I have spent most of my life in Northern Virginia. I grew up in Alexandria, Springfield, and Fairfax, and now live in Reston. When I was little, at the beginning of each school year, there were always a few familiar faces missing and a few new faces as my classmates’ parents rotated in and out of the area usually due to military transfers or a change in political administration. In talking with the new kids or the kids that were leaving, they always sounded like they went to exciting places: overseas or areas of the US that I did not know anything about. I never thought much about the benefits of living here.
Recently I had a guest who had never been to the Washington area. We had a free day and he wanted to see the District. Since I had not been downtown in several years, this seemed like a nice way to spend the afternoon. I tend not to go into the District because I have seen most of the Washington sights on field trips and with my parents and friends for as long as I can remember. Washington is always there, so I do not make a special point to go.
When I went with my guest, we took the Metro and walked the few blocks to the Mall. We rounded a corner and there was the Capitol. He stopped and stood absolutely stunned by the sheer size and the beauty of it. I had forgotten what a spectacular building the Capitol is, so I stood and stared too. We tried to get tickets to go in, but they had already been given out for the day. So we continued on and spent the afternoon wandering through the art galleries. He loved the architecture of the buildings as well as the art itself. Seeing the buildings and art through his eyes gave me a new appreciation for them.
When I host people teaching workshops at the studio, I am always interested in their comments about the area. Most enjoy the lushness of the trees, the greenness in the spring and summer, and the wealth of color in the fall. They also appreciate seeing the change in seasons. They usually notice things that I take completely for granted.
The point is not that living in the Washington area is better than living anywhere else, but that we tend to forget to appreciate something the more we are exposed to it. When I travel out west and admire the clear air and the astounding landscape of mountains, rocks, and snow, I wonder if the people who see these same views every day see them the same way that I do as a visitor.
There is so much that we take for granted when we are around it day after day, year after year. I did not realize how nice it was to be able to walk into the Capitol on a whim until restrictions were imposed. My brother did not think much about the change in seasons until he moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. He commented that the fall and winter holidays do not feel quite right without the accompanying cold snap in the air.
We often do not appreciate our families, friends, jobs, and possessions until something happens. When we lose a possession, we miss it, though many times when we had it, we did not think much about it. When we take our friends and family for granted, we do not appreciate the warmth, comfort, and support they bring to us until something happens that changes the relationship. If we treasure what we have, we can take pleasure in everything around us each and every day. This adds texture and depth to even the little common occurrences like the changing of the color of a leaf.
As fall approaches, perhaps we could take a moment or two to appreciate what we have right here: the magnificence of a capitol city, the beauty of the changing seasons, our family and friends, and everything that brings richness and fullness to our lives.