July, Springfield and Lincoln
On Wednesday my family and I made our annual trip to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites and pray at Lincoln’s tomb for the repose of the souls of Lincoln and his family. A few observations:
1. Heat: The phrase hotter than blazes is trite but it was very descriptive for the triple digit day. Walking outside was a trying experience with the heat and humidity. Illinois is usually green and lush this time of year, the towns and cities of Central Illinois being isolated islands in an endless green sea of corn and soybeans. Due to the drought, much of Illinois looks yellow and dead, with most crops under severe stress. Not good.
2. Time is a River: One of the reasons why I enjoy annual rituals like the drive to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites, is that they are a good way to mark the passage of time. My wife and I began our trips when we were mid-twenties newly weds. This year our sons will be 21 in September, and our son Donald will be starting his junior year at the University of Illinois. Our “baby-girl” will be a senior in high school this year, and we are in the midst of the college search with her. Fortunately, my bride and I are not getting any older, or such reflections might take a turn to the melancholic!
3. Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation: This year is the 150th year of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. As in past years what moved me most at the Lincoln Museum was an exhibit showing Lincoln standing at his desk staring at a draft of the Proclamation, as shadows behind him representing historical figures give him contradictory advice: predicting doom or salvation for the Union if the Emancipation Proclamation is issued. I have never seen anything which so neatly encapsulates the loneliness of someone making a huge decision for his nation.
4. Assassination: Each year I spot something new at the museum. In the room which represents the laying in state of Lincoln’s coffin, I spotted this inscription on the top of the ceiling of this room, a quotation from a Lincoln speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on February 22, 1861: But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
5. The Feed Store: As in years past we had an excellent lunch at The Feed Store, yes, you can tell from that name that we are in the Midwest, which prepares tasty sandwiches quickly. It is off the Old State Capitol plaza which is something to see, and usually has bands performing during the noon hour and various activities.
6. Prairie Archives: This is a few doors down from The Feed Store and is a wonderful huge used book store. As one might guess it has a large selection of books on Lincoln and the Civil War, so I was in heaven. So many books, so little time.
7. Lincoln’s Tomb: Lincoln’s tomb is in Oak Ridge Cemetery. It has a simplicity about it like the man who rests there. No guards, no police, no admission fee. You park your car at the small parking lot and walk into the tomb. Silence is requested since, after all, it is a tomb. Lincoln is buried there along with three of his sons and his wife. Robert Lincoln, as befits a Union Army veteran of the Civil War, is buried in Arlington. We said our usual prayer for the repose of the souls of the Lincolns and made certain to rub the nose of the Lincoln metal sculpture outside of the tomb. It is impossible to see a metal sculpture of Lincoln in Illinois that does not have a shiny nose. Illinoisans have been rubbing the noses of Lincoln statues for luck for generations. The Lincoln bust in Lincoln Hall on the U of I campus in Urbana had a nose that gleamed as hordes of U of I students would rub the nose for luck before finals. One of my favorite statues of Lincoln is in front of the State Capitol in Springfield. Fittingly, he has his back turned to the public thieves who mostly inhabit it today.
We then headed back home. A day of family and History, and for me those are very good days indeed.