Seeing the forest through the streets

Every so often I find myself on a new bus line, going through a new neighborhood. There are so many of them, and they are so distinct, and since I’ve seen only a sliver of the map of DC, it’s preposterous to think that I know much about this city.

So I try to keep learning.

Working in an organization that operates only in DC and everywhere in DC has been enormously helpful in that pursuit. I’m also learning a lot about trees, but I think I may have mentioned that.

For example, these are the flowers of a yellowwood tree.

Anyway, I don’t believe Colin had left the northwest quadrant of DC more than a handful of times — fewer if you don’t count trips to the airport. So when we made plans to go to the National Arboretum, in the eastern corner of the Northeast, I suggested we bike. Four of the five miles I cycled every day, twice a day, to get to my Brookland-based internship. It’s only a tad harrowing.

The last mile of the ride was really unpleasant. That it is hilly is forgivable, but in the space of a couple blocks, the single-family homes with yards and friendly inhabitants gave way to concrete square buildings, empty businesses, hollering mothers, traffic, and a sorry absence of trees. An absence, even, of tree boxes, where a street tree could potentially grow and improve the neighborhood.

Inside the Knot, looking out at the Capitol columns.

Colin was not happy. I mean, I wasn’t either, but it had been my plan, my assumption that pleasant Brookland would be adjacent to another equally nice neighborhood and that our trip to the Arboretum would be an enlightening tour of NE DC. It was, but not in the way I would have hoped.

The Arboretum was quite nice, but soured a bit by the notion of getting back home (we went the way we’d come). I’d like to go back, but we’ll have to find another way.

Show off

This is all a rather touchy subject in this town. For the most part, gentrification has been something of which I was only peripherally aware. I’m just a guest still — a renter, a non-resident on my tax forms, even.

But that is likely not going to be the case for much of the rest of my professional life. Colin’s degree likely dictates that he will be finding work in this town. Maybe not right away, but certainly that’s the plan.

At that point, it will be I think important to understand how our actions affect the larger trend of gentrification in the District. Not that we necessarily can do much about it, but understanding is good.


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