Mixed Metaphors and November Project
Dear Bob Vogel,
I do not live in Washington, DC., but I can call the Lincoln Memorial stairs my home. That is how November Project works. For one glorious, intense hour, we make wherever we congregate our home. We love it like it is our own. We respect it. And we show our love and respect in the best way we know how: we play.
My name is Audrey and I am a part of the November Project tribe in San Diego. In May I flew out to DC to watch my brother graduate from George Mason University. I arrived a few days earlier than the rest of my family for the sole purpose of working out with November Project, DC. My mother did not understand my travel plans. “Why are you going early? Why aren’t you staying (in Fairfax, VA) with us?” she asked me. “Are these strangers more important to you than your own family?” What my mother didn’t understand (and what frankly many people don’t understand when they learn of a mass of people who wake up early, wear neon, and like to hug) is this: this random assortment of people — these “strangers” — is my family. Even at 2,645 miles away, members of November Project, DC are my brothers and sisters, and the stairs at the Lincoln Memorial are our home.
Like many visitors of DC I was awestruck, filled with a sense of patriotism, by all the national monuments literally in the “backyards” of the friends (I mean, family) that I stayed with in DC. I had seen them all before as an 8th grader on a week-long school trip to the nation’s capital. But this time was different. This time I could imagine a life here, in DC, surrounded by history and family (my November Project family). Living, working, and playing in America’s playground. As I ran the Lincoln Memorial stairs with November Project, read from the pages of the Constitution at the National Archives, traced my steps along “Pennsylvania Avenue” from the “President’s House” to “Congress’s House” at Freedom Plaza, and rode my bike around the Tidal Basin to visit the Jefferson Memorial, I thought to myself “how blessed am I” (and “how amazing it would be to live here”) to be able to experience this beauty, this joy (every day!?!?!) and all for free.
November Project, like the Smithsonian Museums and National Parks in DC, is free. It was designed that way — to be inclusive, to allow everyone to experience the beauty and the joy of fitness, of community. Everyone has access. Everyone is welcomed into the family. November Project is also fun. Workouts are our recess and cityscapes are our playgrounds. The founding fathers of November Project established this free, grassroots fitness group as a way not only to stay fit, but to explore different areas of their city (Boston). November Project is a medium through which to explore our “backyard”. We get to be outside. We get to discover the beauty and joy in the various landscapes of our city.
And though we may see a fountain or a park bench with the kind of innocence of a child imagining a fort out of bedsheets, we understand that playgrounds have rules. The rules of our playground are inclusiveness and respect (and safety!). I have witnessed a group of over a hundred people workout for an entire hour (and an entire month of Mondays) in utter silence out of respect to the homeowners whose neighborhood was our playground for that month. I have worked out alongside tourists, other joggers, business men and women on their way to work, families walking their dogs, maintenance workers fixing sprinklers. The playground is open to anyone who wants to play whether it is with us or not and whether they are actually “playing” or simply carrying out every day activities. It is our home, but it is also home to others. We respect that.
It was an honor to run the Lincoln Memorial stairs with November Project during my visit to DC. (In no small way was it an honor because it was a personal triumph to conquer stairs after suffering months and months of debilitating knee pain.) It was an honor to be with my family, to be home.
You must excuse me for all of the metaphors, but please do not take away our home, change the rules of the playground, or keep us from experiencing the beauty and the joy in our very own backyard.
Tribe Member — November Project, San Diego