Now, this is not a blog post about beauty or inner girl drama. This is not a blog post about a crisis of conscience or mirror-phobia. This is not a blog post where I lament my lack of shiny golden locks and Taylor-Swift-y style, or where I talk about overcoming our physical insecurities so that we can see ourselves as the world sees us.
Nope. I want to talk instead about the beauty of yesterday: it was 75 and sunny, the light streaming through the yellowing leaves like sun hitting the pages of an old book. The wind was playful today, kicking up the maple leaves on the ground in front of my pink shoes and my friends' cute boots or little black heels as we walked back to eat grilled cheese and tomato soup after church. The air felt crisper, cooler and yet friendly, as if being outside was what we were meant to do. Washington, DC is beautiful in this weather. It breathes easier, hums at a less frantic pace, and people wear expressions of surprised joy that fall has arrived. As my friends and I baked up a storm on A St. SE, our hands sneaking into the cookie dough every once in a while, and Norah Jones on the stereo, the smells of fall wafted around me: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pumpkin, chocolate...
We need to soak in the fall. In New England we pride ourselves on our changing maple leaves, our apple picking and cider doughnuts, our steaming cups of hot cider and haystack rides and the brisk air and the whistling wind over Gull Pond. And I never thought that I would love the fall in DC because for so long it hasn't felt like fall. But here the fall is gentler. It sneaks up on you but it ends gradually, each morning a little colder than the last. There are occasional rainstorms or bursts of sunshine, and today was a day for soaking in the fall, especially the fall in this city.
I baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with some friends from church and as they were turning a perfect light golden brown in the oven, I looked around me and realized: I am making a life here. I am making a life with friends and cookies and being settled, and somewhere between 15th and East Capitol St., I have come to call DC home. I don't know how long it will be this way, but it surprises me how doable it is. I came here expecting to miss my family (and I do miss you guys!) and miss Boston (I still love that dirty water) and miss my school. I expected the missing to be obvious and apparent, and for DC to feel different, foreign and not-home. And to my surprise, and joy, it has become home.
I love to walk to Eastern Market and people watch in Port City Java. I love eating chili cheese fries at Ben's Chili Bowl (so delicious). I love going to my church that I can walk to in 10 minutes. I love hopping on the Circulator at Union Station and going to Georgetown to buy crepes or cupcakes or even just to walk around and enjoy the exploration. I love calling this city home.
And then I got to go do a photo shoot with my friend and phenomenal photographer Mandie. We went to Lincoln Park and she took pictures of me, telling jokes about grapes, ducks and roosters and making me feel beautiful. There was something so freeing about it - being told to look serious, then laugh instantaneously, then smile quietly, and then throw leaves in the air. We poked around Eastern Market and I saw everything with new eyes: the colors seemed richer and the iced apricot tea tasted sweeter. I saw people with their dogs and their children, or people wandering through tasting the freshly made hummus, or people in a hurry to get home and cook their dinners. And I realized, as Mandie snapped picture after picture and I learned to laugh on cue, that being beautiful and feeling beautiful is not about how you look. It is about how you respond to the beauty around you. It is about how you invite it into yourself and how you reflect it back out. It is about having the heart to see the smile dancing in the barista's eye as she hands you your grande mocha at Starbucks, the stunning blue of the cloudless October sky, the pattern of chrysanthemums in a neighbor's garden.
So for those of us who cannot go to Lincoln Park on a Sunday afternoon, who cannot soak in the richness of Eastern Market or the view of the WWII Memorial at night, or eat crepes in Georgetown or even sneak a peek at the Capitol Building tonight... look instead at the places where you are, and hear the sounds, and smell the smells. And live the beauty.