On the River: the End of Summer

Boats skimmed along the Potomac River this last weekend of August—power boats, yellow and red kayaks, boxy green canoes, sleek white sculls.  I settled into the latter late Sunday afternoon, dropping oars into the warm water.  Many in Washington are still out of town—on vacations or home visiting constituencies—but in their place are tourists exploring the nation’s capitol. The heart of the city beats on in festive cadence.

Baking in the summer sun, I eased leisurely down the river—past the Kennedy Center, the Watergate apartments, past the Georgetown waterfront where outside cafes were filled with people eating and bicyclists walking their bikes, past the new park along the river, then under Key Bridge, where a moment of shade brought relief.  On the bridge above bikers and runners and cars crossed the river to and from Virginia.  My scull sliced the surface of the water past the spires of Georgetown University, which peeked through the trees on the shore like a medieval fortress. I aimed out to the Three Sisters Islands, rowing with one oar to turn the scull then traversed the river, crossing the wakes of larger power boats so I could return on the opposite side, rowing past the nature preserve of Roosevelt Island towards the public boat house.

By the time I neared the home shore, sweat was dripping down my brow into my eyes, blurring my vision. The sun was slowly sinking in the sky, but relinquishing none of its heat. The boat house was already closing, and kayaks and canoes were pulled up on the dock; mine was one of the last sculls to return.

Summer is near its end. On Labor Day next weekend American flags will flutter beside the Potomac, and the political season with midterm elections will shift into high gear.  But before the business of campaigns and politicians fill the air, summer may yet linger for just a bit longer like a temporary denouement before the pace of life accelerates. I take a moment here to savor the summer, which has been spent almost entirely in Washington—one of the hottest summers on record—a summer of writing, reading  good books and welcoming into life a new grandchild. It has been a summer of quiet pleasures and great moments.


  1. Gail Osherenko on August 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Come scull in Vermont. Won a sculling lesson from Craftsbury Outdoor Center last year at an auction for the Craftsbury library, but didn’t get a chance to collect til this summer. So scared getting into that skinny boat – and this was just a relatively wide scull for beginners.
    Wow. Who knew what a thrill this sport could be – gliding down a long narrow lake surrounded by greenery. Loons calling. A bit odd to be looking back instead of forward, and no rear view mirror. But after an hour, I was hooked.

  2. Judy Tyrer on August 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I remember during your more hectic world travel days once commenting that the most interesting thing in my day had been seeing a hawk catch a rabbit. You said that sounded delightful.
    Sounds like you had that kind of a delightful interesting day. Peace can be pleasant. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Paula Shick-Heath on August 31, 2010 at 10:42 am

    What a wonderful way to start my day – reading and thinking about you easing down the Potomac and learning of little “Carolina!” Congrats and hugs all around. Paula

  4. DJA on September 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Elegant writing. And good to be reminded of DC and the Potomac and Georgetown. We still miss it all — but only a little! Maine has had its finest summer in decades, and we have had throngs of family here to make the most of being on and in Long Lake. –DJA

  5. Vonnie Talayumptewa on September 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    One of the better articles I’ve seen written, great job! Looking forward to reading more from you.

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