A Morning Ramble With Kukka
One of the things I like to do during the Great Pause is take our dog on long walks. Along the way there’s a chance to stop, listen to birdsong and enjoy the morning.
This is Kukka. She’s a Finnish Lapphund, so we gave her a Finnish name, KukkaTahti, which means star flower. This is how she sleeps… she looks so relaxed, so carefree. Hard to feel that way these days, or most days really. I’m fortunate to have lots to be thankful for, but I rarely feel as relaxed and open as Kukka. Lucky dog.
We live a few blocks from Union Station and these nearby buildings, amidst the hustle bustle of cars, taxis, buses and the morning throng of people coming and going. But not this morning. On my walk early in the Great Pause, nothing moves except the flags wafting in a wistful breeze. Easy to imagine I’m caught in some Sci-Fi drama. Maybe we all are…
Little Rivers of Color
Then I turn back around to see little rivers of color everywhere, trumpeting Spring’s arrival.
It’s hard to feel uptight and blue when all around me are little bursts of joy. I can imagine their song,
“sheltered by earth
we reach for the sky
to celebrate the now
this very moment
we celebrate the now”
When something catches my eye I stop and Kukka gets a chance to munch on a stick or watch the birds hip hop across the grass, searching for snacks. So while she’s engaged, I peek inside to ponder the mysteries of genetics and color.
In earlier days, I was more focused on the destination than what I might encounter along the way. Today I have the luxury of not having to be anywhere at all. So there’s time to look around and explore. Kukka is more keen on observing the wildlife, watching a grey squirrel scamper up a tree, tail twitching.
Do dogs understand cause and effect? I try to tell her she’ll never catch one, but she remains unconvinced. I guess that’s the way of dogs and squirrels…
Lower Senate Park
One of my favorite stops is this section of Lower Senate Park, just south of Union Station and across from the Russell Senate Office Building.
I find these benches so inviting. Often they sit empty, waiting for someone to pause their routine and take a moment. Today we have the place to ourselves, sequestered in a little oasis of Spring green and blossoms.
I like to sit, legs stretched out, while Kukka sniffs around looking for little treasures. It’s often so quiet you can hear birdsong and the buzzing of wild bees seeking a little pollen to share with their hive mates.
Today, the sun makes me feel expansive and I know we’ve come to the right place. There’s so much new growth, I can see the world changing before my eyes.
I think about time flowing through a great cycle of renewal. Spring welcomes new shoots as they transform into leaf and flower, later to mature and finally wither with the coming of Winter and to burst forth again as Spring’s sun warms the soil. We like to think time casts a line of forward progress, but maybe it’s more akin to the cycle of nature.
Time Made Visible
On our way back home, I take a different route and see this remnant of a different era. What was it doing here? I stop to take a closer look.
There was so much weathering, the patterns of paint and rust are like an abstract painting.
I think about how the metal has melted away, how things are always changing. Some we might witness, like Spring’s new growth, and some we only discover after they occur. Like it or not, everything is constantly evolving. Here was man’s work forged in steel, to be turned into dust by time and the elements.
Meandering Back To Another Era
I found a clue. We went home to explore and discovered The Union Switch and Signal Company of Swissvale, PA, founded by George Westinghouse in 1881. They made railroad signals, among other things, and I guess this metal box was probably a base for one of their signals. But why at this spot, across from Union Station?
I wondered what the area was like back in the day. I found this photo dated 1910 when the Station was still brand new.
Perhaps the street cars and other traffic required a signal before entering the plaza in front of the station. Maybe that’s why it was there. Just a few years later the area was transformed.
Hundreds of women were now working in government offices and temporary dormitories were built to house them. Here’s how the grounds in front of Union Station looked in 1919.
Notes From Another Time
I keep exploring and discover: in 1919, women win the right to vote, the Treaty of Versailles ends the War to End All Wars, Prohibition begins and our nation is devastated by a flu pandemic. With no vaccine or antibiotics, the flu kills 675,000 Americans.
It’s a time of great unrest. Tens of thousands of workers go out on strike and anarchist bombs and race riots explode in cities across America, including Washington, DC.
With growing anxiety about immigrants and a new Red Scare, the Government rounds up suspected anarchists, communists and leftists by the thousands to be deported.
Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke leaving America without a functioning president. The 1920 election marks the end of the Progressive era as Warren G. Harding, calling for a return to “normalcy,” wins in a landslide.
Back to Our Time
Will we go through a similar period of strife or is the Great Pause just a prelude to our own return to “normalcy”? What I know for sure is that change is a constant and we don’t live in an either/or world, as many opposing things can be true at the same time. Here’s one: I’ve noticed how people are quick to smile or say hello when Kukka and I pass by. I hope that will stay part of our new normal.
For now, I’d like to offer a quiet moment and leave you with this:
Sending you all best wishes.
This ramble through gorgeous Flowers bursting into the cityscape reminded me of a line from Michael Chrichton – “Life will find a way”!
Steven Ray Miller
Thanks, Dan, for a wonder full walk! Your words and photos and perspectives are greatly appreciated. All goes well for us in Durham, and I hope you and your family are ok.
Dan: It was a lovely piece and the pictures made it moreso.
Mary Beth Bongiovanni
Dan, when I read your words I hear your voice and that brings me such happiness. Your voice calms me and subtly reminds me of the closeups and the constellations of beauty and growth I’m lucky to enjoy on my dog walk breaks through Decatur while TDP (teaching during a pandemic). These words stay with me: “ What I know for sure is that change is a constant and we don’t live in an either/or world, as many opposing things can be true at the same time.“ Dualities scaffold critical transition and transformation- changes within ourselves and changes we witness.
Thank you for sharing your thinking. Sending you love and gratitude, MEB
We were moved by how compassionately you connected our here and now with the plight of those 100 years ago. Your walk through time and place was deeply insightful, eye-opening and affirmative. It gave us hope. Thank you.
Thank you Dan for sharing your deep perception through photos and words…. I am so glad to meet your pup! There is something so delightful about experiencing the world with a dog…it just brings thing into the right perspective! Keep up the wonderful work.
My love to you and Sharon.
Dan, I enjoyed reading your neighborhood travels and thoughts on time, beauty and change. I miss Capitol Hill. Let’s try to get together when things open again. In the meantime it would be wonderful if you were able to submit your thoughts on Washington during Covid-19 with the Historical Society of Washington….here’s a link http://www.dchistory.org/in-real-time/ …I think they would be grateful to have your moment-in-time reflections. Hope you stay well and I will try to stay in better touch. –Eileen
hey dan, thanks for the (reasonably leavened) cheer, and the lovely scenes. ‘wafting in a wistful breeze’—i like that; reminds me a little of chuck berry’s ‘nadine’. E and i were thinking (wistully, even!) about your beautiful camelias this morning, right about now, two years ago. glad to see your new pup. good health to you all.
Loved it Dan!
Wonderful. Thank you for your perspectives.
Thanks Margie! Hope you and your family are doing well
Thanks Matt! Good health to you and E too!
Eileen, so nice to hear from you! Wishing you and Joan all the best! I sent a link to this post to the Historical Society, thanks for the suggestion.
Finn, great to hear from you! Hope you’re doing well during these crazy times. Sharon and I send our love
Thanks Bob! I read your post and was reminded my mother’s father died from the flu too. So many lives affected, so much has changed in such a short period.
Thanks Jackie! And thanks for all your support.
Thanks Mary Beth! With all the uncertainty, this has been a time for all of us to pause and reflect. A mixed blessing, for sure, but thank you again for your support and love to Jenny and Michael.
How Grace-full were these few moments of walking with you and your dog through all the beauty that is simply sent to us to enjoy. It transcends all divisions of gender, race, politics, financial and social. My heart aches for all the spoilers who can’t just enjoy these moments!
Thanks Linda, and for all your comments and support. Hope you and Rolf are doing well.
Steven, so nice to hear from you. I hope this is also a creative period for you and your art. All the best!
Thanks Jill. Hope you and Jimmy are doing well. And thanks for your support and comments
Beautiful pictures, Dan, and ending with the Camillia was so perfect. My bush is ladened with the same camillias flowing in that rich cherry red, just outside my kitchen door. It brings us such happiness, especially during these days of uncertainty.
Thank you for this “Vision”. Stay safe and healthy. Sending Love, Hope
Thanks Hope! It’s wonderful how something simple like flowers can lift our spirits. Your place is so beautiful, it’s like a little piece of heaven. Love to you and yours.
Reading your piece is just one of the outcomes of the Great Pause. As a friend wrote me, “A gift really to be stripped of the many things we have cemented to our identity!” Thanks for letting me walk with you over familiar territory. We lived on Capitol hill for 30 years.
As the post war world evolved in 1919, women in the workplace was one of the great benefits and changes. What will emerge from this Great Pause? A wider acceptance of the connections among us…the oneness of us all? Greater depth of communication?
Empathy and understanding? May it be so!
That was lovely, Dan. I do like your name for our circumstances, The Great Pause. I also enjoyed learning about DC 100 years ago and especially the sign “…wear a mask or go to jail.” We won’t see those know but it is nice to know this is all part of life’s cycles, new but not so new.
Hi Kathleen and thanks for your comments!
Hi Ron and thanks for your comments. I feel really fortunate to live in Capitol Hill, where one can pursue life on a smaller community-based scale, while all around you is a hub of activity. There are trees and gardens everywhere, with lots of little shops and quiet places to eat, and nearby our elected officials are making decisions that will shape our national landscape for years to come. A weird juxtaposition, to be sure. As is the Great Pause. Who knows what will come of it all, but it will certainly be etched in our memory for a long time to come.