How Washington D. C. is part of Houston, Texas

One thing is for sure, and that is that Washington D. C. is not part of Houston, Texas. So why should I count missing Houston as part of a trip to Washington D. C.? I do count it, and the reason is that I experience Washington D. C. from the particular perspective of arriving from Houston. It won’t be the same when I arrive from any other place.

Why, you might ask? I can tell you, the reason is clear. Places have meaning according to where you come from. So Washington DC seems fresh and spring-like to me. You see, the magnolias bloomed 2 months ago in Houston, but they are just blooming now here. There are dogwoods, and something like redbuds blooming now. The forsythia are past, but many blooms are everywhere. The cherries are past too, but it is still close to the bloom height. Tulips, daffodils, everywhere blooms.

In the early evening we took a long, spring-time walk. Robins, white-throated sparrows, and cowbirds all called. It is an early and tender spring compared to the hearty, heavy late spring we now have in Houston. It is springtime from a climate where it means something more than in Houston, where winter never punishes too much. It seems all the more delicate coming from Houston.

What will it feel like to arrive in Washington D. C., that magical name, when I come from the similar climate of St. Louis? I do not know. For until now Houston has been the center of the bike tire, the center of the spider web, the central station, the airline hub, the point of reference from which everywhere else extends. Houston has had the welcoming warm, humid air, like a wet blanket caressing me from the minute I step out of IAH, Houston Intercontinental Airport.

Someday soon I’ll be like those silly looking tourists passing through Houston on their way to the tropics, already wearing shorts and flip-flops, arriving on early flights, then taking evening flights to Quito, Lima, Bogota, Caracas, even Rio, or Sao Paulo. I’ll share their excitement, barely understanding we’re stopping over in Houston, once my hometown. I may even be glad to jettison the flat, urbanized chaos, the discouraging me-first politics of Texas.

I wonder what the process of adjusting my bike tire to St. Louis will be like. Will I be glad to be back in the midwest, land of my childhood, and away from Houston, land of my grandparents? Or will I become rootless, travelling ever more easily, at home wherever my loved ones are? I’ve certainly lived in many places, and let them feel like home, only to give them up. Even short time places like Maracay, Cavriglia, Pellston, or Guanajuato, or longer time ones like Geneva, Austin, or London. One thing is for sure, the choices will be mine to make, and I’ll choose family first, but take time to visit the north country, the wasp country, and Italy. There are other perspectives than the Houston one.

PS When I got home, the air was choking me. Smoke from West Texas and maybe Mexico permeates everything.

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The best thing about the Washington DC Mall? Dandelions? No! The museums!

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Maybe if the US didn’t say STOP to so many education initiatives, Congress would be a better place!

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Dear Natasha with her fungus growing ants!

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Few things are more fun than poring through a museum drawer of wasps!

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There were still a few blooms.

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OK, maybe someone had a hard day.

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We went out drinking! This view reminds me of the wonderful time we had in Copenhagen on Nyhavn, but no canal.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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