Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

After we published our blog last week one of our marines sent us this picture with a nice note.  He is back home with his family after almost a year in marine training.  He thanked us for our help, but we felt like we got as much from him as we gave.  It was an honor to be a part of his life as he went through some very tough training.  He and his family were wonderful to interact with.

On Monday we drove to Stafford for a family home evening with a wonderful marine family.  We just finished developing a new family home evening lesson on teamwork and cooperation, and this was our first trial run.  It went well.  The children in this family are really well behaved and it was a joy to spend time with them.  The finale in the lesson is to work together as a team to make microwave caramel corn.  It was good!  We had a great time with this family, and it seemed that they enjoyed the lesson and the treat.  We found a couple of glitches in the PowerPoint presentation that we will fix, but overall it went well.  It always feels like a great reward to visit the active families that welcome us in and are thrilled to receive a lesson.  It is not usually that way with the less active families.  So it was a fun evening.  Here is a picture of the family except for the dad – he was at the base doing his marine training.  They were enjoying the caramel corn we had just finished making. 

Wednesday worked a good shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  But it was pretty slow.  We always take other things to do when we are there so that we don't just waste our time sitting and waiting for clients.  Besides our volunteer work we visited 3 marine families and attended a The Basic School graduation.  It was good to check on these families – two of them are inactive church members and need a lot of loving.  One of them that we have been visiting for about 6 months is getting out of the Marine Corps and moving back to Utah.  So we stopped to say goodbye and wish them well.  We also got to stop at the home of a marine couple that just moved in, and they were great fun to get to know.  He will be very busy in The Basic School for six months and she is not planning of working.  So we may spend time with her so she doesn’t get too lonely.  The TBS graduation was wonderful.  Two of our marines graduated (see pictures).  We feel really close to the single guy that is standing with us here.  We saw him through OCS and TBS too.  So we have met with him once or twice a week for 9 months.   The shot in the auditorium shows the honor graduates standing in front and all the rest of the class in the front rows of seats.  Our guys were not honor graduates.  They were  just h appy to be graduating. 


This evening (Thur) was our first meeting with our brand new Officer Candidate School class.  We had two LDS students attend.  First was a young lady from New York City.  She had many cousins, uncles, and other family members that had been in the Army, so she wanted to serve.  But she chose marines because she felt they were the best.  We also had a young man that was a former enlisted marine.  He was enlisted for four years, during which time he served in Iraq and Korea.  He got out, finished college, and began working in a bank.  But he and his wife thought working in a bank in Utah was a boring life, so he applied to be a marine officer.  We had a nice discussion with them and a short lesson about having the courage and faith to Stand Alone.  We asked them to invite some friends next week and they said they would.  Since this was our first chance to meet with this new class we had no idea how many would be there.  So we took brownies, cookies and fruit to feed twenty.  We had a lot of leftovers!  Although the two of them ate a bunch, there still was a lot left over.  So we sent a huge plate of cookies home with the chaplain, who had 8 kids, and we froze the rest for future missionary dinners. 

We have long been planning to go to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, this fall.  We did not want to go over the summer because of the heat and large numbers of tourists.  And we wanted to go before it got too cold.  So we found ourselves with no scheduled appointments, lessons or classes today, Friday.  We invited the other senior couple from here, the Andersons, and we set out for Monticello at about 7:00am.  Most of the 2.5 hour drive was through the back country of Virginia, so we saw many beautiful trees, farms, and hills. We went through Orange County where the Conways lived.  There were some gorgeous horse farms along the route.  Our visit to Monticello was excellent.  It is a beautiful spot, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation that runs the place does a superb job.  Everything was well organized, tours, movies and shuttle buses were on time, and the grounds were immaculate and beautifully landscaped.  Besides the old growth trees and shrubs, there were many flowering bushes and plants that were in full bloom even in late Sept.  We had a delightful tour of the home.  Jefferson was a brilliant man, and he loved to learn about anything and everything.  So there were items in the house from many different avenues of his learning – artifacts from American Indians, things Lewis and Clark had shipped back to him on their journey, dinosaur bones, many beautiful paintings, both European and American, a telescope, maps of all kinds, busts of famous people in history, musical instruments, writing tools, furniture from all over the world, and thousands of books.  There were many clever devices invented by Jefferson, like serving carts with wheels, a lazy-susan type shelf that rotated so that food could be passed into the dining area, double doors that closed together when you just pushed on one, dumb waiters, and many more amazing little inventions.  The house is on the top of a hill, so the view of the surrounding Virginia hills was spectacular.  He was an avid gardener who was continually trying to get a higher yield and grafting plants for better varieties. The gardens were magnificent.  We have never felt so comfortable, or that I would like to live at such a place more. It was a house of learning. There were some beautiful things, but it was not pretentious.  It was totally designed and arranged for comfort, convenience, functionality and learning.  And it was very aesthetic as well. We wanted to sit down and play the games, read the books, study a new language, and ride one of Jeffrerson’s horses down the hill through the beautiful fields. It appeared that in spite of much personal tragedy, Jefferson truly relished and took advantage of life and every possible opportunity he had.   It occurred to us that it was truly a house of learning. A safe and comfortable and beautiful place to rest his soul and to experiment with anything he wanted. It was delightful.  However, after the house tour, one of the more sobering parts of the visit was the slave tour.  The guide took us to the area where Jefferson’s slaves lived.  Although he spent his life working for liberty for the American people and professed to dislike slavery, he still followed the norms of the time in Virginia and had many (nearly 200) slaves to run his farm.  The tour guide told us many stories about the two sides of Jefferson – the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence stating that “all men are created equal” but who used hundreds of slaves to take care of his farm.  He said that Jefferson’s slaves were not treated any better or any worse than most Virginia slaves at that time. He also discussed slave children that Jefferson fathered with his deceased wife’s half sister who was a slave. All of the children were freed or disappeared mysteriously, but their mother was not freed, even at his death. And much of her family were sold to pay his debts. It is interesting to evaluate such dichotomous circumstances in historic context and the contrast between the enlightened Jefferson willing to give so much for his country and the common man.  And the Jefferson looking out for his personal welfare by owning, being so dependent on for his wealth, and taking advantage of other human beings led to some good and reflective conversations on the way home.  After our excellent visit to Monticello we met up with another senior missionary couple that is serving in Charlottesville (the Wares) where Monticello is located.  We really like this couple and had a great visit with them.  We had a nice Mexican dinner at an outdoor seating area in the university district, which was really fun.  The weather was spectacular, about 75 degrees with a slight cooling breeze.  The couple that lives here teaches Institute at the University of Virginia, so they took us on a great tour of the “grounds.”  UVA was founded and designed by Jefferson, so it was a nice follow on to our tour of Monticello.  He wanted UVA to be new and unique, so there are many things that are different than a regular college.  For example they do not call the area the campus but rather the “grounds.”  Students are not called freshman, sophomore, etc., but rather first years, second years, etc.  The campus was designed so that the students lived among their instructors, with many public and recreational gardens and areas. The architecture on the campus is outstanding, and some of it looks a lot like Monticello.   So our tour was great fun too.  After a long drive home we finally got back into our apartment about 9:30pn.  We were pretty tired, but oh what a great day we had.  We feel privileged to be able to take a day and see some of the amazing historical sights in Virginia. The above picture is the front of the house and also the rear.  Below is the rear view of Monticello that is on the back of the nickel. It was a wonderful day and we are so glad we got to visit Monticello.  It is one of our favorite spots we have seen in Virginia.

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