Many, many antique socks. They look so . . . antique.

Humility, Attention to Detail, and the Superfoxy James Madison

Dear Kay,
So I just got to the 50,000th word of my movel, and the word is “rags.”
How are you? I’m still thinking back on the weekend David and I just spent in Washington. David is 14 at this point, and I have to say, he is the most delightful company. I really can’t believe he’s here, and he’s like that. We had a blast, and got so jacked up on butterscotch from the front desk of the Holidome that we are still finding them in our pockets.
Please note proof above of handknit at rally: Lace Ribbon Scarf, using Handmaiden Flaxen. (For those jonesing for actual knitting content, here it is, blocking on the floor of Kay’s guest room/sensory deprivation chamber, circa 2008).
Our mission was to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Such fun, such a mass exercise in irony. But I have to say, I went with a literal sort of intent: never having attended a rally before, this seemed like a fine chance to stand there, in public, representing the not-crazy segment of the population. I honestly think a lot of us felt like we are an underrepresented minority. But the fact is, we’re just not very loud about things. Huge crowd. I’ve never been in such a tremendous crowd, stacked UP.
OK, there was one guy wearing nothing but a hula skirt made of candy necklaces, and at least four guys dressed like bananas. But I’ve never been in a crowd with so much “excuse me” and “sorry” in my life. David overheard one guy being kind of walked on who let loose with a “Keep it sane, bro.”
You’ve probably seen coverage of all the signs–they really were amazing. But one of my favorites was held by a woman who was likely a mom, probably with kids like me. It said: “I’m already tired of holding this sign up.” The vibe from many people was, “We’re here. We’re reasonable. Get used to it–actually, no worries if that bothers you, sorry to be rude.”
Humility, Or, The Most Profound Moment of the Weekend (Other Than Jumping in the Air with 200,000 Other People to Cause an Earthquake for the Mythbusters guys)
Ohhhh, James Madison I am crushing on you so HARD! We go to the National Archives to see the original Constitution, and here is the sight that sent me into a total wipeout of gratitude and tenderness:
See it? Right there? James Madison’s signature on the Constitution. That tiny bit of writing. I took one look at that dim, faded signature and burst into tears. I’m sure the guard gets this sort of thing all the time. They probably have something in the employee handbook about making sure that women crushing on James Madison don’t weep onto the bulletproof glass.
“One of many hands,” Madison said of his contribution to the effort. Such modesty! Such humility! He’s like the guy in student council who actually dug the hole for the class gift tree and did the eight bake sales so that the rest of the class could take credit for this beautiful legacy for generations to come. Madison is the MAN, the guy who absolutely slogged it through the process of writing the Constitution. After busting it for a very long time, he puts his small mark on his monumental effort. SIGH.
Attention to Detail
We got to poke around the innards of one of the Smithsonian museums, thanks to a kind relative who let us in. Mere steps from the Capitol building, there are thousands of people whose whole job is to be careful, to be orderly, to do things for the ages. I wish these Smithsonian folks would give all our legislators the sort of tour that David and I got–it is an astounding sight, to see the care that goes into these collections. Here’s a wish that our elected officials be as careful with our laws as these folks are with their bones.
All this stuff has been digitized. But look at how lovely that card is.
One-inch bones.
Botanical specimens, brajillions of them, each on its own card.
Founding Father Supercrush No. 2
At the Library of Congress, I meant to look up our books, but I was too mesmerized by the floors.
We did spend time with the library of Thomas Jefferson, who freakin’ DONATED his 6,000+ volumes to the Library of Congress when its first collection burned. What a beast he was.
Finally, I’m always a sucker for beautiful stone carvings.
In all, a brilliant weekend, a real eye opener, highly recommended for you the next time two cable TV hosts decide to hold a rally. Definitely go.

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  1. Beautiful, Ann. Thanks for being you, and for bringing us along for such a fine ride.

  2. I would like to work in the Department of Organizing at the Smithsonian. I think I would be quite good at it.

  3. Hate to burst a bubble of good liberal lore, but there was no donating involved in the transfer of Tom’s library to the government. He sold it. For the then-princely sum of $23,950 in 1815. Which did nothing to keep Jefferson, an early proponent of deficit spending, in the black. Which is a phrase that’s probably not politically correct to use in reference to old Tom, either.

  4. It looks like the rally was stunning. All of the people I know who went had a great time.

  5. Okay this will show my true nerdiness – when I saw the picture of the card catalogue my heart melted…I could almost smell the cards and hear the soft thump they made as I used to flip through them…

  6. Thanks, I enjoyed reading this post. Those are the sorts of things I think I’d be interested in if/when I visit DC.

  7. As a local, can I say we’re so glad you had a great visit and please come back. We love sane rallies and wish they were more frequent!

  8. hey, i was at the rally too! i have no idea if you were anywhere near where i was (probably not!) but if i had seen your scarf i would have pointed it out to my husband while trying not to let you see me pointing at you.

  9. Thanks for the rally coverage. I am also a DC local, had many friends attend, too, all saying what a good time.
    Jazzed to hear you are working on a novel. The best of luck. My first is coming out June 2011 with Simon & Schuster. Just signed with the UK publisher, Random House, for the next two. It is a miracle. Amazing. But you have been published already, have had great success at it, so not such a novelty. Can’t wait to hear more about your novel.

  10. What beautiful “copperplate” signatures, and readable too (pet peeve – why write your name if no one can read it…)
    Wouldn’t the floor pattern make a lovely quilt? And card catalogs! I swoon.
    Thank you so much for this posting.

  11. I was there knitting at the Rally too! I wish that I had thought of getting a meetup going for knitters at the rally. It would have been great to knit2gether!

  12. The Rally looked like it was great fun. I followed your link to the Rally signs and laughed so much that my stomach muscles now hurt!
    Thanks for the highlights of your D.C. tour; does hubbo know that you now have the hots for Mr. Humility, James Madison?
    Mary G. in Texas

  13. Mary G.: Uh, he does now.

  14. Sorry to have to correct your mistake, but Thomas Jefferson sold his library to congress; he was in debt and needed the money. SEE THIS
    I would have liked to attend that rally in DC. The last one I attended was in the late 60’s to protest the war in Vietnam.

  15. For those of us north of the border, reading the articles about the recent election, and wondering what on earth is going on down there, thank-you for your voice of reason! I guess its too bad it doesn’t make good news stories, unlike the more radical view points. Reason is very, very good, and it looks like everyone had a good time at the rally.

  16. MAN! I wish I had gone to that rally! I am a local, and was actually downtown for other reasons, but I had a blister on my foot, and needed to get home to feed my cat. So instead of having a great time, and representing sane people, and possibly running into my favorite knitting author, I got COMPLETELY SQUISHED on the Metro. Dang.
    I’m glad you had a great time in DC. We love it here too.

  17. So glad you and yours enjoyed Our Fair City. It IS thrilling, and working and living here every day kinda takes the edge off all the wonder. It helps to get perspective on the wonderfulness from someone who doesn’t see it every day. Thanks!!!

  18. I totally related to your emotion in the National Archives. I did not expect to be so touched by the original documents on display — but had the same tearful reaction.
    I am not going over to Google to find out more about Sane.

  19. Hi Ann,
    I would have loved to be there…in the bowels of the Smithsonian, I mean. The rally was too big from me! Very cool to hear about it from you though.
    I hate to tell you this but Jefferson sold those books to the Library of Congress. I admire his amazing intellect and creativity but he didn’t give things away…he only freed three slaves in his will. I think his passion for books and plants and Monticello and music, all the things that made him so unique, were also his downfall. He couldn’t afford to give things away because that was a crazy expensive life style the guy lived! In my opinion that makes him more human but less admirable.

  20. I was there too! I was the one in the back leading the rallying cry (ok, the rallying cry of one person: me)

  21. I’m so glad you went to the rally, so glad you cried over James Madison, so glad to know that the sane, the reasonable, the moderate do have some power. The friges of society get so much attention for being loud, colorful and crazy but when you get right down to it the heart and soul of this country IS good, IS polite and has people who are enough to keep the hard copy of classification card, just in case. Or for the sake of it itself.
    You gave me the warm and fuzzies, you really did. Thank you.

  22. I thought I was the only one who crushed hard on the founders. I made my husband go to Mount Vernon and Monticello for a getaway anniversary trip last weekend. George was a man among men – so dignified. His accomplishments are amazing considering his constant tooth and mouth pain. TJ is such a puzzle, absolutely fascinating.

  23. The Smithsonian = The Happiest Place on Earth.
    Love, love, love The Smithsonian. I laughed, I cried. I stopped dead in my tracks and stopped breathing for a few seconds – many, many times.
    Thanks for reminding me, Anne.

  24. My brother and his then-girlfriend, now-wife used to work at the smithsonian and I just loved going through the “authorized personnel only” doors to see all the cool stuff not on display at the moment. ( my favorite was the pregnant mummy).
    PS, congrats to you both for making the Vogue Kinitting holiday book list!!!!

  25. Loved watching the rally on TV (while knitting socks at home). We are huge fans of Jon Stewart and believe we should take it down a notch indeed. We were in DC the weekend before to tour the Library of Congress with my daughter who is training to be a docent there. It is a remarkable place, and yes we went into the tunnels to go from building to building. With ID you can get a reader card good for 2 months. Anyone can use the collections. People must go see the LOC–it’s a wonderful tour.

  26. The thought just hit me, you would make a wonderful TV show host.
    And congrats on the movel!!

  27. I remember the post about knitting at the skateboard rink, I remember the post showing Kay’s desk with the felted box in use. But I don’t remember the post about the scarf! Thanks for the link! The rally – not so impressed.

  28. DC is such an exciting & interesting place. Went to Library of Congress last summer, and like you, was attracted to the flooring!

  29. Jealous about the rally! Wish we could have gone. I love DC and have visited many times, but not made it to the National Archives. I will have to plan that for next time. I’m also jealous about the backstage tour of the Smithsonian. What a treat!

  30. Thank you for going to the rally, for those of us who couldn’t be there, but so wanted to be. I watched it on tv and was so happy to see that so many people showed up. Now going to follow your link to the signs. My daughter is still quoting one we saw on tv: “I’m not mad, I just want a taco.” (=

  31. lovely posting

  32. I watched the rally on TV and wished I was there. Very cool.
    Love the Smithsonian! So many different collections — one of my favorites is the outdoor scupture garden. I like the way it’s below grade so it takes on a feeling like it’s in a quieter place not the center of Washington DC. Thanks for the post!

  33. While visiting my son in DC this past summer when he was interning for our Congressman, I took a bunch of pictures of the Capitol floor, including a beautiful brass drain in the basement, directly under the dome, to keep for inspiration for lace projects… Thoroughly enjoyed DC, was moved to tears by the diversity of Americans enjoying their nation’s capital, and grateful to realize that, whatever my differences with administrations past or future, it is MY capitol and MY country, too.

  34. Looks like you had an awesome view at the rally! My family and I watched it on t.v. and were immediately kicking ourselves because we didn’t take time off of work/school to go.

  35. If I had known you were going to the rally I would have told you to go to the Museum of Natural History. They have just opened an amazing exhibit, the Smithsonian Community Crochet Coral Reef. Eight hundred contributors, over 4000 pieces, assembled into an enormous and beautiful reef. All of it crocheted by just folks,ages 3 to 101. If you go back to DC before mid-April, check it out.

  36. I love card catalogs. My most embarassing moment when I went to the newly built library at my alma mater college and wandered over to the card catalog to look up a book and some young thing walks up and in a very sweet voice says “Mam that’s not been updated since 198*. You need to use the computer.” My heart sank. What no card catalog any more. What do the young history majors with major papers do. You can’t work on that stuff alone. Half of the fun is sitting in a musty library with old books and friends with their old books gathering around the card catalog. Sad

  37. My forefather crushes swing more towards the curmudgeon-y and overly principled. I just can’t get enough of those Presidents Adams. Is it weird to have a crush on a father and son governing team? Hope not, because I don’t think I could pick a favorite. I totally see the appeal of dreamy James Madison.

  38. I also wish our legislators (and Supreme Court Justices Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Kennedy) would be “careful with our laws”….

  39. How wonderful to have that time with your boy-my oldest just turned 13 and I have been wanting to take a trip with just him. We were in D.C. in Sept and loved it all-especially the murals in the Library of Congress. Wish the sanity had carried over to a few people Tuesday.

  40. Whoa, 50,000 words? Furreal?
    So glad you went to the rally. With your very cool son.
    You rock. James Madison would crush on you, too, I reckon.

  41. If you are serious about loving stone carving, the next time you are here you totally have to call me. My DH is Master Stone Carver at the Washington National Cathedral. I’m not saying you’d get to see 1 inch bones; but there is some serious beauty to be seen during a behind-the-scenes tour.

  42. I work for a grant from the Library of Congress, (Teaching with Primary Sources) and get behind the scenes tours of the Library fairly regularly. I am always properly amazed. next time look up – the ceilings are pretty amazing too.

  43. I must say that my son (13 years old) would have loved nothing more than to attend this rally… He asked me multiple times to take him, but unfortunately the barrier of an entire continent forced me to deny him. I’m glad you all had fun.

  44. From Federalist #10: AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union,* none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.
    James Madison is my fave Federalist, too!
    *and sense of humor

  45. Aren’t the floors of the Library of Congress beautiful? And the carvings? I bet some totally awesome knit designer could design a whole collection of garments out of architectural features in the LOC.

  46. Now I know why I like reading your ramblings so much; like-mindedness AND knitting!

  47. What’s a “movel”?

  48. My 13 year old wanted to attend this rally but we had other plans that weekend. Looks like it was great fun and he would have gotten a lot out of it.

  49. Wow! What was so cool about that rally was that the DC Metro was PACKED! Our family spent the morning at the Baltimore Walk for Autism, but one of our friends who joined us in Bawlmer, later joined her parents on the Mall in DC!
    The Generation Gap is now officially closed!!
    so cool!
    joan a/k/a fsk

  50. From my first visit to the National Archives as a 3rd grade field trip chaperone, I always cry when I see those signatures. Every time.

  51. I was going to post on the wisdom of implying that the population who doesn’t follow Stewart’s worldview is crazy, but decided I might as well bang my head on a wall. My point of view wouldn’t even be acknowledged, much less given any thought or respect.
    You are quite willing to take the $ of us crazies who purchase your books though, right? We line your coffers and we provide comedic matereal-how much better can it get for you?

  52. I am kind of giggling about these “coffers” of ours.
    Ann. Do you have a coffer? Have you been lining it?
    Simmer down! It’s a big country! It’s OK to have a point of view, and even to hint at it, every so mildly and non-argumentatively, on your knitting blog.
    xoxo Kay

  53. You made my point.

  54. Hi,
    Thanks for your thoughts on the rally! I wish I could have been there, but my daughter went for me.
    I am an artist/educator working primarily in yarn and fabric,video and sound. I am trying to gather stories about women and knitting for my thesis project. Please visit my site: and share your stories. Please also invite your friends, family and followers to visit as well. Thanks!


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