this place called home

For orientation purposes, the string of horizontal lights is the tarmac landing lights at DCA, past that is the Washington Monument whose glow is made more noticeable by its scaffolding these days. The bright orb at the edge on the right is Nats stadium, and the smaller dot about an inch to the left of that is the Capitol. All of these things look WAY cooler when not seen through the blurry lens of an iPhone, but you can't carry a real camera while running now, can you?

I'm a lover of routines. I've always joked that it's because I was raised Methodist, but the reality of it is that habits tend to impact your life in minute ways. My latest habit is running in the half hour before the sunset. I blame the fact that I hate the heat & I'm a wimp, but it doesn't hurt that that half hour or so is also one of the most beautiful times of the day.

About once a week I run pass this spunky older woman and her dog, Fenway, who I've mentioned before, and it's as if I know their story, their bond. Fenway is a loving and endlessly curious pup whose owner has full trust in her. She bumbles along inspecting and meeting whomever she deems worthy, and her owner just keeps walking (not in an abusive way, just in an understanding way) as if to maintain the aforementioned pace of their walk. Simply put, they are each other's family. Sometimes I come across Fenway & her owner as they're playing catch, utilizing a staircase & Fenway's endless energy. Other days Fenway is exploring the rocks, looking for interesting treasures and playmates. But always they're happy together, appreciating one another in their time together, as if equal friends more than owner & dog.

Lately, every time I've run through Oronocco Bay Park I've passed three old men sharing the same bench watching the water. One has a cane, another wears glasses, and the middle guy always dons the same dapper hat. It's clear that they've been friends for awhile, that they have a mutual respect for their friendship as well as their silence. They all just sit and watch the water and the ducks and the people together. And seeing them always makes me smile because in my mind they have a grasp on the importance of life and friendships, that sometimes just being in the company of one another is enough.

I've noticed that for two Tuesdays in a row a wonderful overlap has occurred: sailboats. It's almost as if all these people who own these graceful boats have reached an agreement to spite Labor Day's premature end of summer, as the first day I noticed was the day after Labor Day. I'm all for the petition if anyone asks because few things are more intoxicating to look at while panting running than 20+ white sailboats gliding out on the Potomac right in front of you. To you sailboat enthusiasts out there, I beseech you to keep it up. Please and thank you.

But the thing that I appreciate the most on my running path is the sight I get to look at on the tail end of every run. If anything can motivate me to leave my apartment in the sometimes sweltering humidity, it's the view of the Washington Monument & the Capitol across the Potomac as the sun is setting. It's being able to recognize when the Nats have a home game when a giant glow of lights can be seen to the right of the Capitol. It's watching planes take off & land overhead as they direct themselves from/to Reagan National Airport and imagining what all the people onboard those flights are coming here to see or do. Some are here for business, some for vacation. Some are fellow citizens, young and old, seeing our Capitol for the first time. Others are from foreign lands whose curiosity has led them to see what it is that America is all about. 

These two minutes of my daily run are the minutes that give me perspective, that boost my energy, and that make me smile. They remind me that this place is home for however long we live here. That this place is home for Fenway and her owner and the three old men and all the sailboat enthusiasts. That this place is a mecca for understanding and appreciating freedom in this world.

Today those two minutes will reflect on what happened in this neighborhood & throughout our country 12 years ago. After driving around the Pentagon from what seems like all angles on regular errands and trips, it's hard to think that something so atrocious could happen to a structure so mighty, but more than that, that it could happen to our home. For me, 9/11 happened half a life ago & on a tv screen, but now that I live here, it's impossible to forget. But 12 years later, this place, our home, still stands for what it was built upon: its freedoms, and that is a beautiful thing.