On my way to work, I usually pass by the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. This morning, while stopped in front of the building at a traffic light, I happened to look up at the hotel facade, and in one of the floor-to-ceiling windows on the third floor stood a little boy of maybe 5 or 6 years old, wearing dark blue pajamas covered in stars, moons, and clouds. He had slipped between the curtains and was standing by some luggage, watching the traffic and the passersby, probably excited at the bustle of early morning in the city but regretting that it was his last day in the city. We caught each other’s eye, and waved to each other enthusiastically before the light changed, and I was off again.
This event might have slipped past my notice had I not already observed, while waiting at the bus stop this morning, something else which made me think of the passage of time here in the Nation’s Capital: all of the interns are now definitely gone. Every summer, a huge flock of university students descends on Washington, to work on Capitol Hill, the White House, at political interest groups, etc. For the past three months, the bus stop I usually walk to in the morning to catch my ride downtown would have a good dozen or more people waiting, the majority of whom were probably just barely old enough to legally consume alcohol, if that. At the end of last week thee were still a couple of young faces in ill-fitting suits left, but just one or two. This morning there were none, only the usual 4 or 5 neighbors I see all the time but never actually speak to.
Tourists are departing, Congress is away, the interns have vanished, and people are trying to get in their last summer breaks at the shore or in the mountains between now and Labor Day on September 3rd, the unofficial end of summer in the U.S. Whether in anticipation of autumn or no, even the weather the past two days has been more like September than August. This is not exactly cool, compared to September in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, because Washington is still quite warm and humid in September, but the deadly, intense heat and humidity of the summer in the Capital always seems to break sometime after the Feast of the Assumption.
It is hard to imagine now that I myself moved to Washington for the first time twenty-one years ago. There remains a kind of stability in this city at the change of seasons which I quite like, and which you become aware of as you get older. The patterns of interns, tourists, and students, for example, become ingrained into your seasonal expectations, as much as if you were waiting for the swallows to come back to San Juan Capistrano. During the summer the standard, preppy Washington men’s summer “uniform” of navy blue blazer, striped tie, and beige trousers is still everywhere, even if there are more hipsters in D.C. now to add other styles of dress to the mix. And there are still plenty of trees taller than the buildings around them, providing thick but fading green canopies this time of year, which will soon begin to turn to other colors and thereby formally announce the arrival of autumn.
The next few months before Christmas will be exciting ones here in the Capital. It is first and foremost a Presidential election year, with a great deal at stake. And as this is the ultimate company town, there will be little else to speak of but conventions, debates, and polls until the beginning of November, with arrivals and departures to be picked over and analyzed after that until the first snowfall in December.
That being said, before we plunge into all of it, it seems to me a good thing to enjoy the quiet now, before things really get noisy again. Anticipation and excitement over what comes next is terrific. Yet if we never take the time to live in the now, to enjoy our surroundings as we have them, but instead focusing always on what is going to come next, then we are losing out on actually living.
View of Georgetown from Arlington, VA