Goddess of Liberty

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — The Goddess of Liberty sits atop the Texas State Capitol dome, but I don’t find much information about why she was chosen. I was struck by the symbolism however, in my stroll around the capitol grounds and inside the building today. http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/SPB/capitol/texcap.htm

Out front a demonstration was going on, protesting cuts in funds for women’s health care. It was a lively group, rallying in red, making noise, being heard, speaking up. The Planned Parenthood bus was parked nearby, and demonstrations are scheduled for Tuesdays as these issues continue to be top-line news. Participants consented to my picture-taking efforts.

 Further up the walkway, I met Nicole, a University of Texas sophomore majoring in advertising. She was wandering the grounds with camera in hand, on assignment, looking for “something that was a defining moment in Texas history.” I asked permission to get her picture, and at my request, she took mine.

 Up at the Visitors Entrance, the line had gotten long. The two women in front of me were together, why had they come today? I didn’t ask, but noted one was armed with her camera.

 Tours were going off every 15 minutes. A little bit about the capitol, a little about Texas history, 45 minutes guided, or, you can tour the entire building on your own. Pamphlets in many languages are available to explain what you’re seeing. Davy Crockett’s portrait looms large, as do statues of Sam Houston, who served as President of the Republic of Texas, and Stephen Austin, for whom the capital city is named. In the rotunda, portraits of ex-governors surround. To the right of Ann Richards is George W Bush (accidental symbolism?). Current governor Rick Perry doesn’t get a portrait until he leaves office. Then everybody shifts over one position!

I had some lunch in the outstanding cafeteria downstairs and while resting on a bench near the gift shop met Wilma, a retired schoolteacher from Lubbock. We chatted about schools, and teaching, and changing times. She was there with her parents, her sister, and a nephew and niece. I met them too, a delightful family, headed for San Antonio after a few days in Austin. Spring break for the kids. “We have 25 grandchildren, four adopted,” bragged Wilma’s parents, offering pictures.

Back outside, a brilliant evening gown on the path ahead caught my attention. A young girl, pretty in pink, posing beside the capitol trees. Permission to get your picture? I asked. Two men, her father and her brother, armed with heavy-duty cameras, nodded in assent. “What is the occasion? Did you win a contest?” “No, I’m turning fifteen,” was her answer. A family that had been touring the capitol while I was inside squealed in delight at this photo-op and jumped to pose with her. Father and brother beamed.

The grounds were filled with kids chasing squirrels, bicycles propped against a tree while their riders rested beside, helmets on the ground; picnics spread for families; a lone laptopper concentrating over computer intricacies and the smell of fresh air. Over at the edge a woman sat on a bench, her little white dog beside.

The goddess of liberty stood watch over all.  I remembered the comment made to me by an excited young boy of ten as we waited for the capitol tour to begin. From Midland, he was there with his parents and sister for spring break time. “I’ve got a good feeling about this,” he said.