Delights: June 17 to June 23

Sometimes I just hang out at my favorite coffee shop.

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.

Here’s a glimpse of most of the Falls I talked about. The first plunge is the greenish whitewater near the center top. The kayakers then traveled to the right toward Scylla and Charybdis.
You can see one kayaker coming off the first rapids while red and yellow kayaks wait in an eddy near the shoreline.
And now they’re plunging between Scylla and Charybdis.
Here’s a view of the second set of rapids. You’ll see the zigzag rock island in the middle, which the kayakers had scaled to reach the put-in, and a tiny figure standing on the top left of the island where a tree might be.
One down, with a really big one coming. (And you might be able to see a red kayak on the rock above.)

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.

Ryan Zimmerman on his last day in a Nats uniform, October 3, 2021. Nick Wass/AP

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!

Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth at the Salt Line oyster bar. Once again I didn’t get a selfie. But I think I like this better.

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.

As we drove to the airport, Nate urged me to photograph these tiger lilies in our neighborhood. He’s a good traveler, wherever he is.

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.”

Cone flowers along my walk to the yoga studio.

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?

A view of the clam diggers’ shoreline on Sinepuxent Bay, taken at dawn a few days later.

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!

A view from Nate’s hotel balcony in El Salvador

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….

I wasn’t the only one eating breakfast in the Assateague parking lot…

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13 thoughts on “Delights: June 17 to June 23

  1. Hi, Carol Ann! Enjoy your VLOG. Susan and I were residents of Falls Church for about a dozen years. The restored farm house at 312 N. Maple Ave. used to be ours. I was on the planning Commission and promoted an ordinance, adopted way back when, to curb demolition of older properties (pre-1910). That is probably why the current owners of 312, Columbia Baptist Church, haven’t razed it.
    In your piece on Great Falls you mentioned friends Jim and Lee. Were they by chance Lee Schroer and Jim Curtain?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Bob — How lovely to hear from you! I’ll be sure to admire the restored farmhouse at 312 N. Maple. (I walk past it all the time on my way to the Farmers Market!) Thank you for your work to help curb demolition of the older properties. Those buildings contribute so much to FC’s character. Indeed, Columbia Baptist has planted more trees around those homes!

      And yes, my Great Falls buddies were indeed Lee Schroer and Jim Curtin. I’ll happily tell them you said hi. Keep up your good work with the alumni organization!

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  2. So many delights this week….the jelly beans bobbing on the water (those rapids!), the post yoga walk, sitting on the beach (though pity you didn’t see the launch). Wonderful stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks as always for your cheery note, Barbara. Funny about the rocket launch: maybe the lesson is that some of my best times come by accident (like those jelly bean kayaks)!

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  3. Reading “fiddlesticks” made me laugh. Haven’t heard that one in a while. That’s right up there with “holy cats,” which I frequently use. Anyway, what a week of joy. I’m not sure whether to admire those kayakers or think they’re crazy. Holy cats! 😉 Bon voyage to Nate. And better luck next time with the launch. I’m a huge fan of peanut butter and have it for lunch nearly every day, either on bread or an English muffin. Pear jam sounds lovely.

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    1. Thanks for your reaction to “fiddlesticks,” Laurie. It surprised me too, when I wrote it down! I like holy cats — very apt for the kayakers. I was nervous just watching!

      And you’re right: I should eat PB sandwiches more often; I enjoy them so much. And now I’m thinking about slicing a ripe pear into a non-beach sandwich for tomorrow…

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  4. The rapids are brilliant. Looking at your photos I can almost hear the thunder of the rushing water and feel the earth tremble beneath my feet. Exhilarating stuff, but the prospect of kayaking down them is absolutely terrifying. Call me a miserable old fool (many people do!) but I can’t help feeling that adrenaline rushes are over-rated!

    Changing the subject, where does NASA launch from in your part of the country? And do we know what they’re up to?

    Incidentally, I love those Assateague ponies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You imagine the rapids perfectly: the sound, the vibration, the awe. And I’m 100% in your camp about actually taking the rapids. I get my adrenaline rush in more metaphorical ways. Your comment also makes me think: I wonder how many Class V rapids in the world have an observation deck right over them? Another advantage of our “wilderness” in the suburbs!

      Thanks for asking about NASA. The closest launch site to Washington, DC, is the NASA Wallops Flight Facility near Chincoteague, Virginia. (That’s the other tip of Assateague Island, 37 miles away from where I was.) Here’s their website; they launch satellites — and they have a companion facility in Australia! https://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home

      They have ponies there too, made famous by the children’s book “Misty of Chincoteague,” which I finally read last year and really enjoyed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the link. In my naïve English innocence I thought NASA extended no further than the Kennedy Space Centre, backed up by the Johnson Space Centre in Texas. How wrong I was!

        The title “Misty of Chincoteague” doesn’t ring any bells, and it certainly isn’t one I remember from the children’s libraries I used to run. But checking up on the plot via Google it does seem kind of familiar, so maybe I’ve heard it being discussed, or perhaps seen the movie? Certainly sounds like a story with a lot of emotional appeal.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Re: NASA, I was exactly in your boat (space ship?) before learning about Wallops. It’s right in my backyard (if I had a 200-mile backyard) and I didn’t know anything about it until we started hanging out at Assateague.

      Regarding Misty: I wonder whether it was a “regional” classic within the US, with no meaningful international reach. I’ll have to ask my Iowa family whether they had grown up with it… It is a surprisingly good story with lovely illustrations. When Iowa comes to visit, “Auntie Carol Ann” plans to lead a storytime around it!

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      1. I wish I could sit on Auntie Carol Ann’s storytime!

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