The National Mall is a wonderful place to read. I remember starting Harry Potter for the first time on one of its benches, and finishing Of Mice and Men on another. It is also one of the most popular destinations in D.C., which sometimes interferes with its more peaceful elements. I wrote the essay below when I was feeling a bit sour about all the distractions keeping me from my book of choice (I believe it was Between the World and Me, which was excellent). My outlook on finding peaceful reading spots is typically more optimistic, though I maintain that Heaven will be filled with both books and places to read them.
A Quiet Place to Read
The other day I walked to the National Mall to read while I waited for my husband to meet me downtown. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, with cooler weather than we’d had in weeks. I found a bench under some scant shade, and could only hear the wind.
As I read, I heard some noises you’d expect in a busy park. Cars here and there. People walking by and taking pictures in front of the Capitol.
My flow was interrupted by machinery. I looked over and saw construction underway on one of the mall’s many lawns. It ceased. I continued to read.
The sounds of cars came ever closer. I looked up, and saw a pick-up truck driving on the mall itself.
Don’t cars have enough space as it is that they don’t have to take up ours? No matter. It drove away, onto the road where it belonged.
I heard a small hissing. I looked at the ground, and saw a squirrel walking expectantly towards me. I shooed it away, and it slowly kept creeping back, until I shooed it away a few times and it finally saw that my book was not food. I silently cursed those who’d fed that squirrel and thus sculpted its natural instincts into something altogether unnatural.
The squirrel returned to a tree, and I returned to my former tree. Suddenly a pop song blared through the air. I looked up and could not find the exact source, though I guessed it had something to do with the stage a few blocks away with giant white letters saying HOPE. Ironic, given that it was dashing away any hope I had of a quiet afternoon of reading.
It was just as well, for around that time, my husband texted me to let me know he was coming downtown. As I put my book away, I decided that, if Heaven exists, it is a library; for only in death will we ever find a quiet place to read.
~September 15, 2016