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.