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From Washington D.C. : "There's just no place like these oldest hills of home"


This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Well, it's February again, which, despite the fact that the days are getting longer, always feels like the darkest of  dark days even when all the news is good. It feels even more so for me today, as I've gone north. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking to assist a friend who has embarked on the story of her long and busy life and the discoveries she has made on that journey. And for that I had to travel to her home, which is in Falls Church, next door to the nation's capital. I've been here two weeks, which means I was here for the inauguration and the subsequent march, neither of which I attended, and for the one day of sugar show that made everything all sparkly white and then was gone. We did take one day off for sightseeing, and visited the Museum of Native American history, which was moving and very well done. By that I mean the cafeteria on the main level served American aboriginal dishes, the Real food of our own Indian traditions. The structure itself was the shape, color and texture of earth and sand, and the decorative plantings out front included remnants of last year's corn along with this winter's living kale and turnip greens. It was all just very dear and made me proud of my mixed heritage.

The capital itself, however, was a different story, one I expected because I'd been here before, but it is always a surprise. It's not the people or the regime of the moment. It's the scale of it all. I mean, the pentagon is impressive however viewed. But the image on TV is always from the air or at least from above ground level. From the ground as you drive by on the beltway, it's just a building, very long but not that tall. Automobile factories and steel mills are much larger and longer. And the city itself, although very densely packed, is just not that large. From a number of viewpoints one can see the capitol, Washington's spire, Lincoln's pillars, and Jefferson’s dome. But unless you're in the air or at the top of a tall building, they're just not that … majestic. They're human size. They're not made of gold and adorned with jewels and rare spices. They're just placeholders, meant to remind us of who and where we have been. They're artifacts of a culture's dead past, while that culture is still very fluid, very uncertain, and very … fragile.  Coming here, (and this is my fourth trip of record) never fails to makes me realize that the real majesty, if majesty we have, is in the purple mountains, the amber waves of grain, the miles and miles of Iowa corn, the beauty and bounty of our seacoasts, the rolling farms of Maryland, the long cool valleys of the Ozarks where, as the song says, the water runs clear as gin.

I don't mean to demean our capital city. Its history, it's hard won existence, is itself a monument to the courage and convictions of those who came before us, the impudence of our ancestors, the very idea of a new kind of country that would hold people from everywhere with a thousand ambitions and a bottomless well of hope that here might be a place for every one of them. We were not a majestic people. We were a polyglot of the least fortunate, who brought with us, along with our hopes and dreams and ragged treasures, the same villainy, the same low intentions the same lack of couth. Now there's a word for you. Couth, as in being uncouth, I still remember an argument I witnessed as a child where one party accused the other of being uncouth, and that other replied, "I'm just as couth as you are, and maybe couther." There's a word so ancient the computer almost refuses to let me write it. It describes a person who is refined, sophisticated. Something to which one should aspire, lest they be thought uncouth.

Ah well, one more day and I'll be gone from here, headed north and then west, a swing by New Your to see friends and tell a story or two, then back across the Poconos, the Appalachia, the Wabash, the Mississippi and down into my own familiar watershed. Be they ever so humble, there's just no place like these oldest hills of home.