A First Look at Washington, DC

Images from DCAs a first-timer in D.C., I feel like a tiny ant, my antennae navigating a new environment. But I am surrounded by a Capitol and cathedral domes, neo-classical government buildings, a Beaux Arts train station, and lines of Victorian rowhouses, rather than blades of grass, dirt tunnels, and nests that store bunches of ghost-white larvae. It is easy to get lost in the bustle and grandiosity of a city. I grew up in one, so this feeling is not entirely new. Yet, I am already realizing how quickly I can get sucked into the frantic morning rush, sending a text, or checking who is emerging from the White House. No time, no need, to look up at blooming trees or down at budding flowers, to pause, breathe, and see the sky. Instead of listening to what Rachel Carson called the morning chorus of bird song, I plug in my earphones and listen to Bad Bunny’s newest album.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this scenario. However, as I reflect on Rachel Carson’s call for us to tune into nature, I cannot help but feel that I miss an opportunity when I choose to tune out. Carson encouraged us to feel and be filled with wonder for the natural environment.

It is not half so important to know as to feel.”-Rachel Carson, Sense of Wonder

I often feel this sense of wonder while hiking in the mountains or snorkeling through vibrant coral reefs. But it is harder to imagine cultivating this same sensation in a heavily built environment. So, my goal for this summer in the nation’s capital is to be intentional about appreciating the glimpses of nature’s beauty throughout this city. I am challenging myself to feel, to use all my senses; I hope that you will join me.

“We are nature seeing nature” -Susan Griffin, Ecofeminist 

Image of Dogwood in DCAs I observe the world around me, I will remind myself that I too, am a product of the living environment. I am connected to the flowering dogwoods and Potomac River, even though they are new to me.

Each week, I will capture and share the small moments that inspire wonder in me. And I encourage you to do the same!

Amid the buildings, row houses and gravel roads, small pops of color adorn the streets. Flowers. Some wild, others neatly planted. The colorful buds shine in contrast to the gray skies this week.

Image of cherries in DCMy lips pucker as I taste a sour cherry right off the tree. The blends of light pink and yellow should have been a warning that they were not ripe yet.

I feel the grass and small twigs making small indentations on the soles of my feet as I run through grass to catch a football.

I hear the sounds of birds chirping on a late spring afternoon. Their calls blend into a symphony of rustling wind, whirring cars, and bouncing basketballs.

I smell the fresh aroma of freshly clipped pink peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) from my family’s backyard. The sweet and delicate scent of peonies fills the dining room. I breathe deeply, smile, and head outside to my new city. I bend down, in wonder at the kaleidoscope of color that opens up to me.

Kaylee Rodriguez, RCC Stanback Presidential Fellow

Kaylee Rodriguez is a rising senior at Duke University pursuing a major in Public Policy, a minor in Environmental Science and Policy, and a certificate in Policy, Journalism, and Media Studies.

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