Friday, July 25, 2014

Poison Idadee

When Suzanne was little and first encountered an itchy rash on her arm, she couldn't quite say "poison ivy." It came out "poison idadee."

And "poison idadee" it has remained these many years.

I've been getting into some "poison idadee" myself lately — and I have the itchy arms and bottles of calamine lotion to prove it.

It's not fun, but I'm glad that I've ventured off trails, explored new paths and hacked my way through brush and briar.

Summer will be over soon enough.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Last Drive to Vienna?

It's a gray day (not like this photo), flecks of rain on the pavement, when I rush out the door. I grab the newspaper, jump in the car, buckle up -- and I'm gone. There's the familiar route down Fox Mill to Vale to Hunter Mill.

I know every curve and hill of these western Fairfax lanes. I know where the school buses stop, the garbage trucks too. It's 17 minutes of twists and turns that make me feel as if I've come down the mountain. And in fact, the route once took hours instead of minutes.

But today's trip was different — though I was three-quarters of the way there when dawned on me. The next time I take public transportation downtown I will most likely be riding the Silver Line. I will be leaving from Reston, not Vienna. I will drive different roads — or maybe not drive at all.

I can still ride the Orange Line, of course; no one will stop me. But will I want to when the Wiehle Station is half as far from home?

It was a poignant moment, even at 6:20 a.m.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Horizontal

Sometimes I snap a shot because I can see it here in the blog one day. It is usually horizontal, for starters. And it is generic. And, in my own eyes at least, it is beautiful.

This is one of those pictures. I was walking through Annapolis with Ellen, talking about our work, our kids, what we're reading now (we had just browsed in a bookstore) and there was the wall, the greenery and the stone.

Annapolis is a place I could photograph forever. The water and the land. The old and new. Church spires and weathered shutters. Flashy yachts and quiet gardens. Landscapes and close-ups. And horizontals, those especially, as many as possible.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Urban Corn

Was it whimsy that landed this corn plant here? An urban gardener looking for some fun?

I can't imagine that it's a volunteer. And if the sower of the seed was hoping for a bumper crop, well, there are only so many ears you can harvest with a single plant.

When I first saw the corn plant I was on a bicycle, phone camera back at the house. But my recent wanderings have taken me all over Reston, so on Saturday afternoon I found myself right back at the corner — the urban corn corner — where I'd spied it a few hours earlier.

So here's the little corn stalk that could. Not exactly of Midwestern proportions, but not bad for a little plant in the Virginia suburbs!




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Monday, July 21, 2014

Test Walks

Metro's new Silver Line opens in six days. Over the weekend I attended a ribbon-cutting for the new station and came home with bus schedules and maps and a plan in my head. On days when I'm not driving or biking to the new station (and there may be many of those!), I may bus the five miles to the new station -- then walk home.

I tried out half the new route Saturday, Reston trail map in hand. I felt like a tourist in my own community. And in a way, I was. Like anyone else, I'm a creature of routine. I must be drug kicking and screaming from my well-trod trails and sidewalks.

But change is coming to this suburb, and I want to experience it feet first. So I parked in the Hunter's Woods shopping center lot and picked up a Reston trail that took me to a park, then a golf course and finally to within a 10-minute stroll of the new station. Today I'll amble the southern half of the course, from home to the shopping center lot.

So while Metro is doing test runs, I'm doing test walks. Soon we'll both be in business.




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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Most Walkable

The facts are in — and they're surprising: Washington, D.C., is the nation's most walkable city!

Yes, that's right. I thought the same thing: What about New York (just for starters)? Turns out, it's Number Two.

 I heard a fleeting mention of this yesterday on the radio and looked it up today thinking I had misheard. But according to a report prepared by George Washington University's School of Business, Washington has more Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs) than New York City, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago.

Having lived and walked in three of these top five (and not owned a car in two of them), I'll admit I was scratching my head. But then I started reading the report. WalkUPs are based on the amount of office and retail space and a Walk Score, which looks at how easy it is to run errands without a car. New York comes in second because although Manhattan earns an 89-percent WalkUP score, the other boroughs aren't quite so walkable.

The most amazing nugget: The D.C. area has the most balanced walkability ratio between city (51 percent) and suburbs (49 percent). Really? The George Washington University researchers must be strolling in Arlington or Bethesda, not Oak Hill. Still, there are more paths here than there used to be, and Metro's Silver Line (4 and a half miles from my house) opens a week from today.

So I'm optimistic about walking in the suburbs. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Blackberry Winter

I grew up with this expression, used to describe a patch of cool summer weather. I've been thinking about it the last few mornings waking to temperatures in the high 50s — in July!

"A colloquial expression used in the south and midwest North America referring to a cold snap that occurs in late spring when the blackberries are in bloom," Wikipedia says.

That's not the way I remember it. Late-spring cold was dogwood winter. Mid-summer cold was blackberry winter. The time when blackberries were in fruit — not in flower.

Doesn't matter. Both are lovely ways to talk about unseasonable chill. Poetic descriptions of essential contradictions. 

And the blackberries are in fruit and ready for picking. I see them along side roads and fence rows, in what remains of the meadow. They should peak this weekend.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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