June 17: As tiny as ice cream sprinkles or a clutch of jelly beans, the kayaks plunged down the rapids. Specks of fluorescent green, yellow, red and blue navigated to the first drop and, as we held our breaths, plunged 20 feet into the turbulence below. One jelly bean popped up, and then another and another until all six kayaks rested in an eddy before the next plunge. The path here was a channel of white frosting layered between rocks and what looked like a falls-induced whirlpool. Our own Scylla and Charybdis. The kayakers navigated this too.
Standing on the observation deck, my friends Lee, Jim and I turned away from the Potomac River to continue our hike. Lee and I had welcomed Jim to the weekday pleasures of retirement with a walk to the Virginia side of Great Falls. We soon clambered to another observation deck and looked for our kayakers. To my astonishment, we saw them on the crest of a crenelated rock island upstream of Scylla and Charybdis; in the time I had walked down a sidewalk, posed for a photo and stretched my leg over a boulder, they had carried their kayaks up a jagged ridge in search of more whitewater.
Although we retirees had all the time in the world, we returned to our walk. In the old days, I took time off for doctors appointments; I’m grateful these athletes chose whitewater for their Friday errands.
To learn more about the Class V whitewater at Great Falls, you can read the descriptions provided on the American Whitewater page. I didn’t understand much of the terminology. But I do understand awe.
June 18: Grace, grit, integrity and class. Ian Desmond, the former shortstop of the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals (I had to slip that in), used these words to describe teammate Ryan Zimmerman, whose uniform number was retired today. Although thousands of us will continue to wear #11 on our tee shirts and jerseys, no other Washington National will ever take the field wearing that number. It belongs to Mr. National forever.
The tributes were lovely. The ballpark energy was loving. And, improbably, with Zimmerman’s former teammates on the field and in video messages, it felt at last like the on-field World Series celebration COVID had denied us. I still watch highlights of the games. And today I re-read my day-by-day blog posts from that improbable October. So, Nats fans (or any sports fan — hi, Manja!), click here if you want to revisit an Amazing Season.
Bonus: After the baseball game, Jeremiah and I walked to the nearby Anacostia riverfront for a bite to eat. There we saw — and talked to! — Nats heroes from our past. On the left (below) is Daniel Murphy, who should have won the MVP award in 2016. On the right is Jayson Werth, who did win Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series with a walk-off home run. (Truly, along with a 2014 no-hitter, Werth’s homer was the only highlight of eight “so close” seasons. Until October 2019.)
And while I talked to Jayson Werth — who patted my back (!) as I started getting emotional — Jeremiah congratulated Ryan Zimmerman himself. What a day!
June 19: I had the privilege of driving Nate to the airport today. With his surfboard, his new e-books library account and a heavy backpack, Nate is heading to El Salvador for three weeks of Pacific Ocean surfing.
Nate had staggered to the finish line on Friday as a high school special education teacher. So I asked him to tell me three things he’s looking forward to in El Salvador. He thought for a bit and then replied. First, he said, I’m looking forward to being alone for a week before my friends join me. Second, I’m looking forward to making new friends. Third, I really really want to know if I’m a better surfer now; I got “worked” last year in El Salvador.
Nate and I talked about the difference between vacation and travel. Nate, who’s been to Thailand, Cambodia, The Gambia and many other places, is a traveler. I believe he’ll eventually see the whole world, one wave at a time.
June 20: I took the long way home from yoga this morning and bumped into a neighbor walking his dog. Bits of yogic sensibility still clung to me (oh how quickly I flex back into hurry up mode!) and I decided to amble through the woods with him.
We talked about cultivating patience with dogs who happily stop every ten seconds to sniff the world. (Kevin calls it “checking their pee-mail.”) My neighbor then told me about his friend, who, to hasten their walks, gave his dog a treat as soon as it pooped. “Surprise!” my neighbor said, “the dog quickly learned portion control.”
June 21: Isn’t there a famous painting called the Clam Diggers? Maybe not, but as I crossed Sinepuxent Bay to Assateague Island this morning, I watched six people wading far out into the shallow water. The bay laconically lapped against their waists, and the waders, in swimsuits and hats, seemed equally relaxed. One held a net, another a pail. But now that I think of it, no one else carried a thing. Maybe they were just enjoying the languid warmth of the bay. Why should the wild ponies have all the fun?
June 22: The girl’s fishing pole arced in a promising way, so I walked to the banks of the pond to watch. After a tussle in the reeds, she reeled in an eleven-inch fish — and couldn’t remove the hook. I peered in but couldn’t help. Eventually she snapped the fishing line and nudged the fish back into the pond, where it swam away.
“Do you want to stay?” She asked me. I was surprised by her invitation; she was probably fourteen years old and I was a stranger. I thanked her and promised to stop by again on my way back from my walk.
I did — just as the girl reeled in another fish. Again, she struggled with the hook. Again, I cheered her on but couldn’t help. I did, however, have photos of her first fish, which she proudly showed her dad when he came by.
I said farewell. ”I’ll be here again tomorrow afternoon,” she assured me. “See you then?” See you then.
Bonus: Nate texted me from El Salvador today. He’s now caught more waves in two days than he had in two weeks last year. Ride on!
June 23: Four months ago, I took a lunchtime walk on the beach — and accidentally saw a rocket launch. Today, I planted my beach chair in the afterglow of a pretty sunrise, huddled in a beach towel against the wind — and waited. NASA gave the time of launch as anywhere from 5:30 am to 8:30 am. I’m on time, I have my peaches, blueberries and peanut butter and pear-jam sandwiches. I even have a book to help me wait.
It’s now 6:30 am. Did I miss the fireball while I fiddled with breakfast? I’ll check Twitter.
Oh. NASA announced yesterday that weather conditions have forced a postponement of the launch until tomorrow. Fiddlesticks.
I’m really cold. But my sandwich is really good. And it will taste even better in the car….
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