Notes on the State of Maryland

The Weather

There is a quote from Good Morning Vietnam that I might use to describe the weather here in Maryland, but as this is a family blog, I will simply say that the weather here is hot and wet. The heat isn’t really that bad, it’s the sticky feeling that you have to endure all day long that gets to ya. For the first week or so I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t sleep at night here. It turns out that I couldn’t sleep because I was sweating at night and it kept me up. We had to up the AC quite a bit, but after 5 nights with 3 hours of sleep, the abstraction of environmental concerns have a hard time competing with insomnia–I’ll check the “use green energy” box on my next power bill to compensate. There’s an upside to the humidity, however. It seems to make one’s skin tan very well. Both Byron and Diana now look like Pacific Islanders (I just turned red and molted).

The Place

We live in a rather comfortable townhouse about 30 minutes outside of DC. We’re about 10 minutes north of the nearest metro line, so we might be considered the sub-suburbs-we are certainly far from what you might consider urban. The HOA here has a pool that Byron makes us take him to daily. As we are still getting to know people and we are, for the most part, his only play mates, we can’t argue with his request. The upside is that his swimming has improved significantly over the last few days. The downside is that I’m sick to death of the swimming pool.

Trees: … Hmm, to postmodern or not to postmodern… ok, I’ll pomo. Postmodern theory is predicated on the pseudoscience of semiotics, the study of signs. Language, it turns out is simply a series of signs. The letters t-r-e-e form a phonetic and visual sign that signifies a woody plant, usually tall with green leaves– the actual physical object of a tree. Early on, linguists thought that there was a link between the signifier and the signified, that something inhered in the combination of the letters t-r-e-e that told other human brains to think of a leafy, tall plant. Postmodernists, however, disagreed and said there was no connection between the signifier and the signified and that language is a socially constructed series of interlocking signifier/signified binary pairs.

Well… boy isn’t that boring. However, consider the “tree” here in Maryland versus a tree in Utah. A tree in Utah actually signifies a great deal: Because Utah is a desert, any place you find trees you also find people. Trees signify population density. Also, since most trees in the valleys were planted, old growth trees represent a certain type of neighborhood, in Salt Lake usually an affluent one. Trees signify wealth. Finally, Mormon pioneers believed that it was their sacred duty to “make the desert bloom like a rose,” which they did by planting trees. Trees signify religious belief, cultural heritage, the fulfillment of scripture.

A tree in Maryland signifies something different. Here it is the absence of trees that signifies population. Trees just grow here. The only way to build anything here in Maryland is to hack back the forest, and there’s no doubt in my mind that when this world comes to its bitter end, trees will reclaim Washington DC in a matter of months (I guess I should say “if”). There are massive power lines that run through the area about a mile from our house. The power lines themselves are actually unremarkable, but the path that the lines takes has to be cleared of trees, so the lines follow what looks like a scar across the landscape chiseled out of the forest.

The People

The LDS ward here is a diverse group of people. We actually met the Bishop our first week here because the missionaries just happened to knock on our door and offered to bring him by. In my mind, I imagined church members outside of Utah as progressive thinkers who aren’t shackled by the political duality of Utah. That they are open to ideas based on their merits, not which political party happens to support them. I hoped to meet people who didn’t question my faith because I dare to suggest that the capitalistic system is not inspired by god, much less the ideal of His kingdom here on earth (3 Nephi 26). So there we are, talking with the bishop– our first encounter with a member here in Maryland. We chat and he talks about the history of the ward, the boundaries, the people, etc. As the conversation continues, he mentions that he works in DC as part of a non-profit organization. “Oh, that’s interesting. What does your non-profit do?” I ask. “Well, we’re kinda a watchdog group that identifies liberal bias in the media” Hopes, dreams, ideals, all shattered. The real world came crashing in around me. My vision blurred as I blinked back the tears which had come unbidden to my eyes. “Oh,” I said.

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