A month ago I moved into a small 1920’s apartment in a beautiful, walkable neighborhood in my hometown of Washington, DC, close to family and friends, with beautiful light and a nice view of trees. My second move in two years.
I was hopeful, excited, and, let’s face it, nervous. After all, we never really know how transitions will work out until they happen, right?
Plus I’m getting older. Plus I would be living alone for the first time in my life.
My youngest son, having recovered from a brain injury, had just flown the nest at age 26, the last of three sons to go. He’s extremely cheerful and we got along extremely well. For several weeks after his departure, I felt like someone had ripped out one of my organs. How would I fare on my own, henceforth?
“A new beginning,” my friend Anh called it supportively. I liked that. I said it to myself over and over again, in an optimistic tone. A new beginning…A new beginning.
Things went well from the start. My furniture, houseplants, and kitchen gear fit perfectly in my new place. I discovered that my building has compost pick up! My next-door neighbors are super friendly. They have a new baby whom I’ve seen but not heard (the building has excellent soundproofing). Two of my sons and two of my best friends live within a 10-minute walk. There is a really gorgeous public park only a few blocks away—the perfect place to take a book or a picnic—an organic food shop, a Metro station, and a hardware store. A nearby gluten-free bakery is a plus. 🙂
On my first weekend, my son Arran took the family to a superb Afghan restaurant in the neighborhood with magically delicious food, and the next night dear friends invited me for a picnic in the park. It was a perfect spring evening. The CDC had just relaxed Covid recommendations, and groups of friends and families were spread across the green lawn on picnic blankets, unmasked, beaming with joy, touched with the golden evening sunlight, surrounded by spring flowers. The whole fragrant world was blooming and opening up!
After a couple of days, it dawned on me that my new home is literally right next to Rock Creek Park. (No one had mentioned this.) The band of trees outside my windows are the edge of the park—the oldest and largest urban park in the US—where American Indians once quarried stone for tools, fished the creek, and hunted wildlife. Where during the Civil War, trees were felled to block the path of Confederate troops and 59 Union soldiers were killed defending the city. Where Theodore Roosevelt and his wife used to ride horseback in the evenings to escape the White House, their rowdy children, and the problems of the day.
The park traverses the deep ravine of the creek; you can see the bridge spanning it in the photo above. I now live on the left side, adjacent to those trees outside my windows. The drop-off is so steep that I can’t directly enter the park from near my building—there are paths into the woods not far away—but I walk on a dirt path alongside the treeline daily, cherishing the fresher, cooler air, and birdsong emanating from the park.
I have always dreamed of living closer to nature. Now I do.
I feel like a creature released into new terrain, being re-wilded. 🙂 I step carefully, listen mindfully, feel my spirit quietly awaken and, well up with joy at the beauty all around me. I’m exploring the streets and shops and pleasant places to walk. The other evening I met my neighbor Pat, a retired teacher who’s lived up the street forever, and I hope we’ll become friends.
Business has been slow during the pandemic, but I have some writing projects and my social calendar is delightful. Coffee in the park at 8. Tea a 3. Long walks, invitations for dinner, waffles, cake!
I head uptown every couple of weeks to join dear dharma buddies for a backyard sangha to meditate and share in person for the first times since the pandemic struck. And I’m finding living with solitude pretty wonderful, actually. My days can be more intentionally, seamlessly mindful, a real boon to my Dharma practice. I am continually warmed by gratitude for everything.
And I feel myself unclenching, like a muscle releasing. After a lifetime of caring for my family—my father, my mother, my sister, my children—I’m…free. I’m not used to this yet, but I’m curious! What’s next?
A new beginning, for whatever my life will become.