Page's Turn

Humming along

August 12, 2011

So, it’s August in Georgetown. Not much is happening in my house these days. My children are gone for a week and the silence is both deafening and delightful. It’s the first time in years that I’ve actually been alone for more than a day or two. In the past, when the girls have been away, I’ve filled the void visiting friends or my parents or boyfriend. Frankly, I was probably afraid of being alone for too long. 
But this week has been anything but lonely. I’ve had lots of time to write, get the front door knob fixed, rearrange paintings in the living room, fill out school forms, visit museums (National Gallery and Phillips Collection), see a play (Uncle Vanya at The Kennedy Center), update Angus’s shots, and muck out my house. I’m referring to it as summer cleaning since I obviously skipped the spring one. 
As I go through dog-eared children’s books, deciding what to keep and what to give away, it takes me back. How did I get three copies of Good Night Moon (one in Spanish)?  I find folded onesies and smocked dresses in the attic, hermetically sealed in plastic bins. I usually give the girls’ old clothes to my two god-daughters, but, somehow, these items missed the cut.  And as cliche as it sounds, they are a reminder of how quickly time passes.
The older I get, the faster life accelerates. It’s like a lead foot on the gas pedal. Am I running out of time? Will I accomplish what I want in life? What do I want? What do I want for my children? To be kind, to help others, to have fun, to have faith, to be curious, to be grateful. To notice.
So this time alone has given me pause--literally. Not only am I rearranging the furniture, I’m reassessing my priorities. Some have their Eat-Pray-Love moments trotting across the globe. I’m having mine on P Street.
Earlier this week, after taking pictures for The Georgetown Dish of an out-of-control cab that ended up on the sidewalk near my friend’s house, I turned to walk back toward my house. Shuffling slowly in front of me was a homeless man. He stopped to look at something to his right, then pivoted around in my direction.
Gesturing toward a bed of zinnias, he said, “Now that’s what you should be taking pictures of. Do you see that Hummingbird there?”
“Oh my gosh. Wow!” I said. “You’re right. I’ll see if I can get a picture.” The bird hovered over a hot pink zinnia, it’s needle-like bill poking into the yellow center.
I pointed my iPhone in the direction of the flowers and clicked a few times, but couldn’t see the bird on the screen. The sun’s reflection was too bright. So I just stood and stared.  A few seconds passed before it whirred away in front of us.
“You don’t often see that in the city, do you?” the man said.
“No. No, you don’t. Thanks for pointing it out to me.” 
I got home and discovered the camera had captured the Hummingbird. It was not clear as day, but it was there. Like life, maybe not so clear, but there to be captured, appreciated. And it took a homeless man to help me notice.

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Marissa's bucket list

August 2, 2011

A few days ago I received an email from my friend Marissa Rauch. She’d just finished “Bike to the Beach,” a 108-mile ride from D.C. to Dewey Beach, Delaware, benefiting Autism Speaks.
Marissa, a celebrated photographer, biked in honor of Camille Galli, a friend’s daughter who has autism. While Marissa personally raised nearly $8,000 for Autism Speaks, she also did it, she says, because biking 100 miles was on her bucket list of things to accomplish before turning 50 in November. The date of the ride was also significant--the anniversary of her father’s death.
“It was extremely challenging because of the extreme heat. I had to channel my Dad, begging him to send some clouds to get rid of the oppressive heat,” Marissa wrote. “It was very emotional at times.” 
At one point, with the temperature soaring above 100 degrees, Marissa stopped to help a fellow rider with a flat tire. She said one of the race supervisors asked if she wanted to ride in a van to the next stop, 12 miles way. Marissa declined the offer. “I really felt like it would be a failure not to ride every mile.”
As a cancer survivor and single mother, Marissa knows a thing or two about not giving up.  She’s an example of someone who is living life to its fullest and helping others along the way. “I feel tired, but proud of my accomplishment and what I could do to help the cause, Autism. I loved being on Team Camille and doing it for a very special person to me, Camille Galli.”
Thank you, Marissa, for inspiring us. You’ve certainly raised the bar for all our bucket lists!

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July 22, 2011

With the AC blasting in my car this morning, I venture out to Starbucks on Wisconsin Avenue for my usual venti latte. On the way, I call a friend, complaining of the stifling heat as I drive through the leafy streets of Georgetown.
“I’m so glad I’m not a man in a suit,” I say, pulling into the parking lot and stepping out in a sleeveless coral linen dress.
That’s when I spot Hank, a homeless man who sometimes hangs out on the brick wall next to the sidewalk. I often give him a dollar. He responds with a “God bless you. Have a great day.” I usually don’t engage in conversation other than, “Good morning. Have a nice day.” I’m just happy to be blessed by someone instead of cursed! But on this day, when the temperature in my car hovers at 100 degrees, I feel compelled to say something. Hank is wearing long dark pants, a plaid flannel shirt, a beige windbreaker, and hat.
A homeless woman huddles in the heat (Photo by: Page Evans) A homeless woman huddles in the heat
“Hey, I’m a little worried about you. You really should get out of the sun. This heat is dangerous and you have so many layers on,” I say.
“Oh, no. I’m just fine. I’ve got plenty of clothes on,” he says.
“I know. That’s the problem. It’s way too hot to be wearing all that--especially that flannel shirt.”
“I appreciate you saying something, but the flannel keeps me cool. It’s like insulation.”
I repeat my spiel about that being the problem.  And then I ask if he has a place to go. He leans in closer to me, as if telling a secret, “You know, I have mental problems.”
I really don’t know how to respond. It is pretty evident, but what do you say? So I ask if he has enough water.
“I’m just fine right here, but thank you for your concern,” he says, gesturing
to a sweating bottle of Smart Water that another customer had given him.
“That’s good. Make sure you drink plenty and stay in the shade.” Then I tell him about the newly renovated Georgetown Ministry Center on Wisconsin Avenue near Water Street. Finally, I have some useful information to share. The center, which aids the homeless in this area, re-opened last week. It is fully air-conditioned and open daily.
Georgetown Ministry Center, newly renovated (Photo by: Page Evans) Georgetown Ministry Center, newly renovated
According to GMC’s Director, Gunther Stern, there are about 60 homeless men and women living in Georgetown. “Of them, I would venture most, if not all, are mentally ill,” Stern says. “We contact them either at our center or on our walks around the community.”
During this hot spell, Stern and other volunteers at GMC have been out providing bottled water and sandwiches to those who need it. But he encourages the homeless to visit the center. “People who stop in can take a shower, wash their clothes, enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and sit.”
When I tell Hank about the center, he seems intrigued. “Is that the place near the church? I haven’t been there in a long while.”
“Yep, it’s just down at the bottom of Wisconsin. Gunther Stern runs it,” I say, pointing in the direction of the river.
“Gunther’s still there? I’ll have to go down there and check it out.”
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I finally feel we’ve made a connection. At least, I hope we have.

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