The Secret the Familiar Keeps

I have seen the US Capitol Building 1,392 times.

For the six years I lived in DC, I walked by it every day on my way to work. And the same old song and dance was always going on outside.

Tour groups saying, ‘Wow!’ and ‘Look, Susan! LOOK!’ and snapping many, many photos. Maybe the building had been sent to them on a postcard or included in a middle school American history textbook.

But now, here was the real marble, brick, cast iron deal. It was fresh and exciting. The first time they’d put their own eyes on it. And they often stood in awe of it. If only for a moment.

The US Capitol building was not fresh and exciting to me. It was familiar and background. One of those things I passed by, but rarely saw, in my day-in-day-out life: the dogs in the park in the morning, the X2 bus packed and headed west, the US Capitol Building.

I don’t live in DC anymore. But I just took a short trip back. One night, one morning. And in the morning, which was warm and gray, I walked past the US Capitol Building.

There was the same old song and dance going on outside. The first timers with their Wows! and Looks! and awe.

And I had this thought – which I’ve had before, but can never seem to hold onto – that maybe that’s the secret the familiar keeps: if we are attentive enough and quiet enough, we’ll see the familiar as if for the first time. As if it were not some kind of background thing. But some kind of foreground thing. Or beautiful thing. Or even sacred thing.

Because this is so much of life: the accumulation of the familiar, the 1,392 times, the day-in-day-out.

And on that warm and gray morning at the US Capitol building, I felt a kind of appreciation or wonder or maybe it’s joy. To stand in awe of the familiar. If only for a moment.

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