I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
but only God can make a tree
Joyce Kilmer, "Trees," 1914
4:30 AM and the alarm sounds, time for amazing experience number two of six leading up to my 60th birthday next year. Thankfully, I prepped the night before! Clothes laid out, picnic ready, camera with new batteries charged up, and best of all, my family also up and dressing. We meet in the kitchen to fill our cups with coffee and hot chocolate. Bleary-eyed, but excited, as we talk and laugh in quiet tones so as not to wake others in the house still sleeping. This morning, Bob, Jean, Ellie and I are off to watch the sunrise over the blossoming Cherry trees on the Tidal Basin in DC. A twenty minute ride away, we finish gathering cameras, jackets and the picnic basket and head out the door.
It’s still dark as we drive out of the neighborhood and head toward the District. Over 40 years I have lived in the area now. The roads are forever etched in my mind; I know five ways to get to the same destination (which helps when the traffic bogs down). This early, traffic is flowing well; it’s the calm before the morning rush hour storm. We head down the Clara Barton Parkway, mist rises off the C & O Canal, snaking along beside us, the mule path just barely visible in the dusky pre-dawn light. Beyond the canal we can glimpse the Potomac River, high from recent rain, running by the most powerful city in the world. We are getting close to the District, the towers of Georgetown University rise above us and we are almost there. I’m excited as the city unfolds in front of us; we follow the line of red tail lights entering the city streets ahead of us. After all these years I still wonder how I could be blessed to live so close to this beautiful city. I still smile when the tip of the Washington Monument begins to peek through the buildings, still marvel at the Kennedy Center reflected in the river, still feel my heart skip a beat when I see the Capitol dome shining above the grassy Mall. This morning, watching the sunrise down here will be an experience I've thought about for many years, the city looks particularly beautiful this morning, it’s clear and perfect as the stars and the sun begin the dawn dance.
We find parking amazingly close to the Tidal Basin and grab our things. We are not alone, not by a long shot. Couples, families, bicyclists, old folks, young people, runners, walkers, police officers, news crews and Photographers are all moving in the same direction toward the Tidal Basin. Before we can see them, we smell the Cherry Blossoms, sweet and delicate, the scent hanging softly in the morning air. And then, we see the still water of the Tidal Basin, and the silhouettes of the beautiful trees. The Washington Monument is lit in the pre-dawn darkness, the Jefferson Memorial is surrounded by blossoms, still just outlines in the dark. Camera’s flash in amazing numbers around the Basin, and we set up our blanket and basket and watch the news teams sharing this peak day of blossoms, this special dawn. I watch them from my blanket as I sip hot chocolate, I know that no matter how good their photographers and film crews are, their viewers won’t see the sunrise like we will, it makes me smile.
We've brought our cameras, and we also capture these moments. We shoot the monuments in the pre-dawn light, we take pictures of each other and the news teams, we take pictures of early morning crewing teams on the Potomac, beautiful art elements on the nearby bridge, the water in front of us, the sky slowly changing from black to blue and then the sky growing lighter behind Mr. Jefferson. It’s almost time for the new day to dawn!!!!! And dawn it does. The sky behind the Jefferson Memorial is on fire as the sun makes its appearance. The light changes the Tidal Basin into a glowing mirror, the reflections of the monuments and the Capitol dancing on the water. The Cherry Trees are stunning; they wear their fragrant attire beautifully and truly make the early morning trip well worth the effort. I am so filled with contentment as I take it all in. My family, the city, the trees, the sky, the people, the experience, It was all I hoped it would be. People begin to move away as the sun rises higher, the” big event”, has come and gone and they have places to go and life to get on to. I sit on the blanket and munch on the ham and Swiss cheese croissants Jean made, and some strawberries and fresh pineapple. Yup it couldn't be more perfect.
As we pack up and head to our car, I am still reliving and enjoying the whole dawn experience. We settle into our seats and are back on the road heading toward home and I feel like praying. I pray for those who will be making important decisions just down the street in that big domed building today, I pray for my family and thank God for blessing me with such amazing daughters and husband, I pray for my family not able to come that morning. Then, as we retrace our route and leave the city I start thinking about these first two experiences I've enjoyed, and how really, the moments that matter, the most amazing moments, the really important moments in life are FREE. I have recently had two truly memorable experiences and neither cost me a thing. In this one morning, the things that made this experience so memorable, so amazing, so fun, so awesomely beautiful were free. My family, laughing, posing, eating and enjoying making a memory together, free! The Cherry Trees, the fragrance, the history, the blossoms, the beauty, free! The sun, its light, warmth, and power, free!
The trip into DC is just a memory now as we drive past Roosevelt Island and onto the George Washington Parkway. Traffic isn't flowing well heading into the city, but we are already outbound, we have beaten the storm. Bob is talking business on the phone, Jean is anxious to get home to Lucy so that Josh can get off to work, Ellie needs to go to an early morning event at her children’s school and I have to make a mid-morning appointment. Sunrise and Cherry blossoms were a great way to start the day, a respite from all the norms, a wonderful second experience, but the time has come to get back to our every day routines. Thankfully the memories were made and I know through the normal hours ahead my heart will still be soaring! I am already looking forward to the next amazing adventure, won't cost a dime, because the best things in life are FREE!
I'm a wife, mother and grammie who loves time with family and friends. I love learning new things, visiting new places, and making each day count, because moments matter and I don't want to waste mine.