Sunday, January 16, 2011

Flirting with DC

When I got married, I had a picture in my head of who my husband was. I drew an outline and colored in between the lines. He was going to be my outdoor companion, the one who went along happily on the epic alpine hikes, struggling through devil's club and alder in the slimy undergrowth of Southeast Alaska. He was going to kayak the rugged outer coast with me, setting up our tent on small pebbly beaches worried by surf. We would hike the John Muir Trail. We would travel overseas. He would be the perfect blend of adventure and self-sufficiency with a sprinkle of protectiveness and a dash of practicality.

It soon dawned on me that I had made up an entire reality that did not exist. I had taken a few clues he had given me and drawn another person, the one I wanted him to be. Instead, his kayak hung on the back of our house, a thin skin of moss growing over its bright yellow surface. He watched football while I packed a backpack. If he traveled, he wanted indoor plumbing. Because I had wanted it so badly, I had forced my idea of him into a mold he did not fit, and had no interest in doing so. Possibly he had his own out of focus picture of me.

It was a painful lesson, once I realized the dream did not mesh with the reality. In some cases, you can take the new reality and try it on, and it fits. Maybe not as well as you would like, but it will work. Not in this case, not ever.

In the case of DC, I have realized that for the last two weeks I have been searching for the same type of experience I can get at home. I long for rivers, I pine for woods. But that is not what this city is about. So instead I have decided to embrace the difference. Eat naan. Go to museums.
 I did, however, find a few small slices of urban wilderness.
One is Rock Creek Park. I admit, I was a little frightened by this sign:

But I continued on to find an actual trail system. With hills and everything. I couldn't get to the best part of the park, because you need to have a car (something I am sadly discovering about DC is that to get to places like this, it is hard to be carless) but I did get to hike a short ways in an actual forest.


DC is not a place I want to linger long. But wilderness is not for everyone either and that is a good thing. If everyone I pass in their trendy boots here decided to go camping at Ice Lake, it wouldn't be wilderness anymore. In the case of my ex-husband, he is living happily in a major city, not having to kayak a day in his life ever again. As for me, I keep reminding myself not to color every person or place with my own expectations and desires.

6 comments:

  1. There's some really good insight here.. about relationships, what we expect of people, about cities and wilderness...hard won, I'm sure, but enlightening and valuable.

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  2. Come out to Utah you would love it here, all the mountains and rivers you could ever want.

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  3. Expectations are a recipe for disaster, more often than not. Whew. Wisdom is tough-won to be sure.
    You are gaining a jolt back to perspective with your trip to DC. You will be SO glad to come home!

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  4. Great blog! I'm glad I now know about it. I think DC is best embraced on its own merits by visiting monuments and having a mint julep (if you drink) at the Round Robin bar at the Willard Hotel.

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  5. Found your blog today. Love it.
    DC or any other large city for me is always fun to visit but not to live in.

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