Me and Tom in Virginia


I spent the weekend at a conference for work in Virginia. The bottomless granola bars—for which I have a horrible weakness—were something I gave up trying to overcome by 10 a.m. the first day. Instead, I atoned by spending the time between sessions walking and biking and running the grounds.

It wasn't a hard purgatory. The conference center is a beautiful, old, plantation-y looking house. It was the kind of place where you expect the ghost of Thomas Jefferson—who I've always had a bit of a historical crush on—to appear over the next rolling hill, jump his horse over the fence, and start a conversation with you.

In fact, as I had a rather long, lonely run Saturday morning I began imagining what I'd say if he showed up. It was a fun bit of fancy, and ergo I thought I'd share it with you.

Me: Hey there, you must be Thomas Jefferson. I'm Meryl from Kansas. It's nice to meet you.

Thomas: Well hello, Meryl. Welcome to Virginia. What's your business in these parts?

Me: Oh, you'd like it. We're talking about the Bill of Rights—well, mostly the 8th Amendment.

Thomas: That old thing? Still?

Me: Are you kidding, Mr. Jefferson?

Thomas: You can call me Tom.

Me: OK, Tom. I know you didn't write the Constitution or Bill of Rights specifically--and of course neither are as poetic and beautiful as your Declaration--but some of your ideas are in there. And really, it's brilliant.

Thomas: Well, that's true--if I do say so myself. But I just thought that--with your bigger, granola-bar fed, modern brains--you'd have thought of something better by now.

Me: Nope, it's still pretty much the gold-standard. And really, most people these days spend their brains on technology rather than law and government.

Thomas: What kind of technology?

Me:, here, look at my phone. With this little box I can call people, write things down....Oh, this is a good one, see, I've been taking photographs of pretty things I've found all over the house and grounds.

Thomas: With only that tiny box?

Me: Yeah, see here...oh, hang on, let me get past all these pictures of my son.

Thomas: Sturdy looking fellow you have there.

Me: Aww, thanks, we love him! But see, here are those other photos. Some flowers, some of the stone walls, a little gopher I found in the vegetable garden....

Thomas: Wow, we used to draw pictures of plants and animals and paint them, or collect them and press them in books. Now you just point that “phone” at them and carry them around in your pocket. So fascinating!

But the gopher can't be the only wildlife you've seen here?

Me: No, I've seen tons of wildlife, actually! I saw some deer, geese...some birds that I think were wild turkeys. Oh, and about a million of this yellow butterfly that I just wasn't quick enough to identify.

Thomas: The butterflies were probably Tiger Swallowtails. But have you seen the bears yet?

Me: No, but they told me about them at check-in. I was hoping that they were just joking.

Thomas: Oh, they're real. But surely you're not afraid of them, are you? Isn't Kansas out west where there are buffalo roaming and stampeding?

Me: Eh, not so much anymore, Tom. That whole Louisiana Purchase/westward expansion thing was great for America, but not so good for the buffalo.

Thomas: You can't win all of history.

Me: Nah, but if we start down that gopher hole we'll be here a long time. And it's really too nice a morning for that.

Gosh, it was beautiful up in the vegetable gardens. Greens getting big and strong. About 10 bees hives waking up and starting to hum. Purple martins swooping through the air from their little white, gourd houses. I could have stayed there all day!

Thomas: You'd love my gardens at Monticello then. Have you ever visited?

Me: No, I loved Mt. Vernon, but I've never made it as far as Monticello.

Thomas: I'm actually headed back there—I've got a killer game of chess with Madison planned this afternoon. Would you like a lift?

Me: Oh, wow, thanks for asking. Unfortunately, I've got to get back to work.

Thomas: Well are you going to make anytime to visit Washington while you're here?

Me: Actually, I was thinking of walking around a little before I leave tomorrow.

Thomas: You should stop by my monument then. It's a really beautiful place, too.

Me: You know, Tom, I think I'll do that.

Thomas: Well, enjoy the rest of your time in Virgina, and good luck with that 8th Amendment stuff.

Me: Thanks!