The evening is cloudless, crisp, and bright. High in the south stands Orion, Venus on his left hand, the gibbous Moon to his right. A flock of people huddle near the concert hall doorway. Walk 100 feet away, and the balcony is yours alone.

Look down and glimpse a jogger plodding along a riverside trail. Reflected lights from Georgetown and Rosslyn ripple on the Potomac. Cars creep to escape the city via the Key Bridge, the Roosevelt Bridge, the Memorial Bridge, the 14th Street Bridge. Tiny green beacons on the underside of the arches show boats the channel to follow; red pinpricks to left and right indicate where not to navigate.

Lights in the sky form a chain above the river: airliners spaced 90 seconds apart, wending their way downstream, engines grumbling as the planes bank to follow the water's course, flaps back, speed minimized. Each aircraft as it passes the Jefferson Memorial in turn veers right to make a final approach to National Airport.

Across the stream the Pentagon hunkers low. Closer to hand, the Washington Monument pokes a finger at the sky. A pair of red eyes blink sleepily on each of the four sides of the pyramid at its top. In the foreground marble pillars around the Lincoln Memorial glow.

And in the midst of the light and the bustle, directly across the Potomac, all is darkness. Roosevelt Island sits quiet, unlit, a nature preserve. Just beyond it is Arlington Cemetery, where more than a quarter of a million people lie at rest. The Marine Corps Marathon starts and finishes there, at the Iwo Jima Memorial. Its route stretches left and right, downstream and up, across the river, past on the trail below, around the monuments, and back again.

Flowing by: the runners, the traffic, the airplanes, the river. In the center, a silent endpoint ...

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRunning - TopicPoetry - TopicLife - 2004-03-12

(correlates: RemembranceDay, ShadowsAndLights, MusicalValues, ...)