Lincoln Park, Early December


December 8, 2013, Washington, DC: Apparently I have a thing for places called Lincoln Park. I lived in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago as a graduate student several years ago and spent many wonderful days before and after the temperatures dropped biking through the park itself to reach the path along the lake. These days I frequent Lincoln Park in DC on my regular running route through Capitol Hill. Beautiful things happen in this Lincoln Park: ordinary, simple, everyday things. Parents converge on its playgrounds with their little ones, older kids play football in the wide open central space, dog owners huddle holding cups of hot coffee. P&C market on the corner facing the park is the only place in town I can find my favorite type of yogurt, and some of the wide wintery brownstones surrounding Lincoln Park remind me of Chicago itself. In the summer, sunbathers and readers stretch out on blankets in the grass and a rag tag, not entirely legal, fireworks display brings neighbors together on the 4th. I always get the feeling this park truly belongs to its neighbors and they take good care of it.

An article I read earlier this week about the value of shared neighborhood spaces and our role in making them better made me reflect on my frequent runs throughout this neighborhood gem. What struck me was an observation in the article, published by the Project for Public Spaces, about "the tendency of people (particularly in the developed world) to see regulations where they don't exist."

"After decades of society turning its back on public life in favor of the private realm of home, office, and car, a lot of people now feel that they need permission to use public spaces the way they’d like to," its author stated. "We can give that permission to each other."

I do get the feeling that we have that kind of permission in Lincoln Park more so than elsewhere. I appreciate that runners have carved out a dirt jogging path that parallels the sidewalk and that someone has painted the tree roots there with reflective paint for those days when the sun sets early. I have seen the beauty of the everyday unfold here in all sorts of weather except for one... I can only imagine how the neighbors will make this place come alive in the snow.




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