The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

I’m the family morning person. When everyone else is just waking up, I’ve gone out for a run, I’ve showered and I’m sipping my morning coffee “Oh, you’re finally up.” It’s the same when we’re on vacation and it turns out to be a nice little symbiotic arrangement. Cora likes to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast while I’m out running.  I get back just about when Cora is ready for the day’s activities so I just take a quick shower and usually blow off breakfast. Yeah I know, the most important meal….whatever.

I love the morning vacation runs. They’re a chance to get out while the air is cool and clean and before crowds clog the streets and paths and any sights I want to take in. There’s no pressure to crank out quick miles or cover a specific distance. These runs are minimal workout; veer off course when something looks intriguing around the bend or pause to take in something that’s pleasing.

In the late summer of 2014 we were staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C., a historic nineteenth century hotel that’s located a short 1/2 mile from The White House and just under a mile from the National Mall, that long green park that houses America’s treasured monuments and flanked on each side by the stately Smithsonian Museums.

Six in the morning and I was out the door when my phone rang.  Really? It was my co-worker who was house sitting, calling to tell me that there’d been a significant earthquake in nearby Napa. There was no damage to the house and she was just calling to let me know before I heard about it on the news. Okay now I was awake for sure.

This run was supposed to be a little sightseeing run through the mall with no particular plan in mind.  There was no intention of making this into a photo outing. My plan quickly took a turn when the sun started to appear, lighting the clouds and the monuments in dazzling morning radiance. Sun and light aren’t indulgent. They don’t show up and then dally for your convenience. How nice would it be to impose on nature to hold that moment please; the perfect lighting while you fetch your equipment and set up. It was either going to be take pictures with my phone or skip the opportunities completely.

The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

Located on a 2 acre parcel of The Mall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is comprised of a statue of three weary looking soldiers called “The Three Servicemen” and The Wall, which lists the names of the 58,272 men and women who died serving in Vietnam.

On a typical day the memorial is filled with people; they’re looking for a specific name on the wall, a friend, family member or loved one who perished. They might be there to leave a memento or a bouquet; or quietly and pensively contemplate the somber beauty. It isn’t a political moment. It isn’t a judgemental moment. It’s a place of reflection, both physical and spiritual.

I arrived at the memorial and found myself alone with the statue, the wall and the morning sun being filtered through the trees.

3 Servicemen 2

Three Servicemen

3 Service Men

The men appear to be gazing into a distant light. Hope? Relief?

Wash mon. and wall sunrise

Trees and lawn reflected in the wall on the left with the Washington Monument in the background

Sunrise wall copy

Washington Monument reflected in The Wall


Vietnam Women’s Memorial

To me the Vietnam Women’s Memorial is the most poignant of the monuments and memorials located at the capitol mall. From the Vietnam Women’s Memorial website:

In an era of universal polemics and political unrest – with no thought of glory, with no fanfare or public notice – 265,000 women volunteered to go where they were needed, to do what was needed. The era was known as Vietnam, and these young women, most in their 20s, risked their lives to care for our country’s wounded and dying. Their humanity and compassion equalled their lifesaving and comforting skills.

The statue is a representation of three women tending to a wounded soldier. Womens monument 2


Looking for the dustoff

Desperately waiting for the helicopter


Washington Monument

Washington D.C. can be sunny in the morning, rainy in the afternoon or just throw you a mix throughout the day. This particular morning was a typical mixture of sun and clouds.

Wash. mon and fountain

Above and below: The Washington Monument under dramatic clouds as seen from the World War II Memorial. 

Monument and fountain monochrome

There’s a story behind the final photo. I’d paused by the side of the pool on the far eastern end when I looked into the pool and saw the reflection of the clouds and the monument. From either the side of the pool or the east end the effect wouldn’t have been nearly as spectacular as catching the reflection of the monument and the clouds from the west looking east. Morning light is fleeting, and realizing that I could lose the moment in seconds I sprinted the third of a mile to the west end of the pool.  Caught my breath and caught the image.

Sunrise Wash Monument

This is one of my favorite photos. I have two regrets. I had to resort to my phone and Cora wasn’t there to share that spectacular D.C morning.





20 thoughts on “A Morning Run in D.C.

  1. Steve J. says:

    The best camera is the one you have with you. 🙂

    1. Paulie says:

      The nice thing about a smart phone is even when you don’t have a camera you have something to turn to. My frustration is when I have my camera and I’ve forgotten my smart phone that try as I might I can’t make a call with the camera.

  2. Amy says:

    The Washington Monument shot (the last one) is breathtaking! The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is perfectly centered.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you Amy. That last shot was one of those lucky moments.

  3. No reason to have regrets over the photos. They are fabulous!

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank You Susanne. And you are right about no reason to have regrets. I was fortunate to have my phone with me and in the end it got the job done.

  4. Chris says:

    Exquisite photography, Paulie. Gorgeous.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you very much Chris.

  5. Irene says:

    Lovely reflection on the wall! ❤️

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you. I would recommend to anyone visiting DC to take in the monuments at sunrise. Not just for the photo ops but to fully appreciate the beauty and solemnity of those treasures.

      1. Irene says:

        I’ve only been to DC once and that was way before I was into photography. Hoping for a chance to go again with my camera this time. 😊

  6. These photos are amazing!! Great eye!

  7. Paulie says:

    Thank you Christina. Very much appreciated. Thank you for visiting.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Spectacular photo and I enjoyed your story leading up to it. Being a morning person yields great rewards!

    1. Paulie says:

      It yields rewards in so many ways. Maybe we shouldn’t let the sleepers in know what they are missing 😉

  9. Tina Schell says:

    My favorite is the sun and monument reflected on the memorial. It tells a perfect story. Good for you for being out there to see and shoot it!

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you TIna. I found that the best time to photograph the monuments is around sunrise when the light is better and the tourists are still asleep. Let’s just keep it a secret though. 😉

  10. The photos you took are very nice. Glad you enjoyed your time in WA DC!

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you. And thank you for visiting.

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