On the north side of the mall–the Capitol is in the background. I’ve regained my good mood by now, having given the finger to both houses of Congress as I passed by, in recognition of their performance of late.
I had a whirlwind trip to DC this weekend. I woke Sunday morning around 5am, saw snow on the ground outside, and lamented my casual approach toward travel: they don’t really have the equipment to clear roads down here when it snows, and my airport is an hour and fifteen minutes away. I was planning to leave at 6am for an 8:25 flight. Thankfully, I only had to white-knuckle it for about 15 miles, and I arrived on time and without incident. I spent the next six hours in planes or airports before arriving at Reagan National. After a quick jaunt on the Metro into town, I wheeled my lovely new carry-on suitcase to my hotel, admired the facilities, called Spouse, and sprawled out on the bed with a heavy sigh. It was Sunday, and I hadn’t yet done the long run that my training schedule prescribed.
Knowing how motivation works, I unpacked my running gear and forced my body to change my clothes as I let my mind believe for a second that I had the choice between a late-afternoon run on an empty stomach (but wait, didn’t I still have that giant cookie from lunch?) and an early-early morning run before my all-day meeting on Monday. When in doubt, put your body on autopilot.
I strapped my iPhone to my arm to record distance and pace, left the headphones on the bed, filled my water bottle and zipped a gel into its pocket, and got on the road. My hotel was close to 23rd street, which runs smack into the Lincoln Memorial end of the mall, so I had easy access to a fabulous loop that took me past the State Department and the U.S. Institute of Peace, the back side of the Lincoln Memorial and down Ohio Drive by the Potomac River, around the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial, where I saw two amazing things. First, there was this:
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
…which, given all I’ve seen on Facebook lately about founding fathers and their infinite wisdom regarding the weapons of war and personal security, struck me particularly. I had a moment there under that incredible coffered dome, standing in the shadow of a founding father, and sweating my guts out. We use and abuse our pithy forebears with impunity, don’t we? It’s hard to get a life’s worth of political philosophy on a 480×640-pixel image, after all.
After having my moment, I saw the second AMAZING thing. I didn’t take a photo, and I don’t know why. I have no good reason. But there in the mud beside the path that loops around the Tidal Basin was a beaver. A BEAVER. I SAW A BEAVER. Have you ever seen a beaver? Up close? Did you have any idea how GIGANTIC these things are? They are enormous! Like the size of a labrador. It was incredible, and I was maybe five feet away from it as it just sat there contemplating…what, I don’t know. The hint of sunset? Its existence? My slow pace?
It took me a while to fully recover from my brush with nature, by which time I had reached the Washington Monument. I hung a right to go down the mall to the Capitol, passing the Department of Agriculture and Smithsonian museums along the way, running in front of the Capitol and circling back by the National Gallery, the Smithsonian natural history museum and others before circling the Washington Monument, passing by the World War II and Vietnam Veterans’ memorials and turning right on 23rd to cover the several blocks back to my hotel. I needed to do 7 miles; I did 7.1 really, really pleasant sightseeing miles.
After apologizing to a lovely Australian couple in the elevator for my sweatiness and stinkiness, I got back to my room, enjoyed a shower, put on my PJ’s, turned on the TV for the Super Bowl, and ordered room service. A delicious crab cake sandwich, fries, and two beers later, I was curled up in down-filled bedding watching football. I love my family, but when I dream of heaven, it’s pretty close to a long run followed by solitude and crab cakes, beer, down-filled bedding, and football.
My meeting on Monday went very well, and we made such expeditious decisions on applications that we finished three hours early. I wish the rest of my travel day had gone as smoothly, but I think I had stored up enough of a good mood from the night before that even after multiple delays that meant I didn’t get back home until 11:30pm, I was still somewhere near sane.
We’re making plans to travel as a family to Canada and upstate New York at the end of May, and I am really, really looking forward to getting Nuala her first passport, taking her on her first flight, and seeing our fabulous friends again, but man. There is something to be said for traveling alone. I dig it from time to time.