Friday, June 02, 2006

Lips stained black with mulberries

The Monkey woke up from his morning nap, and I took him the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It's a unique place, and not just because it "is the only National Park Service site devoted to the propagation and display of aquatic plants." It's a marsh, it's a bog, it's a river, it's a wildlife habitat, and it's a garden.

It was my first time there, too. It was incredibly nostalgic for me: it reminded me of the pond in the backyard of the house where I grew up. I saw big frogs -- but they usually saw me first, and disappeared underwater before I was aware of them. (Back in the day I could catch frogs by the dozen with my bare hands. Am I slower now? Louder? Heavier? Less focused?) More than seeing the frogs, I heard them. I remember when we moved into that house in the late spring of 1980... the first few nights we thought there were cows nearby. I also saw a giant crawfish just below the surface of the water. A dragonfly landed on me. I guess Proust had his madeleines, and I have my muddy ponds. (But did Proust ever catch a polliwog with emergent feet?)

I'm not sure the Monkey saw the frogs: they are still, and then they are gone. But he saw geese. I was looking in a different direction, but the Monkey said a word very similar to "gooszh" -- and sure enough, there was a goose. We followed it around for a while, until it splashed into the water and glided off towards another goose that was keeping its eye out. The two geese met up, and then paddled to the other side of the pond. Geese are cool like that: they watch out for each other. When one goose can't keep up with the migratory "V", a few geese break off to provide a draft for the lagging goose.

I took him to a bench by the Anacostia river to finish his breakfast: banana, blueberries, and rice cereal, with a few white beans thrown in for lunch. But between the bench and the river was an enormous mulberry tree, with the ripest berries you can imagine. I plucked one and held it out for the Monkey to eat. He liked. I plucked a few more. He still liked. Before long, his lips were stained black with mulberries, and he was having a meal.

The berries were so ripe that a few that I brushed fell off the tree and into the river. A bird above us got into the act, raining a few down on us as he set about his own lunch. I made sure he ate a few more white beans, and then we called it a lunch.

Despite the humidity, it wasn't that hot, so I figured we would walk a while down the river trail. Before long, down from a clearing, we beheld the majestically stinky Anacostia river. Fish were rippling the surface with high frequency, rising up to eat something they liked on top. There was some traffic on a nearby bridge -- probably I-295.

And then...WHOOOSH! A MARC commuter train zooms by! Now THAT's a train! I've been trying to explain to the Monkey that a Metro railcar pulling into the station is pretty neat, but it's nothing like a real train thundering through river gorge. And a few minutes later...WHOOOSH! An Acela train zooms by!

We head back to the car.


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