In some ways, Washington never changes. Watching budget battles always recalls the one that led to partially shutting down the federal government in 1995-1996. As gardening columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I wrote the following piece after visiting the capital city in December 1995. After much wrangling and posturing, a 2011 shutdown has been averted. For now.
Washington – Coming back to this town, where I worked (Los Angeles Times) and lived for about 10 years, has its rituals. They include a long, languid meal at an Ethiopian restaurant on 18th Street. A sushi lunch orchestrated by Kawasaki-san at his bar on 19th Street is a must, too.
And in this city of rituals, one of my most pleasing is a visit to the Capitol grounds, where trees and shrubs, discreetly labeled, along with colorful seasonal flowers, complement the stately elegance of the domed building.
The botanical garden, a short walk downhill from the Capitol, and the arboretum, a quick drive away, draw crowds of plant lovers; that is their job. But the grounds of the Capitol please and soothe in a different way – a garden that captivates without trying.
So it was on a Saturday in mid-December, the day much of the federal government began its longest-ever shutdown, the second closing of the year. The grounds were beautiful, as always, but that beauty served as a counterpoint to the sad and ugly budget battle featuring Bill and Newt and other Democrats and Republicans – a shortsighted, unstatesmanlike wrestling match that crippled so much of the federal city, angering and frustrating visitors like Lyn and me.
Still, there was the beauty. Like the republic, it endures, let us hope. The beginning of a new year is a time of hope, isn’t it?
As Ronald Reagan’s image makers realized when they moved his inaugural ceremonies to the Capitol’s west front, that side of the building is the most visually pleasing, as it opens onto a view of the Mall and the monuments.
I don’t know if the image people thought about it, but that side also is where the plantings thrive splendrously.
Starting on the House side of the Capitol, we admired Canadian hemlock and Japanese larch. Oblivious to the goings-on under the dome, these trees invited touching and close looks on this mild afternoon. And right next to the Capitol steps, magnolias stood sentry, gazing at the gaily dressed Christmas tree just down the way.