12 Months By the Potomac River

Ever since I moved near the D.C. waterfront, the Potomac River has silently shaped my movement. I sidle along it to leave the city and head into Maryland. I must cross it by way of one of two or three bridges to reach Virginia.

January run
January run

As I’ve written before, I’m not really a water person. I attribute that to being from a landlocked part of my home state, where the only body of water near home was a small creek (prounounced “crick”) outside of town.

February Run Commute
February Run Commute

But while I’m not a water person, I like open spaces. An Iowa girl accustomed to her share of breathing room, the river is one of few areas in the city where I can soak in uninterrupted sky.

Morning ride by the Potomac in March
Morning ride by the Potomac in March

Beyond the space aspect, though, I never paid much attention to the Potomac. It became part of the background of daily life.

April commute at sunset. Cherry blossom season
April commute at sunset. Cherry blossom season

Sifting through some of the year’s photos recently, I noticed that the Potomac River occupied a prominent place in my 2015– not just the openness around it, but the river itself.

May. Hanging out by the Potomac in early evening.
May. Hanging out by the Potomac in early evening.

I welcomed the chance to greet the day with a Potomac River ride or to watch the sunset over it. I’ve observed how the day’s light alters its character. I’ve watched the trees progress from bare to full to now almost fully bare again.

Monday commute on the Surly. June
Monday commute on the Surly. June

I like checking in on these Potomac trees. Every-changing, they don’t all grow straight up to the sky, you know. Some lean slightly over the river.

July. Summer Surly commute on the Potomac.
July. Summer Surly commute on the Potomac.

The willows remind me of home, of a tree my sisters and I used to secretly swing on (or not so secretly since our parents occasionally caught us in the act) when we were young.

August run
August run

I can see how the storms and weather of seasons past have taken their toll on some of these trees. Others appear unfazed by the passing of time. Their wide and sturdy trunks make for prime bike parking.

Goodnight summer sun. September
Goodnight summer sun. September

When I choose alternate river-free routes for my weekday duties, my day seems unsettled, less satisfying in some way.  The Potomac River route is usually the long way, but it skirts the crowded street-light, herky jerky, traffic-filled downtown. Time slows down by the river, cars are comparatively few, and I can roll my thoughts around as I ride.

October by the Potomac River
October by the Potomac River

You have to know where to go to find quiet in the city. Morning river encounters became almost necessary pre-work moments of calm this year.

November. Still a few leaves around.
November. Still a few leaves around.

If I am running late, I run or ride by without stopping, but generally I try to couch my morning rides and runs with a few extra minutes for river conversation.

Golden willow on the Potoac in early December
Golden willow on the Potoac in early December

The river and the area around it became an important place for reflection in 2015. I still don’t know the Potomac well, and since I never plan to boat or kayak on it we will likely only ever be distant friends. Still, its steady presence was a source of comfort and peace.

One more. Surly LHT and me in September
One more. Surly LHT and me in September

Looking through my photos, I realized I had 12 months of Potomac River views. I gathered them into this post to remember time spent by the river this year.

8 thoughts on “12 Months By the Potomac River

  1. I completely understand. Some places just become a part of you without knowing it, and it’s only through reflection that you realize how integral they are to your daily life. Also, there’s something about enjoying a sunset on a bike (or making it a destination). I too feel much better about my day when I have one of those rides.

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  2. Nice post. I know the feeling. Every day I cycle around and through Stanley Park in Vancouver. It is situated by the sea, and like you, I have photos of my commute throughout the year.

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  3. i understand. My bicycle commute for the past 14 years has taken me along a twisty, winding, parkway perched on the side of a ridge overlooking Lake Superior. It’s 400 ft above the great lake. For six miles everyday in all seasons I watch the many moods of the big lake from this vantage point. The sky and lake never look the same. Now I find myself contemplating a job change. I wonder if I should turn down all jobs that take me in another direction away from Lake. It has become a big part of each day for me.

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