It is week six of my grand jury duty. My 22 fellow jurors and I have heard and seen bad decisions, very sad stories and violent acts in over thirty cases. And by seen I often mean seen- there is video everywhere, now. Take it as a warning if you are leaning toward a life of crime- you may end up seeing yourself committing the act on the big screen in court.

So when we have our hour off for lunch I need to get out. I need to walk. I need to find a place of respite.

Fortunately, when I step out of the courthouse, I am in a wonderful part of the city. I have walked to the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and eaten my lunch under the beautiful atrium space with it’s incredible new ceiling. The other day I watched a small child sit in the shallow fountain and smack the water up with their palms, laughing.

I have cut through the National Gallery of Art, passed the beautiful American Indian Museum, and ended up in the outer gardens of the Botanical Garden. And after sitting in the sun I went into the tropical air and breathed in all that extra oxygen from the amazing plants inside the greenhouse building.

I have walked to the Martin Luther King library, and walked up and up the grand staircase to the different levels, and sat in the cafe and communal area,watching the city go by outside the window.

Most recently I lingered in the National Gallery and visited the exhibit on John Singer Sergeant’s paintings from Spain. Gorgeous dancers, old Roma scenes, and sun-washed Mediterranean landscapes.

I don’t know how to reconcile these spaces of beauty and refreshment with the misery that is also part of my city. I do know that seeking them out helps me.

The atrium roof at the SAAM. Credit: American

2 thoughts on “Respite

  1. I can’t imagine serving on a grand jury. Just a regular two-trial stint was exhausting. At least you found comfort in the world outside in beautiful spaces, offering you the best creative humans can do as ballast for the worst.


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