Finding Flags – 2017.01.08
- Sunday 08 January 2017
- Inner Harbor, Baltimore County, Maryland
- Time 1353
- Elevation – Sea Level
- Strong northwest winds, clear skies, 23℉
Not wanting to be overwhelmed by the music and people I walk out to a pier where the USS Constellation is moored. I am at Inner Harbor, or more technically, the Port of Baltimore, a 300 year old port. The Inner Harbor contains the Patapsco River which eventually flows out past Fort McHenry to the Chesapeake Bay.
The sun beats strongly and I opt to face south, seated on a bench, hood pulled over my head to shield me from a strong west wind. The air is cold and biting with the wind strong enough at times to send my little journal sliding across the bench even though my body acts as a windbreak.
Noises! Sirens sound shrilly to the west. Music emanates from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory mixing with song from other restaurants. It beckons to patrons that are largely non-existent on a blustery, bitter Sunday afternoon in January.
Gulls abound and determine that I am a poor source for food and handouts, thus leaving me to myself. I have just one that nests on the walkway a few feet from my own perch here on the bench.
A Water Taxi pulls out with one passenger as the Captain takes her away from the dock. In the distant southeast, my eyes strain to make out the different buildings, construction cranes, boats and landmarks. The Domino Sugar building stands out against the rest.
People watching is scarce with most hearty souls bundled up in heavy jackets moving from point A to B. No loungers keep me company. A seagull squeals and a helicopter flies rather low from east to west and will come by again later.
Across the harbor the American Flag stands at attention, ablaze in the light against the pale blue sky. A pair of Mallard ducks float past me and then a bitter gust of wind blasts across my body, carrying with it grains of snow, abrasive like sand blowing in the desert.
I look in my 360 degree circle and note how the wind curls around buildings belying its actual direction. Thirty-one minutes into my watch sirens sound again, this time from the northeast.
The USS Constellation, an old civil war ship staged here for tours, creaks eerily. It moves with the wind, protesting its mooring. I believe it begs to sail again, to live its life as it was meant to be, on the open seas, not as an object to be taken pity upon, an old warhorse lying immobile.
As boredom and complacency fight for my attention, I begin to play a game of “find the flag”. Pivoting in my seat I attempt to pick out as many official flags as I can. This…is much like looking for a bedded deer in the forest. I focus as I look for a tip of a pennant catching wind from behind a building. Here, not far from where The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key, are many flags. After a few turns I count 25 different national, state and local flags.
Counting flags brings about a different sentiment; one that surprises me. It is one of history, national pride and all that has gone before me and this country. Forty minutes of exposure to wind and cold has stripped away a leathered layer of my personality and exposes appreciation. Pride surfaces as I think about my nephew currently serving in the US Army, my son enlisted and preparing for boot camp with the US Navy and an 8 month old great nephew with a future ahead of him and very little in the way of day to day worries. Familial and national pride sends my chest swelling and I’m very surprised by this feeling, for it was not what I anticipated to come forth from this time. I’m brought back to the present as the sun plays peak a boo with a stray cloud and Pat Benatar belts out “Love is a Battlefield” from across the water.
To my east I look at a submarine and the National Aquarium and with five minutes remaining on my watch the ¾ moon appears over the cityscape. It is a ghost rising up, preparing for the night shift as the sun makes its exit for this day. As I finish, 15 seconds have yet to tick off as I stand from the bench, turn to face it and see the wind blow my items onto the brickwork below emphasizing the end to my time here.