Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sibling Assignment #155: My Corner of the World

For Sibling Assignment #155, Christy assigned the three of us siblings to write about the corner of the world where we live.

Christy and Carol are both longtime residents in their respective corners of the world.  Christy wrote about her love for northeastern Washington state, here, and Carol wrote about our hometown of Kellogg, here.

Well, unlike my sisters, who have established deep roots and great familiarity with their corners of the world, I am a stranger in a strange land, having just moved to Greenbelt, Maryland at the end of September, 2014.

Take your choice as far as what you want to call this strange land.

I live in suburban Washington D. C.

I live on the Washington-Baltimore corridor.

Whatever you call it, the Deke and I have happily moved to the DMV (DC, MD, VA) suburbanopolis and it's stimulatingly unlike anywhere I've ever lived before.

For starters, for me, being new to the suburbanopolis life, I have experienced this world as a bewildering labyrinth of local, state, and federal streets, roadways, freeways, routes, parkways, pikes, drives, boulevards, streets, and avenues, many with dual names, both what I would call a street name and a route number.  For example, when I take the Deke to work, I could say I go south on Kenilworth, but many would say I go down Rt. 201, known on signs as MD 201.

The school where Deke teaches is right off of Rt 201/Kenilworth/MD 201 and sits on Edmonston Rd.  Drive north from the school on Edmonston Rd. and it reaches an end, dissolving into a large apartment complex parking lot,

BUT, head north on Rt.201/Kenilworth/MD 201 and out of nowhere it suddenly becomes Edmonston Rd and keep driving toward Laurel and it becomes the Old Baltimore Pike -- and, I think, it continues to be MD/Rt 201, but I'm not 100 percent sure.

I'm not 100 percent sure.  That's life in my corner of the world.  When I set out to go somewhere, I'm not 100 percent sure I have the directions right (I don't use GPS) and I'm not 100 percent sure I'll get where I'm going in some set amount of time because I'm never 100 percent sure what traffic will be like.

But, I don't always drive.  I also ride the Metrobus and the Metro train and while I'm much more sure of what station will come next and what route I'm on, I'm never 100 percent sure that the train won't be suffering residual delay because of a track repair at Branch Station or because of a medical emergency at Silver Spring.

All these place names are becoming mythic to me.  The same thing happened when I rode the Underground in London. I started to have deep feelings about places like Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road or the Strand or Angel or Moorgate.  Often I wanted to travel to these stations just because I liked the name, say, of Finchley Road and Frognal or Finchley Road.  ,

Now, I board the train and I start feeling attached to names like Largo and Foggy Bottom and I wonder what's going on at Crystal City and what's new at New Carrollton.  I see names like Landover and Bethesda, names I know from the world of professional sports and sometimes I wonder if the Grateful Dead ever played at Shady Grove.

Did I expect, when we moved to Maryland, that I might find getting around bewildering? Did I expect to spend a lot of time reading maps, navigating scores of roads, and learning to get a grip on the geography of our nation's capital?  Yes.

I expected crowded roadways and crowded trains.  I expected to walk the streets and ride buses and trains with more people different from me that I've ever been in the company of my whole life.  I expected that, along with hearing different languages and hearing English spoken in variety of musical, fascinating ways.

I expected all that.

What I didn't expect was to learn that I was chauvinistic about Pacific Northwest beauty.  Even though I have traveled by car across the country several times and seen what natural variety and natural beauty there is across the USA, I was always pretty much fixed on the idea that true beauty only exists in Oregon, Washington, and North Idaho.

I especially thought that I'd never find natural beauty in the miles and miles of towns sprawling in all directions from Washington, D.C. but would have to get used to miles and miles of strip malls, apartment complexes, gas stations, and suburban sameness.

To a degree, living in this suburbanapolis has been this way, but I've been struck by how much natural beauty is all around me.

I have yet to explore much of the beauty Maryland and N. Virginia, and Washington, D. C. hold. Down in Alexandria, I've spent quite a few hours in Huntley Meadows, a wetland teeming with fowl and foliage secluded just minutes from Rt 1 (also known as Richmond Highway, Baltimore Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue and host of other names).  Likewise, here in Greenbelt, I'm becoming more and more familiar with the beauty of Greenbelt Lake. I've walked its circumference in the autumn under canopies of orange, red, and yellow leaves and now in the winter with the trees standing like skeletons against gray skies, stark and gorgeous.

I have books and the World Wide Web to guide me to nearby lakes, rivers, reserves, parks, an arboretum or three or four, as well as hiking trails to waterfalls and historical sites.

I'm not a hundred percent sure I'll visit all these places that are available, but I am one hundred percent sure that in my new corner of the world, in the midst of all that is perplexing and concrete and crowded, there are trees, trails, birds, bays, lakes, rivers, and other green sources of beauty in the city and in the country and these places will give me respite from the push and pull of the bewildering place I call home.

No comments: