America the Beautiful

We flew into Boston on a red eye on July 4th, the city was still quiet, as most merchants were still preparing for the day.  The water in the bay was as quiet as the city. As I gazed out onto the still water, I took a moment to breath in the beauty of the rising sun reflecting on the water. We were in the area called, “The North End” an area known for it’s beauty and tourism.  We left the harbor and walked to Hanover street, with it’s many Italian restaurants and store fronts it is a a kind of  “Little Italy” here. As we walked along a mixture of brick and cobblestone streets, we talked and caught up, on each other’s lives.  The merchants were still preparing for the day, and most stores were not open yet. I thought about how different it would look here later, when the streets filled up with people.  We stopped and peered into the windows of Mike’s pastries, the display cases were in the process of being filled with cannoli, biscotti, and many other mouth-watering pastries. Right now the store was empty, but later there would be endless lines of people waiting to purchase the enticing sweets.

 

After breakfast and coffee, we gathered on the steps of the historic State house and waited to watch the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Somewhere nearby, I could hear the sounds of flutes and piccolo echoing through the narrow streets and tall buildings; a band was preparing for the upcoming parade. The music, both beautiful and haunting, took my thoughts to the time in history when the New England states were founded. The place where we were standing was the location where the Boston Massacre took place in 1770.  I felt a sort of reverence as I thought about the many men who lost their lives here.  At the time that the Declaration of Independence was written, the city of Boston was still occupied by British troops. As the speaker started to read, he spoke about the many who had risked their lives to free our country from tyranny. I thought of the changes, fights, and wars in this country throughout history, and I wondered what the future would hold for this land. The last phrase in the reading of the Declaration of Independence caught my attention, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred honor.” I let my thoughts linger for awhile on the these last words as the band marched in front of the State House. I knew that I was fortunate to live in a country where I was free, and I knew that I have taken my freedom for granted. After all, I have never had to fight for my freedom in the way that these men who signed this document had.  I wondered, “What would our lives would be like, if we were each willing to pledge, our lives and fortunes to the betterment of our country?”. It seems that few understand the importance of honor these days?

 

After the ceremony was over we walked around the city streets for awhile taking in the architecture, sculptures, and other sites. We passed by O’Dooleys Pub which brought back fun memories of singing along with the band to Irish ballads, when I was here a few years ago. I hoped to return there before my trip ended. We ended the day sitting outside under the stars, drinking wine, talking, and watching the lightening bugs. As much as I love to travel, it is time like these, where I am relaxing with friends and family, that I treasure the most. We spent the next few days exploring the areas outside of the city. We kayaked and fished a little at Quabbin reservoir and hiked the Newport Cliff Walk in Rhode, Island. More to come on these two adventures.

 

As our plane left Boston, it circled around the harbor giving us a beautiful view of the water and sailboats below. I settled in my seat and brought out a Smithsonian magazine to read on the flight. The magazine reflected on what was happening in the United States 50 years ago. I read about the Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike, the Vietnam war, the assassination of Martin Luther King, stories of oppression and atrocities filled with notes of healing and renewal. I though about how  important it is to to remember history and learn from it.  In the years proceeding July 4, 1776, in the United States men and women fought against heavy taxation and the lack of representation in government. They knew that these things reduce the liberties of the people, and many felt that their concerns were not being heard. In the United States today we have classes of people who are still feeling their concerns are no being heard.

 

As I looked out the window and watched the farmlands below me, I thought about how the beauty of my country did not lie in just the outward beauty of the lands, mountains, and streams but in the inner strength of its people.  We are a country born of resilience and optimism. I am thankful for those who have and still fight for change and equality, and I pray that in some small way that I too will fight when asked, and make a difference for those who are oppressed.

 

“Oh, beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life! (America the Beautiful, text by Katherine Lee Bates, music by Samuel A. Ward).

Denise Baldwin Jones - Author