The Oasis in the City

DCLast week, we explored our need to intentionally carve out “island time” in our daily routines. Ironically, I spent a couple of days this past week working at my company’s office in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C. Are there two more drastically opposite settings than Maui and our nation’s capital?

Even though I have a passion for exploring mountain ranges and hidden gems, I am fascinated by cities – the architecture, the flurry of activity, the mom & pop cafes, the endless aromas of coffee and baked goods. Something is constantly happening on practically every street corner.

Cities develop a life of their own because of the people who indwell them. Some live in D.C. because they are interning at a government office. Others are drawn by the steady work. Many have transitioned to the area because they believe in a particular cause and are working to create change in government. And quite a few seek the power and prestige of higher positions. No matter the reason, the pace of life in D.C. is frantic, to say the least.

Simplicity seems like a concept foreign to the impatient drivers, whose honking horns continuously reverberate off the sides of the surrounding office buildings. You have to work a bit harder to uncover simplicity, but it’s there. I sat outside at a small cafe with my coworkers, sipping coffee and eating breakfast with the glow of the morning sun peaking through the surrounding office buildings. We had a loose schedule to keep that morning. So, along with breakfast, we took in the sights of people rushing to work, their ears stuffed with white ear buds as they tried to escape the outside world for the one on their iPods and cell phones.

The day before, our group took a leisurely walk over to the National Mall, stopping by both the World War II and Lincoln Memorials. The fountain at the World War II Memorial offers a pleasant respite from the rush hour traffic a mere fifty yards away; the impressive plaza provides a small glimpse into the sacrifices made 70 years ago.

And the towering Lincoln Memorial never ceases to impress. Even though I have been to the site a handful of times, I had never taken the 360 degree walk around the structure until Monday. As the sun faded to the west, its rays beamed through the columns along the backside of the monument, reflecting off the white marble stone and peering through the massive, white columns.

A certain peace, resolve, and strength exists within the chamber and around the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. Our group sat near the top of the steps and gazed out over the reflecting pool. We were no longer in the bustling city, but in a moment of awe and reflection over the history of our nation.

Sometimes, our hearts are simply crying out for the oasis in the midst of the city, those spots where we can be still, reflect, and recharage. Our part is to intentionally slow down long enough to find them.

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  • Kari Scare

    I’m beginning to think you’re reading my mind. Simplicity is the focus of a post I’m working on right now. I love how you pointed out the simplicity found even in a city amidst busyness and chaos. My husband and I love to travel, and we love discovering the hidden quietness between the craziness. We spent our anniversary weekend recently in St. Louis, and it was such a pleasantly friendly city. There were many areas of quietness and peacefulness. We’ve discovered this in Chicago too with it’s many parks and coffee shops. What arises the most to me in this is that simplicity is all around us; we just need to deliberately seek it out. Love the direction your taking lately!

    • Chris Peek

      Ha ha…great minds think alike. Thanks for your kind comments! It seems that many designers of cities recognized our need for times of solitude, peace, and quiet. The most obvious example is Central Park in the midst of Manhattan. Chicago is by far my favorite city to visit. I love the peace of looking down on the city from the top of the John Hancock Tower.

      • Kari Scare

        I think they did too, and I’m glad. I enjoy visiting the city and actually really enjoy the contrast between the city areas and the areas of solitude. St. Louis has several garden blocks as well as the park under the arch. San Francisco has a wonderful garden/park too, and I’ve been to Chicago many times. Even though I live in a big “garden spot,” there’s something cool about visiting them in the city.

  • Dan Black

    What a cool experience you had. Taking time to slow down and enjoy our surroundings is so important, it’s amazing the new things we will see (even in our local town) if we take time to look around. Thanks for this post!

    • Chris Peek

      Thanks Dan. It’s so true – many of us have missed out on our local surroundings because we’re so busy running from one activity to the next. Slowing down does wonders for our hearts, minds, and creativity.

      • Dan Black