Thursday and Friday morning I rode to work. Nothing new there. It was cold. Yes, dear Internets, I know: It is January. However, it has been a very mild winter. We haven’t even had a proper snow yet.
For the first time of the season, I was cold enough to have pain. Wearing liners and my best gloves were not enough to keep my fingers from getting cold, then stiff, and finally extremely pained. I tried three pair of glasses this week and could not accustom my eyes to the frigid wind.
My response was to choose distraction; let my mind go. Two-thirds of the way to work, I looked right to check out the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument and on the horizon, the Capitol. Then I turned left to see something like this image.
All good so far. In fact, quite nice.
As I tucked my chin and turned back into the wind to head toward Constitution Avenue, I passed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Excepting the hum of my tires and a few birds, it was silent. The low angle of the sun shimmered off of granite.
Time slowed and I remembered. That is what memorials are for — to evoke reflection and thought. I thought of my classmates who entered service immediately after the first Gulf War and their shock at the Balkans. It was not like a video game and Wolf Blitzer was nowhere to be found. Of course I remembered the many stories about the Vietnam era that are for me, history, and full of torment for a whole generation. Likewise, the stony visage of Lincoln undoubtedly is drawn and saddened by the carnage of the first modern war, a war precipitated by the profound pain and suffering of human bondage. Washington of course led an Army without provisions through the winter in Valley Forge and crossed the Delaware in December.
Suddenly, I was at work. I had climbed the “big hill” up 18th Street. My hands were numb and clumsy with the dial on the bike lock.
I realized that there is no reason to complain about pain from something as good and joyful as a bike ride in the morning.