In June it will have been one year since we moved into our new offices in Bethesda’s Sumner Center, just two miles from our ancestral home on MacArthur where SCG operated for over two decades. Though nearby, the settings could not be more different. Whereas previously we worked out of a breezy 110+ year-old farmhouse sitting by a reservoir, today we are in an office building above a small shopping center sporting huge plate glass windows which let in plenty of light, but which are permanently closed. On MacArthur, each day we might see the ducks, geese, birds or prey and migratory birds that paused in the waters of the settling basin. Here we look out on brick, tile, asphalt with a partial view of the Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency.
In my early days at SCG, before they fixed the surrounding fence, each spring we’d be on the lookout for baby ducks escaping from their nests near the reservoir and scoop them to safety when they attempted to cross the street. Deer sometimes would also find their way onto our property, as perplexed as we were at their presence among the eclectic homes that faced the water. A racoon family once resided in our chimney, mice were often in evidence, a squirrel had eaten into our eaves and various neighborhood dogs, cats and owners were our regular friends. The place had charm, depth, humanity, and exuded natural character. New and old clients loved its feel. So, when the inevitable leave-taking took place—long contemplated yet actualized by the Covid shutdown—we were filled with some anxiety if not dread at the prospect of moving to a more standard professional setting.
I knew we’d never lose our soul, but I did wonder if moving might affect the dynamic and feeling of our interactions. Here’s the long and short of it: Though we are still zooming, we are also beginning to see regular foot traffic. Folks like the aesthetic of our new space and appreciate how it’s decorated to feel homey yet professional. We have learned the value of zoom, but also to value how the experience of in-person is of a different character. This has been a positive realization, not surprising, but reinforced through experience. The other interesting epiphany is that in moving to more “corporate” space, we have discerned how humanly centered our interactions are– how this has always been the essence of our work, and how, ironically, our new setting has only reinforced this awareness.
It was never really about the house after all, though– no question– some days I do miss that window by my desk upstairs in MacArthur so warped it wouldn’t close—how I’d measure days unconsciously by the volume sound of traffic in the street, or by the flash of the speed camera on the pole or by the sounds of the starlings or grackles muttering outside in the high locusts in early spring.