Blog Your Blessings: Philadelphia


After eight days of enjoying warm and easy peace alongside the steady, measured indifference of the ocean, I found myself standing beside my daughter and laughing out loud on a street corner in Philadelphia. It's strange to go from being all alone with the elements to the City of Brotherly Love and its crosswalk signs that count down for you the number of seconds you have before the forbidding red hand will tell you to stay back and stay safe. Talk about being led by the hand.

We were surrounded by signs that told us where we were, what was historically significant about being there, what came next, where to turn for the next big thing. We couldn't make a wrong turn. Constant loving supervision. Because it is a crazy world despite our combined best efforts, there were uniformed men with sidearms standing beside our significant historical treasures. And teams of inspectors making sure nobody was carrying anything crazy in her purse. And school-marmy rangers telling us to get rid of our gum because nothing is worse than gum on a historical site.

And because this is America and not everybody gets it, there was indeed gum stuck to the front step of Independence Hall. But I digress.

Inside that building, our guide took us to the Assembly Room, where the representatives of the 13 original colonies settled on the Declaration of Independence as a good thing and as a last resort in a longstanding heated political discourse with a faraway government that just wasn't playing fair. The ranger didn't hesitate to point out that it wasn't a perfect document--it did not count slaves or women among those who are created equal--but it was as good as it could be given the nature of the people in the room debating the thing. After it came the Constitution, another document that was as good as it could be in its time but which has stood the test of time and absorbed whatever changes the people have deemed necessary. Subtext: we do the best we can and keep on going; we do the best we can and keep on going.

Her words were as sweet to my ears as the crash of the surf day in and day out in North Carolina. The sound is music, a balm in a world in which fault-finding, complaining, and bickering pass for insight and wisdom. We live in the Age of the Outed Human. Show yourself to be in any way human, and we'll grind your achievements to dust and flay you. The knives are always sharp. The ranger's words reminded me it doesn't have to be that way. We have a choice.

A choice to live up to the awesome responsibility of democracy, of self-government--as much an individual way of being decent and fair and respectful as a collective one. We always have the option to stop knowing everything and start doing something.

This thrill that left me teary-eyed was brought to me by the Department of the Interior, whose interpreters are very fine teachers.

Hey, not every crosswalk sign in Philly counts down for you. Sometimes you have to exercise good sense and wait your turn. Beautiful thing.


  1. what a fun vacation you are having with your daughter. I would love to see philadelphia sometime. enjoyed your lively banter and remarks, feelings about our country and its government. that's all we can ask of anyone=their very best at the time...

  2. Those big city streets are sort of scary. So many people and traffic. I like the way you can say how you feel. So much to learn and relearn.

  3. what a great experience! It sounds like a wonderful learning experience and a fun time! You make history and Philly come alive!

  4. How cool! I have just been editing my photos from Philly. :) Loved our visit!

  5. Isn't Philadephis a wonderful town! My first is the Liberty Bell, followed by the old historic row houses.
    I couldn't feel too much brotherly love there. Probably Southern Hospitality has spoiled me.

  6. Anonymous2:10 AM

    what a fun time with your daughter/..

    very very precious..

    hugs and love

  7. You must be having a lovely time with your daughter. Philadelphia makes me think of the soft cheese that we have here known as Philadelphia cheese. That's really all that I know about the city. I must find out more.

  8. Yes, democracy is so precious.

  9. You are such a beautiful writer - It leaves me aching for more.

    I'm happy you and your daughter spent some cherished time together.

    Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a ripple of kindness!

    Hugsss, Susan

  10. How neat you got to spend time there. BTW, our lights in Vancovuer all count down for one to cross the street.

  11. Anonymous3:44 PM

    Nice pic!
    And I see that you are getting closer to the American heritage, these days..???
    Nice to know that people still feel their country and culture... well-written! I really liked it sandy!! And its nice to see you getting to spend your time productively....:) Carry on and do post more such awe-inspiring information...!

  12. Sandy, that's a very, very nice article with just the right amount of motivation for me to do better.

    Now about this slaves and women thing: how did the FF's (Founding Fathers) get so much right, and only that wrong?

    Oh, wait... wait... could it be... is it possible... did they actually get EVERYTHING right?!

    Now let's stay calm, people. Call the Senate back. We may have to revisit the whole Sotomayor thing...

  13. You always manage to say something quotable every post. This time around it had to be: "We always have the option to stop knowing everything and start doing something."


    Beautifully said.

  14. This Assembly Room is really attractive. Interesting and fine shot, Sandy!

  15. Sandy, as I stood in the Library of Congress, as well as the beautiful statue of Lincoln there in Washington D.C. I found myself thinking the same thing. What a country we live in. What a privilege it is to live with such freedom. I was moved to tears and I read the wise and noble words of so many during those days. I was deeply moved on this trip.

  16. Nice-nice thoughts.

  17. Sandy: Thaks for sharing your trip to Philadelphia.


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