If you look down from an airplane over the city of Washington it's a green view most of the year. The city's many parks and residential neighborhoods are abundant, vivid and lush reaching wide across the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and spreading well into the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. From the air you can't make out the specific diamond-shaped footprint of the city limits, but the National Mall is clearly identifiable: a line from the Capital Building, hyphenated by the Washington Monument, punctuated with the Lincoln Memorial to the west.
Back on the ground, where we conduct our day-to-day business, amidst heavily populated streets and closely situated houses it is hard to keep perspective on the greenery surrounding us. From down here in order to see "nature" you have to remember to look for it; to look up. There are glimpses of the solitude of outdoors from time to time ... the turn of a corner on the park path, or from your bicycle seat inside the Arboretum, but for the most part every view, every moment is slightly obscured by some kind of civil sighting or nearby sound.
We're not from this area originally and although we've lived here for nearly eleven years, it still somehow feels temporary, not necessarily like home. I'm still happily surprised with little encounters ... a familiar face in the deli ... another school parent in Starbucks. Those things are important to me somehow.
From my children's perspective though, this is the only home they have ever had. This struck me (hard, like a slap) today in the car on the way home from the school. The area where my children are from, where they will always be FROM, is really urban. The activities of their weekends are astonishingly different from those that Paul and I experienced growing up. We go to museums regularly, sometimes just popping in for an hour or two. The zoo, again, for a quick trip. Sites of international interest are their stomping grounds, places to simply share a picnic lunch or take in an animated short film. A quick inexpensive meal out is commonplace for them. They do not have extended time outdoors on a regular basis without outside stimulation. A place to simply be.
This is the backdrop against which our story is unfolds. This is the setting, time and place, that we choose for our family. This is it?
Our kids do have an amazing ability to use whatever little treasures they find, whether it be acorns or markers and paper, to create their own play. I'm not concerned about their ability to be imaginative or creative. It's not that. I simply find myself questioning our basic, physical place. It is a place full of excitement and opportunity on the one hand and on the other hand ... I'm questioning what my children may be lacking, living here in a city ... even with its many trees.