The Beauty of Paying Attention

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May 18, 2014, Washington, DC: Sunday morning. Paul Simon plays softly on the record player. I open the front door to retrieve the Sunday Times. I look left and right in awe of the colorful rose bushes that have overtaken in my neighbors’ little yards up and down the block. White tents rise at Eastern Market across the park. Pancakes, crepes and homemade donuts are being prepared for the morning crowd. Inside the house, coffee brews and our newborn rests peacefully in my arms, soothed by Simon’s lullabies: “Was a sunny day, not a cloud was in the sky, not a negative word was heard, from the people passing by…”  I open the newspaper to “36 Hours on Capitol Hill,” delighted that today my favorite section of the paper features my favorite neighborhood. I watch the places referenced in the article stir to life from the front door. My stomping grounds are truly as good as New Yorkers have made them out to be.

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City Hike: Follow That Crowd

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 15, 2014, Washington, DC:  Washingtonians often remark how much they hate tourist season, but once in awhile it’s wise to keep the opinions to yourself and follow that crowd. The tourists of April are onto something here: a refreshing tradition that celebrates the arrival of spring with an explosion of pink. Sure, cherry blossoms are scattered throughout the city and we don’t need to head specifically to the Tidal Basin to catch a glimpse, but isn’t it nice to get caught up once in awhile in the spirit of something you wouldn’t necessarily do at home? A total mob scene, but a joyous one, and boy, is it beautiful.

Taking a cue from heaps of visitors, Sunday’s city hike took us on a walk down Capitol Hill straight to a Tidal Basin filled with paddle boats. We ducked through family photographs and slipped through crowds jam-packed along the sidewalks before turning east along the waterfront for a walk around Washington’s south side. Crowds thinning as we strolled past the marina and an already smelly fish market in the heat of the day, we continued past construction advertisements along the Southwest Waterfront, alongside Arena Stage and beyond the shiny new buildings of M St. SW. We detoured after crossing South Capitol back into the quadrant where we live, taking the long way through L’Enfant Plaza and between DC’s federal buildings, then going against the grain back up Capitol Hill and arriving home.

Soon enough, blooms will disappear, heat will weigh on us, tourists will vanish, and traffic will subside. In no time flat, the city will be ours again and we’ll be glad we followed that crowd while it lasted.

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC Is Blooming. No Turning Back.

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

National Mall, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 6, 2014, Washington, DC: It’s baseball season, the sky is blue and the blossoms have finally made an appearance. What more could a girl ask for? It’s walking weather here in DC, and we walked for hours this weekend — to Hill East’s Pretzel Bakery and around Lincoln Park, home from Nationals Stadium and through Eastern Market, down Capitol Hill onto a crowded National Mall, to Taylor Gourmet and back again. This year the transition from winter to spring in the city is sweeter than ever. After all, we waited a long time for it. Can you believe it was snowing last Sunday? It appears we’re all doing our best to forget.

Eastern Market April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

US Capitol, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

 

Before Photos: Breaking Ground on DC’s Southwest Waterfront

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

March 16, 2014, Washington, DC: Redevelopment of DC’s Southwest waterfront is set to begin with groundbreaking on Wednesday, so I wanted to be sure to spend a few moments today taking “Before” photos of the soon-to-change scene. On a grey day with more unwelcome snow on the way, I ventured over to Hains Point to snap shots of the Southwest waterfront from across the Washington Channel. This is a section of skyline that will be altered dramatically starting this week and continuing for years to come. I’ve grown to love this corner of the city over the last three years, and I’m rooting for its success as it transforms from underutilized, prime real estate to a vibrant urban waterfront.

At midday, DC Sail teams are practicing on the Channel against the backdrop of Arena Stage and Cantina Marina. They navigate cold waters in the foreground of relocated houseboats and the slips they’ve vacated at Gangplank Marina a couple hundred yards west. I imagine how this scene might look on a cold March day several years from now: I contemplate whether the apartments one block off the Channel will still have water views and whether development here will have succeeded in steering clear of generic. I hope I’ll stand in this same spot then, documenting a waterfront that’s full of eclectic people who call this neighborhood home as they go about their Sunday routines in downtown DC.

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Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Trudging: A Photo Shoot

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January 21, 2014, Washington, DC: We went trudging today before sunset. Authentic, bundled, Chicago-style trudging. We went trudging to reestablish some sort of connection to the outside world. We went trudging because a glorious long weekend with today’s snow day tacked on for good measure was starting to feel like a waste with coughs, colds and throat lozenges stacked up like a barricade at the front door. We wrestled past the obstacles and trudged out onto the silent street, following a path of green lights and walk signs throughout the neighborhood.

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When we arrived in Lincoln Park, we were pleasantly surprised. Many other people had trudged there too.

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They’d trudged past the beautiful snow-covered apartment buildings and homes lining the park.

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Past the stores with Christmas lights and a firepit smoking outside.

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They had trudged there with their strollers.

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And their footballs.

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And their sleds.

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Some had trudged to Lincoln Park searching for adventure.

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Most, it seemed, came searching for interaction.

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Everyone, it appeared, was seeking connection.

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We trudged here to break the isolation of January.

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If just for a few minutes before turning around, uplifted, and bouncing back home.

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Someplace Happy

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October 26, 2013, Washington, DC: I picked up this letterpress print Sunday afternoon at Eastern Market and I am in love. Melissa of Grey Moggie Press sells them for various DC neighborhoods, from Brookland to Shaw to Logan Circle, and her work is simply beautiful. Some of it is also quite funny. I had to resist buying a few more prints that said thing like, “Have you tried it with bacon?,” and “Smile. Ryan Gosling exists.”

But this print was a must because, as you know, Capitol Hill is my happy place. (Yes, so is San Francisco.) It makes me happy when I walk around the corner to pick up dinner at Nooshi or stroll home from an evening art class at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop or jog through the neighborhood just to marvel at the architecture. The neighborhood even makes me smile when I step outside into a dark weekday morning just as the late October sun is coming up out there past the Hill Center and the Anacostia River. And if someplace makes you happy before sunrise and coffee on a Monday morning, it’s likely worth sticking around.

Does your neighborhood make you happy? Where are your happiest places? Share them with Neighborhood Nomads in the comments below.

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Churches of Capitol Hill

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October 20, 2013, Washington, DC: Ever walk past the same structures again and again only to look up one day and notice something striking? That’s the manner in which I’ve started to notice the churches of Capitol Hill. There are literally hundreds of them in this big old neighborhood, upwards of 20 within a six-block radius of home. I can hear their bells ringing from our kitchen and listen to singing voices burst from them as I’m jogging past. Several are cores of activity, a few were renovated into condos years ago. Most, I imagine, house great community stories, both past and present.

I’ve taken pictures of them here and there when the light seems unusually flattering or soft or the outline of the church appears especially bold against a severe blue sky. This morning I set out on a purposeful walk to photograph the others. I zigzagged throughout the immediate neighborhood between 2nd and 9th Sts., only as far north as Massachusetts Ave. NE and as far south as G St. SE. Sometimes I’ve gone out searching for something specific only to have it elude me, but not this morning: At every turn was another church of another denomination and another architectural style that I pass by daily without much thought. Here are a handful of my church photos collected during walks around the neighborhood…

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