“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”
~Henry A. Kissinger
As I was driving from Montreal to Washington DC last December it began to snow almost as soon as I crossed the border into the US. Seems like snow follows me wherever I go and in this case it began the day I left home and continued until the day I returned home a month later from New York City. Road trips can be fun and I find they allow me the opportunity to reflect on a much of what is going on in the world and in my life.
Once I approached Syracuse the snow began to fall with a vengeance. It was a total whiteout and I could literally not see the car ahead of me, just the back lights. This left little time for reflection on life the universe and everything, and I was scared that I’d end up in a giant pile up on the first day of my month long trip. Just as I made the decision to take the next exit on the highway (if I could see it), the sky went from white to beautiful blue within a few seconds. It was one hell of a snow storm and an incredible relief to leave it behind me. Or so I thought. The storm came back moments later and once again I was trapped in this insane whiteness, wishing that I had actually taken the exit when the visibility cleared up.
I didn’t know that the storm would follow me to Washington DC, but it did, even if it took a day to catch up to me.
Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers
It was dark when I got into town and as I approached my hotel I was looking forward to a hot shower after the 11 hours of driving in some rather unfavorable conditions. Lucky for me the desk clerk at the hotel was a fan of Mini Coopers. He was a tall guy and not convinced that he could be comfortable in the car, so after letting him sit in the drivers seat to get a feel for how roomy the little car is on the inside, he was smiling like a Cheshire cat. He also upgraded me to a room with a whirlpool tub, just what my aching back needed!
As I checked my emails that night I saw one from my mom with the title: “You have to see this!”. Like a good son, I opened the email to find a touching story about the man from Maine who donates 5,000 Christmas wreaths a year to be laid on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. There was a link to an article and several photos. It was touching and I immediately made a note to plan a visit to Arlington Cemetery while in DC. I even remember thinking what a nice photographic tribute it would be to the soldiers and how beautiful (yet melancholic) it would be to have these scenes with a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground.
The next morning I woke up to blue skies and headed into the National Mall area to begin photographing all the iconic monuments and landmarks. After a few hours I had photographed the White House, The Treasury building, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. And then the snow began to fall. Be careful what you wish for.
On my walk from the Jefferson Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial it began to snow so hard that I could barely see anything but white again. I got totally soaked and had no choice but to head indoors to some of the amazing museums that you’ll find in Washington DC. My wish for snow had come true and knew exactly where I’d be at first light the next morning. Now I was wishing for just the right amount of snow and for it to stop snowing by morning.
Hey, if you’re gonna wish, wish big.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”
The wreaths are donated each year by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine. In 1992 the company had a surplus of wreaths at the end of the holiday season and with the help of a Maine senator and many volunteers plans were made to deliver the excess wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery and have them placed on graves in the older less visited areas of the cemetery.
Today the wreaths have become a nationwide tradition and donated wreaths commemorating Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and POW/MIA can be found at over 600 locations across the United States. In 2011, Wreaths Across America will help organize a volunteer force of 150,000 people, place over 400,000 wreaths in cemeteries in all 50 US states.
I was touched when I first read about this story and glad that I had a chance to witness the sight first hand. It is wonderful to see how someone with a big heart can affect so many people in a nice way. This all began with one man and the idea grew into a phenomena that has spread all across the United States. As I walked past row after row of grave markers and wreaths, it was nearly impossible for me to imagine that beneath each one lied the remains of a soldier, most of whom died in combat. With the freshly fallen snow and the beautiful wreaths placed on the graves, it was difficult not to tear up and I had to stop several times to compose myself. I hope that the images I took are a fitting tribute to soldiers all over the world.
When I got home and began going through the photos from my road trip, I was immediately drawn to these images. I hope that they strike a chord with you as well.
To find out more about the story, please visit:
Leaving Arlington National Cemetery, I was reminded of a famous poem that we are taught here in Canada as young children. It was written during the first world war by a Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on May 3, 1915 , after he witnessed the death of his friend the day before. In Canada, we still to this day wear poppies on our lapels as a tribute to veterans on Remembrance Day (November 11th).
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Carlos Garcia says
Hi Ken, Thanks for these images. They are peaceful and sad. I am reminded of the heroic sacrifice that so many have made for my freedom. I am also reminded of how broken we are. Appreciate you. Carlos
Corporate Photographer says
Thanks for following me on twitter. I love these shots – very moving. Did you do any post production work on them?
Geri Grad`` says
The wreaths at Arlington Cemetary photo’s are not just beautiful
to see,but you have captured the real meaning they were meant to
convey…I was told to take ‘good’ photo’s you need to see with
your heart not just your eyes…God Bless
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista says
Somehow the snow and stark trees really capture the feeling of this cemetery! It is nice to know someone feels compelled to donate the lovely wreaths on the graves of our fallen heroes.
Debbie Ross says
Thank you Ken, for you your beautiful tribute. My son is there now, buried in April. He was killed in Afghanistan in March. We visited earlier this month and took photos of the leaves changing in the cemetery. We won’t make it for Christmas but hope to next year to visit our son and this beautiful sight.
Edith Levy says
Incredible shots Ken and wonderful tribute.
Great Pictures… :-)
Thanks for the photographic tribute. The photos are very moving.
art lover says
My heart goes out to all the family members and friends of those buried there. This was a sign of great respect on your part——-photographing and sharing. Thanks Ken.
everything on this blog post is simply BEAUTIFUL (in a sad kind of way)
Awesome! Next time you’re in DC let me know. We should go shooting together!
Ken Kaminesky says
Carlos, we are broken, aren’t we? How sad that so many have to sacrifice their lives. And for what?
CP, yes, there is a fair amount of post prod on the images.
Thanks Geri, that was touching.
Debbie, wouldn’t it be nice if there no longer any reason for cemeteries like this? Since there are, it is nice to see that so many people care.
Debbie R, I’m so sorry to hear about your son. Words fail me when it comes to expressing my sorrow and I can’t begin to imagine how you must feel. I hope that somehow the photos here convey a sense of peace. That is how I felt as I walked through the rows of snow covered graves. I hope that you get the chance to visit next Christmas. All the best to you.
Edith, Marco, Art, Olivia, Gaby… Thank you all so much.
Angela, I’ll be sure to let you know the next time I’m in DC. It’s always nice to see a city through the eyes of a local. Cheers.
love the pics. i understand the land used to create Arlington cemetery was originally owed by the family of Robert E. Lee. not sure if that’s true. thanks for sharing.
Really nice pics Ken. You should come during the cherry blossoms, they are just about ready to bloom!
Jay Abramson says
Ken, we had the honor of visiting Arlington National Cemetary in April of this year. We were not able to capture images that evoked the emotion your images do. Thanks for sharing them. It must have been incredibly powerful.
These pictures of the wreaths across Arlington in the snow are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The sadness and beauty of them really caught me. And a truly fitting quotes, especially this one “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”
Thanks for sharing