Day Trippin': Getting a new lease on Washington, D.C.
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 00:04
I’m typically not the kind of girl to bring to a big city. If I’m not recruiting people to help hold my bags, I’m complaining of blistering feet due to my poor selection of footwear. However, cities had started to grow on me recently—except for one.
When my friend Eric suggested a trip to Washington, D.C., I envisioned stuffy museums and stern-faced politicians parading the streets with their suits and briefcases. Call me rude, but I’ve always seen D.C. as a dull place without any culture, not to mention the heart of ever-watchful “Big Brother.”
I had been once before, back when my friend Chrissy and I decided to stop by and check out the White House on our way home from a road trip. We learned that one cannot “stop by” this city. For two hours in the stifling summer heat, we searched for the surprisingly elusive White House, and when we finally spotted it, gave it a less-than-impressed glance. I left the city with just as much dislike as ever.
But despite my biases, I agreed to give the city another chance, as long as we visited the Smithsonian Zoo. With our friends Christy and Dan, Eric and I made the two-hour drive to the nation’s capital.
And man, did my opinion of D.C. drastically change. My first shock was the suburbs surrounding the city. With dogwoods and cherry blossoms in full bloom, the colorful Victorian-style homes lining the streets were anything but dull. Some stood tall and regal, while others remained a mystery behind trees and fences. The neighborhoods, which maintained an exclusive hush, were dotted with spiraling church steeples and the occasional shop.
The city, in contrast, pulsated with activity. Trendy guys and girls marched confidently down the store-lined sidewalks with their oversized sunglasses and Oxford shoes. Others were content to sip their coffees or absent-mindedly flip through newspapers.
Because we arrived very late in the afternoon, the zoo and all of the Smithsonian museums were closed. The hours and locations are listed on the Smithsonian website, and I’m sure any of the numerous museums dotting the city would make a great springtime outing. The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 27 and attracts thousands of visitors from across the country to D.C. to gaze at the much-awaited pink and white blossoms lining the sidewalks and parks of the city.
With a few hours of daylight left, we decided to explore the National Mall. The pond across from the Capitol Building was a great place to relax and people-watch as city dwellers and flustered tourists went about their day. The ducks floating in the water were cute too, until they bobbed to the edge of the pond and spontaneously lunged out of the water at us.
The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, home of the Yoko Ono Wish Tree, made me forget I was in a bustling city. The walled-in garden and its contorted statues were secluded and, I’m sure much to Ono’s joy, peaceful. The garden and nearby museum have been around since the 1970s, but the tree was sent by Yoko Ono—peace activist, artist and wife of the late John Lennon—as a gift in 2007.
The tree is part of a project to promote peace, based on the initial 1912 gift of cherry blossom trees to the United States by Japan. Each day, wishes are collected by museum staff members and sent to Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. The tower is a symbol of Lennon’s and Ono’s continued campaign for world peace. It is a structure that beams rays of light into the sky every year from Lennon’s birthday on Oct. 9 until the anniversary of his murder on Dec. 8.
I was immediately drawn to the Wish Tree, which seemed almost sacred with its dozens of wispy sheets of paper, laden with wishes from the day’s visitors. I couldn’t think of any wishes to make, so I jotted down some lines in one of my favorite poems by Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” and we added it to the powerful little tree.
I never thought I’d say this, but I really love D.C. The city is everything I thought it wasn’t—diverse, colorful, exciting. I reckon the city was my reminder that every day is an opportunity to try something different—and who knows, maybe I’ll even land my dream job at National Geographic and call the city home one day.