pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Autumn on the canal

15 October 2012

Autumn on the canal

C & O Canal
Washington, D.C.
12 October 2012

I went to take stock of the kid, to see how he was and what he was doing. He seems well over all, a bit frazzled, and suffering from the general indignities of the transition from boy to man. Meaning, he wanted his mommy and he didn't want his mommy. And he needed a lot of reassurance. And some food that didn't come from the dining hall.

For my part, I was slammed by an unexpected sense of nostalgia as my plane came in for its landing at National on Thursday evening near sunset. Something about the hazy low green hills and the turning of the leaves hit right in my heart, and the feeling lingered throughout the weekend. Perhaps it is seeing the city of my birth through the new eyes of my son, perhaps just a longing for a place that perversely makes a bit more sense to me.

I was amused that the son has discovered the canal (now a national park!) and the waterfront. We sat alongside the Potomac and ate lunch, and I told him about how we used to go boating there with cousins and aunts and uncles. I pointed out the Watergate, which he referred to as a "cultural black hole"--I'm still not sure that I know what he means, other than once it was just a building and now it's a thing. To me, like so much else, it's just part of the scenery.

The weather was gorgeous, sunny and cool and breezy. Exactly what autumn should be like. As I walked old narrow streets, I couldn't help but smile at the houses decorated for Halloween, including the house where my grandmother grew up, a house she must have lived in near to a century ago.

I was anxious in some ways to get back on the plane yesterday, to return to California, but as ever, this place doesn't quite fit me and never feels quite right.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

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