Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Different Look

"The thing about the Redskins' defense is, they give you a different look every time," said John Madden on the NFL game broadcast.

Not long afterward, I started to notice other things that give you a different look every time.

On Christmas morning, the Yule log in the fireplace gives a different look every time we stop smiling at each other long enough to catch a glimpse of it. (Never mind that it's a video loop on our TV screen.)

Seen from Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, Lake Michigan can look indescribably brilliant or exceedingly gray. The water can be a shocking deep blue or a muddy brown, placid or choppy, rippling or white-capped, roaring or calm. The shoreline can be a seagull's paradise or caked with ice, the beach a haven for sunbathers or a foreboding no-man's-land of storm fences. The sky over the horizon can be featureless or filled with cottony clouds, wispy cirrus clouds, or thunderstorms, sometimes minutes apart. Sometimes you can't even see the horizon.

Lake Michigan gives you a different look every time.

Here in Denver, it's the Front Range of the Rockies that gives you a different look, its alternately snowcapped and barren black and purple peaks changing both daily and with the seasons under spectacular violet, pink, red, yellow, and blaze-orange cloud formations that reach to the high sky.

In New York, it's the Hudson and East Rivers, flowing under commuter bridges to New York Harbor. In Boston, it's skulls being rowed on the Charles River; up by Dartmouth, it's the Connecticut River; near my Upstate New York hometown, it's the Mohawk River; all changing constantly, always the same. "All-ll this time/The river flowed", as Sting's song lyric puts it. The rivers give you a different look every time.

In Washington, D.C., lots of things give you a different look every time. The stately Potomac River; the reflections of the monuments off the Tidal Pool; the exhibits at the Smithsonian; the ballroom dancers at Glen Echo Park; the insane traffic patterns around Crystal City; the crystal lattice that forms from the branches and twigs in Rock Creek Park after an ice storm.

From January 20th forward, the White House will give us a different look, too. It's about time.

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