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Photographer's Note

GLIMPSING MR. JEFFERSON

Around the last week of March each year, the cherry blossom trees ringing the Tidal Basin in Washington DC bloom in spectacular fashion, and offer a dazzling show for visitors and natives. The last time I posted a photo of the occasion was in April of 2008, Spring Has Sprung, when the sky collaborated with the blossoms, even outshone them. Since the weather and light for the present photograph was not as agreeable, I decided to put other elements of the scene on display.

The age of these trees span virtually the entire 20th century. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (1856-1928), the first female member of the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society, was both a photographer and a geographer — ideal credentials for Trekearth. In 1885, Ms. Scidmore, after one of many visits to Japan, recommended to the Superintendent of Parks in Washington, DC, that the city government should think of decorating public parks with flowering Japanese sakura (cherry trees). Her suggestion fell on deaf ears, at least initially. 
In 1909, however, when Ms. Scidmore wrote to Helen Taft, wife of the newly elected US President William Taft, she found an enthusiastic supporter in the First Lady. Subsequently, the Japanese Embassy became interested, and publicized it in Japan. In 1912 the “People of Tokyo” donated 3020 trees to the “People of Washington.” The trees were planted around the Tidal Basin, and they are now in view of three national memorials — those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the newest, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Through the cherry blossoms in this photo one can see the neo-Classical memorial honoring Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third President of the United States. Mr. Jefferson enjoyed two four-year terms spanning the eight years, 1801-1809. With a little effort, one can also make out the dark silhouette of the statue standing in the center of the circular structure. It is a 5.8 m (19 ft) tall bronze statue of a genuine "Giant Among Men". And around the interior cornices of the building, one can see Jefferson’s immortal words carved in marble, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” This is the opening of the most important document in the history of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, penned by Jefferson in 1776. With deep commitment to intellectual honesty and independence of thought, he wrote, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." This is also chiseled on the walls.

The design of the pristine white marble structure reflects Mr. Jefferson's own attraction to Classical architecture. A polymath — scientist/engineer/political theorist/architect... and an extraordinary writer (although not as skillful a speaker) — Jefferson found inspiration from a visit to the Pantheon in Rome. On his return to the infant United States, he built his own house, "Monticello," in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a dome evocative of the 2000-year old Roman masterpiece. I had previously submitted a photo of Monticello as "Reflections on Jefferson". Of the 44 Presidents in American History, he was the most intelligent, and the most enigmatic. A few months ago, with palpable humility, I addressed a large group of physicians under the dome of the Rotunda that he had designed for the University of Virginia — the institution that he personally founded.

The Tidal Basin is a large circular pond that serves as an overflow repository for the Potomac River. Following days of rain, the colors of the Potomac River and the Tidal Basin are unusually brown.

This image will be placed in a new group theme, DOMES. I Welcome others to contribute.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6021 W: 457 N: 10456] (35061)
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