Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh look! The White House!

You know you are a DC resident when you are eating your ham, provolone and edamame hummus sandwich at a park on H St, NW, looking at the pigeons land on a statue's head and you suddenly turn around and realize that the White House is behind you.

Today I was startled into remembrance that I am in the nation's capital city. You'd be surprised how quickly you forget where you are once a routine has settled in and you're accustomed to your surroundings. I know my D6 bus, my free mocha-cappucino-latte thing from the machine at my office, my dress clothes that sometimes make me feel like I'm pretending to be a professional lawyer when inside I'm still a six year old in Mom's high heels, my apartment mates, my class work... routine, routine, routine. And I so quickly forget that I am here, in Washington, DC, on an incredible journey into the center of all things political and vocational.

So I am thankful that I stopped in the park on my way to a briefing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on 21st century energy policy. I'm glad I packed a sandwich and my sketchbook, and forced myself to slow down for a few moments and just be. In the city you're always walking with a purpose: to the Metro station, the Starbucks (where, if you can imagine it, the prices are HIGHER than in North Beverly or even Boston. How do they do that?), the office, the cool vintage consignment shop, the Au Bon Pain for a chocolate croissant... So today I meandered, through the park, through the shade of trees, by benches full of cute, suit-wearing couples eating power lunches before going back to their twelve-hour day, by some poodles and their owner who was dressed in a hot pink tracksuit. I meandered, wandered, strolled... all the good slow words for walked. I had no purpose other than to be. I had no agenda, nowhere to "get to", no plans, no needs. It was just me and my little sketchbook and my edamame hummus. And then, to turn around and see the White House! There is nothing like it in the whole world.

Which leads me to my challenge to you, readers. You, who love routines and schedules, who relish being able to eat the same chicken salad sandwich on a pita with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles from the nice lunch ladies in Lane every single day, who make To-Do lists on post it notes and paste them to the top of your Wilson Hall built-to-the-wall desk, who worry when they're told to "go with the flow": slow down.

Meander. Stroll in the woods. Amble across the Quad on your way back from class. Don't be concerned with "getting there" - however important there is. Don't be worried that you are missing a moment from your busy day - however busy, however rushed. Breathe deeply the smell of fall leaves and pumpkin spice lattes, feel the scratchy wool of a new sweater on your arms, wriggle your toes in your new Toms or moccasins or Uggs. Feel the changing seasons. Take a book out to that big tree by the bell and just read it for twenty minutes. Take a couple of friends and just go sit in the sun outside the Chapel.

You may not turn around and see President Obama's residence. You may not turn around AGAIN and realize you are inadvertently blocking seven Japanese tourists from taking pictures of Obama's residence. You may not put on your high heels and hear yourself walk into the Chamber of Commerce's building because everything echoes on marble. You may not get on the Metro at Foggy Bottom (I love that name, by the way - Foggy Bottom.... just say it and smile to yourself), or Farragut North, or Union Station. But wherever you are, no matter how seemingly mundane or quiet, the world offers itself to you to enjoy. So go for a walk with your senses alive to the world. Slow down in this harried, hurried world and breathe it in with deep, slow breaths.

I leave you with this poem. Goodnight, readers.

The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

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