Last week was the second week into the six more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil predicted we will have to slog through back on February 1st, and I hope it doesn’t get any worse than this. Folks living up in New England or wherever would surely scoff, but here in the Tidewater area, 20 degrees below freezing is pretty darn cold. If folks around here wanted it like this all winter long, they’d move to someplace further north.
No, it’s not President’s Day in Virginia, it’s Washington’s Birthday, and rightly so. That’s the official Federal holiday designation, too — it’s only some of the states that refer to “President’s Day.” Personally, I think having an undifferentiated holiday for all of the presidents is a Bad Idea: more than a few presidents are not particularly memorable.
The great thing about Washington’s Birthday around here is that everyone is invited over to his place to help celebrate: admission to Mount Vernon is free, and it opens two hours early to accommodate the rush. Accordingly, we all piled over to Mount Vernon at 8 o’clock and were among the first to enter the Texas Gate. Good thing, too, because despite the 8-degree F temperature at opening time, busloads of tourists were pulling up within the hour.
Speaking of the 8-degree temperature, one of the little buildings you pass by on your way to the mansion is the “Necessary.” (You know, the privy.) It’s pretty rough getting up to do your business in the morning and finding ice on the surface of the seats, so George and his family must have had a hard time staying “regular” during a cold winter. It calls to mind this anecdote about a side effect of cold winters and icy toilets:
“Constipation has sometimes produced the bloodiest scenes. My grandfather, who died a centenarian, was Cromwell’s apothecary; he has often told me that Cromwell had not been to the toilet for a week when he had his king’s head cut off.”
– Voltaire, Count Chesterfield’s Ears, 1775
Despite its size, it’s difficult to get in much more than about a 2-mile walk around Mount Vernon, although I think we bumped it up a bit, returning to the New Tomb to observe the annual wreath laying ceremony.
The day after Washington’s Birthday someone reminded me that Thursday was the Chinese New Year. It was a little late to plan anything, and most folks have to work on Thursday’s anyway, but I thought it was a really great reason to have a belated New Year’s luncheon the Saturday after at my favorite Chinese restaurant. Huntley Meadows is just around the corner for a nice walk, so that settled the matter. Although I go to Huntley Meadows all the time and could almost hike the route blindfolded, given the snow and ice, I figured I’d better go snoop around on Thursday afternoon. As it turned out, Thursday was reasonably sunny — on Saturday another round of snow hit just as we were hiking, which is always a treat. These photos are from Thursday.
The bad news is, there’s still four more weeks to go. The good news is, at the end of it is the Cherry Blossom Festival! 🙂