A piece of millennia

“Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.” Maybe it was the thought of water on a shriveled day pressed flat with heat. Maybe it was the thought that in a city (Washington D.C.) heavy with a million marble blocks and world power there could be a place where color was tossed about freely. At any rate, we cruised the byways searching through a slightly shabby neighborhood, not knowing what to expect. What we didn’t expect were iron gates to be chained closed at 4:15 p.m. Disappointed, back we wove through one way streets to our lodging in the historic Capitol Hill district, headed off to the local corner restaurant for barbecue chicken and cornbread, then burned off some of those carbs with a stroll past the Supreme Court.

The next morning we were the first customers in yet another corner establishment attempting to wake up over tea and coffee. Buses roared by. A meteorologist boomed out the heat index for the day. The ceiling fan stirred our plans into life. The gardens—we must try again! We drove through an onslaught of rush hour vehicles and reached its open gates before 8:00 a.m.

Grabbing camera and bottled water, we headed down a pebbled path that insisted on slipping stray rocks into our sandals. That was the only price we paid for something far more than we expected. Emerging from the trees–oh my!–was a feast for the eyes. Several acres of ponds held an assortment of stately lotus in various states of development: wide leaves shading frogs, tall stems topped with tightly wrapped buds, bursts of silky petals swaying in the wind, pods like shower heads ready to spray their seeds. A medley of water lilies floated in other pools, each colored variety having its own distinct looking lily pad: bumpy, striped, burgundy, green.

The NPS folks took delight in it all: pointed out the secretive green heron, waded into a patch of bare water to transplant a gangly lily leaf several feet wide, excitedly directed us to the unusual bloom of the morning, and generously chuckled about the beaver that would sniff out and devour any yellow (American) lotus they would stealthily try to plant. Humans, wild creatures, plants–reveling in a piece of river swamp that had managed to escape elimination under the compulsion at one time to drain Washington D.C.

Hours later we drove back into narrow streets between sweltering marble, full of a few centuries of history for which I am a grateful citizen. But the tidal swamp and the lotus and the heron piercing a fish are what I seem to have brought home with me: part of the history of millennia for which I am an amazed child of God.

“All creatures that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice…”


  1. These are the two times I have seen a green heron: Canoeing with C at Gifford Pinchot, on a rare sabbath day during CPE, some 15 years ago; and rowing with G at twilight at the full moon of midsummer in salt marsh off the Chesapeake, some 23 years ago.
    Thank you for this post.

  2. The Heron (not sure if it was green, being partially color blind) I recently saw, at yellow breeches all but scared me as Madison & I were walking through the shallow water to exit the creek. All the sudden, quietly, quickly, yet so fluently & gracefully he/she sweeped out of the creek area away from us.
    Once again, Our Father, has created such a beautiful planet! The beauty of being out in nature, quietly among his creations! A great way to recharge the day.

  3. I bet you saw a great blue heron which I have frequently seen on the Yellow Breeches. They are between 2-3 feet tall and are quite amazing when they take off into fight. The photo on this post shows a blue heron (mostly gray) that we caught eating a fish at the gardens. i will find an excuse soon to post a picture of the green heron (which is more brown). They are much smaller: only about a foot tall._

  4. Yes, PE, I believe you are correct. I thought it was gray & it was big. Yet geaceful as well.