I would recommend. While I’m doing book suggestions, Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas is a good one for Mount Vernon.)
And then I saw it. The 80’ X 1000’ garden platform.
***Insert angelic chorus here.***
Maybe it was the red poppies in bloom, row-on-row, reminding me of John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.
Perhaps it was the freshly-fallen raindrops collected on the plants’ leaves.
Then again, I may have just been hungry. Whatever it was…I was IN LOVE! In love with the straight rows. In love with the beautiful plants. In love with the view. I imagined how crunchy the freshly-picked peas, how aromatic the dill, how spicy the purple cabbage would be.
Then I began to feel inadequate – how I could never accomplish such a feat! (Then I thought that if I had had as many enslaved people as he did, it would have made my gardening much more “successful”. Let’s not forget about that. It makes this garden look MUCH less beautiful now!)
We took a stroll down Mulberry Row,
visited the lawn pond (filled to the brim with tadpoles) for a spell,
and proceeded to walk down the path,
leading us past the family cemetery
and back to the Visitor Center.
Something struck me while visiting that cemetery. I have been amazed at what loss our Founding Fathers endured while committing to help birth our nation. Loss of Mother. Loss of Wife. Loss of Child. (Not to mention loss of property!) Yes, I know that in many ways this was a fact of life in those days. But still.
Exhausted, we visited the Children’s Museum on our way out. It was pretty small, but it incorporated so many amazing hands-on activities to help the kids understand the inventions and life of our third president. I’d have to say this was an integral part of our children’s understanding of Monticello.
We hopped in the RV and popped back on the interstate, with no idea of a plan because of our setback with the car in Yorktown. A plan finally came together, though. I’ll tell you about it next time!