No venturing downtown to see the cherry blossoms this year, so even five minutes near this beautiful strip was life-affirming. Hang tight, friends.
I missed the last-blooming peak cherry blossom dates this year (boo!),
but I was downtown a few weeks back to capture the very early buds.
I hope Mother Nature plans the major blossoming on a weekend next year
because, you know, a Wednesday was super inconvenient for me.
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Well, it finally happened.
Summer is here!
Just . . . kidding? I mean, it was 90 degrees in Maryland yesterday — and snowing three weeks ago. So, basically, I don’t know what’s going on anymore. It’s been in the 80s all week, and I guess tomorrow it’s due to “cool down” into the 70s.
I know I shouldn’t complain — and I’m not, really. I mean, I’ll take the magnolias in bloom over sleet-covered roads any day. I’m just so thankful spring is here.
We went out to Georgetown on Saturday, wandering with our photography club, and I thought about how good it feels to just be . . . out. Walking around. Since losing weight, I just feel lighter — lighter in body, lighter in spirit. I didn’t worry about how far we were walking and whether we could weave our way back, because I knew I could do it. That my body could handle it. That it was a challenge I could accept.
So we walked down to this tree on M Street, near a tiny museum, and our large group of friends and photographers stood in its shade. We spotted it from down the street — the only thing really in bloom back then, a whole five days ago — and waited until the crowds began to break. Tourists and locals flocked to the magnolia, determined to capture their family beneath its weighty branches, and it took a bit for a clear shot — but I got it.
And it felt like a fresh beginning. Spring means beginning again.
Oh my gosh, you guys — aren’t the cherry blossoms just beautiful?
And . . . invisible?
Before we got another few inches of snow (!) in the D.C. area on Monday, the cherry blossoms were a wee bit dormant. Despite my “final farewell” comment last week, winter has lingered into spring. I was downtown on a run-through for our upcoming Capital Photo History Tour on the monuments (yay!) — and though I wish we could have seen the blossoms on that adventure, I’ll admit to feeling partially relieved they were still asleep.
We’d planned to have our engagement photo session downtown for months. I imagined Spencer and I walking between the ancient trees, lightly walking through fallen petals, and pictured the Tidal Basin spreading out before us. I knew we were taking a gamble by scheduling our shoot so far in advance, but the blossoms had already peaked this time last year — and I figured that even if they weren’t at their height, they’d be doing something.
Days before our scheduled sunrise shoot, our photographers emailed to see about a Plan B. We relocated to a local park for the “golden hour,” moving between several spots on the grounds — beach, trees, barns — for our 90-minute adventure. I felt like I blinked and the time slid right by — and in the end? The park shoot is probably more visually-interesting than the blooms would have been.
And if we’d had to go downtown by 7 a.m. for our cherry blossom shoot . . . only to discover no cherry blossoms? Well, I would have been mighty cranky.
Not that it would have ever gotten to that point. I check the blossom cam, like, every two minutes.
So the engagement session we did have was phenomenal — and even though it was chilly, Spence had his arm around me often enough that I didn’t notice! And I was running on adrenaline. We ducked in and out of our cars (with heat!) as we moved around the park, taking shots in different locations, and the ladies at Birds of a Feather Photography are just fab.
Our “sneak peek” shot is up on their blog now — and ladies, check out that $6 dress! I know it’s uncouth to brag about costs, but really. I’ll be riding high off that bargain for the rest of the year.
If only I could have snagged a $6 wedding dress . . .
It seems strange that I should feel optimistic in fall, when all around things are changing and falling and landing softly on the ground.
But I do.
We went on a little field trip to a local park over the weekend — and I’ll be showing you the photographic mementos of that trip tomorrow! But for today? I was standing beneath these too-tall trees, craning my neck as far back as it would go. And it was not enough.
Just like the redwoods, it’s impossible to take in the enormity of nature until you’re standing beneath it. Quiet. Humbled. That’s been the theme of my 2012: Humbled By Nature. (Catchy — sounds like a band or something.) I’ve been waxing poetic about the great outdoors since we went to California in May, and I haven’t stopped thinking about Yosemite.
I’m finally learning, at 27, that my happiness directly correlates to the amount of sunshine on my skin. Fresh air in my lungs. New sights, smells and scenery to enjoy. Whether my camera is glued to my palm. And to my surprise, I like being outside. Even when I’m wearing inappropriate footwear.
Though I’m really getting better about that. I’m in sneakers most of the time — a fact that would horrify my once-fashionable and often barefoot self. But it’s not easy to scale hills, walk beaches and sunflower fields, skid on ice or scramble over rocky shoreline in flats or sandals.
Guess I really am growing up.
Spencer gets the credit for really introducing me to the woods.
Growing up in rural Western New York, my boyfriend has fond memories of playing on the family property and appreciating the great outdoors with his family. While I was eating ice cream and watching Nickelodeon as a kid in suburban Maryland, Spence was disappearing behind trees and digging up the backyard. He likes to camp, builds stuff (like bonfires) — and I consider him pretty rugged. Me? I’m more of a whiny, wilting flower.
Though air conditioning and running water are my friends, I’m coming to appreciate the splendor of being outside. Of stepping out of florescent lighting and getting real sun on my skin. Of turning off my phone (okay, who am I kidding — putting my phone on silent) and soaking up the moment. Working a standard 9-to-5 office schedule, I don’t get moving much . . . so when the weekend rolls around, I get antsy if I’m cooped up the whole time. I like slathering on sunscreen and wandering out with my camera.
So we go to parks now. Spencer introduced me to walking through Southern Maryland, my home of more than two decades, and we’ve found places I never knew existed. All that greenery helps me step beyond my own head — part of some much-needed perspective. I love walking through green spaces now, even seeking them out. When Lu took my sister and me to Washington Square Park in Manhattan weeks back, I could barely take in all the gorgeousness.
Sunlight and nature? They make you feel alive. Took me a while to learn what others have known forever, but sometimes that’s the way with me.
Lu and me in Washington Square Park
Spence in his favorite woods
Every day last fall, I’d cruise right past this one particular tree on my way to Target or a local lunch spot. It’s easy to spot amongst its brethren — mostly because at this time of year, it’s a flaming, bright yellow. We have green, green and green — and then SHAPOWEE! This beauty comes up out of nowhere, blinding tired workers like yours truly with its brilliance.
Each time I drove by that tree last October, I’d stop and think, “I really need to get a picture of that.” It’s just one of those gorgeous, random things that stop you in your tracks as you hurry through your daily life, not paying attention or looking for anything in particular. But each afternoon on my way to Einstein’s or Panera, I’d drift right on by — not wanting to pull out of traffic or be bothered to find my camera, inevitably buried in the dark recesses of my purse. Though I’d give it a longing stare, I never bothered to pause and really look at it.
And then, one day, those vibrant, brilliant leaves were gone — scattered, crunched.
Fall is settling into Southern Maryland once more and I’m riding right along with it. Earlier this week, imagine my surprise to see that — yes! — my tree was turning again! I admired the golden leaves on my way to and from errands every day this week, but didn’t bother to slow down now. Once again, I made up excuses — people around would think I’m crazy, photographing a tree; it’ll be too hard to merge back into traffic; I’m in a hurry and, as usual, don’t have the time to stop.
But today? No. Today, I pulled over — and I got out. I dug around in my purse for the camera and, yes, it was hidden underneath stacks of receipts and Chapstick and my wallet. But I got it out and snapped, snapped and snapped, not caring if people looked at me like I’d just dropped in for a stay en route to Venus.
Because, you know — a tree like that reminds me to keep my eyes open; to stay alert and awake in my own life, no matter the consequences of making myself vulnerable. To stop and take stock of what matters to me — of what makes me happy. Not to become comfortable or complacent, blind and closed-off.
The next time I see something beautiful or alarming or scary or good, I’m not going to cruise right past it — in fact, I’m not driving past anything anymore.
So here’s to autumn — and to always stopping to photograph the brilliant trees.