I arrived in D.C. in the middle of “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowover It,” as the city has dubbed them, the two massive snowfalls, and was able to ski home from the office last night. Even as the snow had started to fall, it was still difficult to navigate the plowed roads and not run into some bare pavement. This morning, after snow fell much of the night, there was a nice soft cushion.
I started the day by shoveling my sidewalks, something I had never been able to do, with an air of good citizenship and exercise. I had forgotten the amount of work involved and just how heavy wet snow can be.
The ski trip in, even though it’s only about a mile, was a little less pleasant with a stiff breeze and, of course, no goggles to shield my eyes. I decided to stop by the office before heading on further to the Mall. I only passed one car going to the Capitol and several dozen people at the most, many of whom were accompanied by their dogs. At times like this you can appreciate the design work of Pierre L’Enfant, the man who created the distinctive street pattern in Washington.
A city that was designed for travel by foot and horses loses some of its charm with modern traffic congestion. A deep snowfall is the perfect antidote, as it adds beauty, muffles sounds and discourages automobiles. The broad streets and sidewalks reveal their grandeur when covered with snow instead of cars.
After working haphazardly at my desk, it became clear that the snow and wind were not going to subside anytime soon and it was time to have the Mall experience. The only people in evidence in the Capitol were the ever-present U.S. Capitol Police, most of whom had a kind word to share regarding my mode of transportation for the day — skis. A few of them even sounded envious, but I am sure they hadn’t made the calculation.
By the time I left, the visibility was extremely limited. From the beginning of the Mall, I could barely see the Capitol Building. My grand designs of doing the loop up to the Lincoln Memorial and back were quickly scaled back to simply exploring Museum Row on the way to the Washington Monument.
Even with limited visibility, the Mall is spectacular. I saw 12 people, six of whom were playing football in one field, four hardy tourists and a single hardy cyclist heading up toward the Capitol. The only vehicle was a television truck and camera, capturing the scene to share with viewers across America. Finally, there was one other person busily taking pictures. As I continued on, I realized that I was the one person being photographed traversing the Mall on cross-country skis.
Coming back, catching the wind behind me, it was easier to enjoy the sights and the experiences. Watching a photographer capture images of me triggered the thought that I should take some pictures, too. By that point, my hands were starting to numb. I wasn’t even sure I was actually capable of operating a cell phone camera. I decided to go back to my office, secure in the knowledge that with this storm, I would have an opportunity to capture the snowscape another day.
Back at my desk, it’s actually hard to pay attention to the materials before me. I keep glancing back over my shoulder at the barely visible Capitol dome, the flag at half-mast for the late Congressman John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), at all of the wind and snow swirling past the window.
No matter how many times I run on the Mall, look at the Capitol, experience a sunrise in Washington, it’s impossible not to be inspired, both by the majesty and by what it represents. As we are starting a new year, back from the brink of the serious financial and economic problems we faced 15 months ago, there are still plenty of challenges and much work ahead of us, all in a very difficult environment. I am thankful for a couple of days of quiet tranquility to help center my thoughts and feelings on the task ahead, having the beauty of our nation’s capital as testimony to how one’s environment can be uplifting and inspirational. At this point, I’m welcoming all the inspiration I can get.