Reading this week:
- Do Not Disturb by Michela Wrong
- The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils by David Farrier
One of the best places in DC to go is the US National Arboretum, and I finally got to go with my super amazing girlfriend. For many years I had wanted to go to the National Arboretum. When I was a kid and my family drove into DC to visit the museums and the like, we would always pass by the arboretum on the way. As a kid I wasn’t that into trees, but eventually, as I have discussed many times, I went to the Naval Academy. One of the things about the US Naval Academy, or USNA if you will, is that as a midshipman you are normally only allowed to wear “spirit” gear. On weekends during your 1/C and 2/C (Senior and Junior) years you can wear normal civilian clothes, but during the week you gotta wear USNA-themed clothes. At the time I thought it would be hilarious, just knee-slappingly funny, to get a shirt from the US National Arboretum, or USNA if you will, and wear it as spirit gear. Alas, I never achieved that dream while it would have been particularly funny, but years later (and about five years ago now), I did manage to go to the arboretum and obtain an USNA shirt and I wore it to death while in the Peace Corps. And now, although I was down a shirt but up a super amazing girlfriend and we went to go see the arboretum.
One of the most impressive parts of the arboretum is their Bonsai and Penjing Museum (penjing, as we learned, being a Chinese version of miniature landscapes that bonsai also represents). Although I am not normally a museum-book-buyer, last time I visited the arboretum I thought they were so gorgeous I actually bought their book about the collection. Besides their sublime beauty, one thing I like about the bonsai and penjing collection at the arboretum is its efficiency: the whole arboretum is literally about trees, but instead of hiking around and seeing a bunch of big trees, you can walk a far shorter distance and see a whole bunch of tiny trees. That is mostly a joke but it is an extremely impressive collection and is placed in a walled-off and peaceful garden area and would be a wonderful place to spend a whole day just in quiet contemplation. Of course what I especially like in museums are the especially old things, and at the museum they boast a number of 19th-century trees while the one pictured above has been in training since 1795! And it isn’t even the oldest, with that honor being held by very-nearly-400-year-old tree from 1625! Despite the tree being relatively tiny it still makes you feel small.
Although it is easy to see all the tiny trees, seeing the whole arboretum would take many afternoons. It is a big and impressive place. After the bonsai and penjing museum we walked over across the street to the National Herb Garden, where we admired all the National Herbs. You can see above me admiring them. Although the whole arboretum is massive just this garden must be a huge amount of work, given the size and number of specimens. They had a whole section just dedicated to peppers and another labelled the “Beverage Garden” dedicated to things you would find it drinks. They have shadier and sunnier portions and nestled in and amongst the herbs and throughout the entire arboretum there were plenty of picnickers and groups and couples sprawled out and enjoying the lovely and extremely sunny afternoon. The only downside of the arboretum is that it is relatively poorly served by public transportation. I personally thing it would be well worth it to spend a few billion bucks to run a metro station out there just so more people could enjoy it.
Although the sun was nice my super amazing girlfriend and I decided to get out of it and drove to the far end of the park to check out the Asian collections. She was particularly interested in all the camellia plants because they are of course closely related to tea. We hiked around the trails and the best part was probably the few moments we spent relaxing in the above pavilion, taking a forest bath as it were and listening to the sounds of nature there and admiring a squirrel jumping about. I tried to trick her into thinking there was a panda walking around but she didn’t fall for it. Nonetheless it was extremely peaceful and, you know, anytime I am hanging out with my super amazing girlfriend it is a nice time. If I can do it around trees all the better. Satisfied with having gotten back to nature, and an especially gorgeous example of it, we head back home to hang out with our cat.