I used to wonder why – after an assignment to visit the interior of this place, I’d return feeling exhausted – both mentally and physically worn out – as if I’d been carrying an extra couple hundred pounds or so – and gone sleepless for days – for the duration of my stop. Now – jokes about my waistline aside (I’m no Tarzan, but I’m not that rotund!) – and having studied the enormity of responsibilities placed on the former occupant at this address – I no longer marvel at whether my imagination weighed me down – so to speak – or if I actually absorbed some of the former Secretary of State’s energy while touring his house; either way it makes perfect sense to me that I’d feel a bit like Atlas in trying to identify with the late George C. Marshall at Dodona Manor in Leesburg. I’d notice – upon returning from these trips to the quaint little Newsroom at Wage Radio – that my usually bright, peppy energy level (in those days, anyway) had settled into a more contemplative, ‘grandfather-ish,’ and almost dreamy state after communing with the modern-day stewards at the five-star General’s home.
I recall noticing this effect for the first time after I’d been shown the very desk at which George Marshall had penned what would later be called the Marshall Plan – his design for rebuilding Europe after the destructive (yet very necessary) forces of World War II. I remember having some pretty spooky sensations in going over this sequence of events – and I remind you that I’m more high-spirited – and even spiritual – than one quickly jumping to conclusions about spirits and such!
Now – after the benefit of a more objective viewpoint – almost 20 years later – I no longer really care – one way or the other – whether some of the energy of a military genius reached out and grabbed me, or if I simply (and unconsciously) employed some of the more creative juices from my even earlier times on theatre stages in the Midwest and New York. Whatever the case, I’ve gained – over all the intervening years – an ever-increasing respect for the visionary work performed by the former US Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense and head of the Red Cross.
And whatever I felt inside Dodona Manor – and from whatever source it came – I certainly enjoyed a sharp contrast in strolling around the exterior of the place; the expansive yard, guarded by stately trees and softened by the manicured gardens served only to lift the spirit and inspire the soul. Perhaps this was the whole idea behind the General’s passion for cultivation; we heard – in repeated interviews with everyone connected to his activities – that his time spent out in the flowers, vegetables and other greenery took him away from all the stress of Washington, international affairs and world conflicts – and formed a relaxing and revitalizing tonic to the man. I’m thankful that it did – and I trust that not only Dodona Manor and its beautiful grounds – but our larger world – enjoyed the benefits of his regenerating activities.
Now – when I add all this together – the massive workload undertaken by George Marshall – along with his list of accomplishments – and the legacy of this treasured estate and outside grounds – and even my mysterious energy empathies with the spirit of the man – it leaves me recalling that a synonym for our country’s Armed Forces is ‘the Service;’ and I wish we had more leaders – in 21st Century America – with a bit more – or a lot more – of the type of dedication possessed by the former resident at 217 Edwards Ferry Road Northeast. He was very much a product of his time, but also – that era was greatly affected by his efforts.
On my last visit to Dodona Manor, I took the pleasure of taking a leisurely stroll around the exterior of the home – soaking up the calming energies of all the plant life in the yard and gardens – under the warmth of an early-morning sun – and gave thanks that the General and his wife Katherine were able to spend as much time as they did (in the 1940’s and 1950’s) at this little oasis away from Washington and the wars. This was his only permanent home in a lifetime of military engagement on behalf of his country; it’s easy to imagine a resident of Dodona Manor accepting the Nobel Peace Prize; George Marshall was the first-ever professional soldier to do so. You could certainly say that – in eternity – he rests in Peace.