Sunday, July 21, 2013

Where words take us

Yesterday, I was invited to participate in a bookstore panel (along with Katherine Marsh and Elizabeth LaBan) at Hooray for Books! in Alexandria, VA. (They now have signed copies of books by all three of us, if you would care to own one!) I decided to spend the morning enjoying Washington before heading over to the store.

During the day, I thought a lot about the places that words take us. Because of a book I wrote, I was invited on this trip in the first place. Because my friend Jama Rattigan blogged about a book written by two sisters who started a chocolate shop in Washington DC, I read the book, and yesterday visited the store. Both book and store are named Chocolate Chocolate. Excellent chocolate, by the way! And because of our shared enjoyment of books and blogging (and chocolate), I got to know Jama in the first place, and to spend time with her and her husband at and after the reading. Those are the fun places words took me.

After fortifying myself with chocolate, I visited the Lincoln and World War II memorials, among other sites. Everywhere I looked were other memorials and monuments and tributes: to Washington, to Jefferson, to veterans of World War I and the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Washington is a city built on weighty words: words carved into memorials, like Lincoln's second inaugural address. Or preserved in the archives, like the Declaration of Independence, the original Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Or delivered as speeches in the White House and the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court. Or printed on signs of protest, when citizens march. We don't always live up to our best words, being imperfect human beings--and we don't even all agree on what the words mean and how they should be applied--but there's an idealism underlying those words that is still inspiring.

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