Here's what I can see from the window of my office: Steve Barr's office. And through the far window of my fellow columnist's office, I can see . . . another office.
Should I feel like changing my view, I can push back from my desk, turn away from the "window" and rotate in a clockwise direction in my desk chair. Then I will see: wall, filing cabinets, wall, pillar, back of my assistant Alex MacCallum's head, wall.
I tell myself that a breathtaking view -- or, in fact, any view -- of the outside world would just distract me from my very important job.
This is not to say that I don't appreciate a pleasing vista. Walking around Washington is like being inside a kaleidoscope: The views shift and change, arranging themselves into pleasing panoramas.
Not long ago, I asked readers to tell me what they saw when they looked from their windows at work or home.
Tim McCoy works in the National Museum of Natural History, where he's in charge of the Smithsonian's meteorite collection. From his office, he has a nice view of the gothic revival Smithsonian Castle designed by James Renwick.
But it's not that striking building that attracts Tim's attention. He likes stealing glances at the carousel on the Mall. "No matter how bad the day," Tim wrote, "I can look out and watch the young kids riding around on the ponies. . . . Kind of helps me keep everything in perspective and reconnect with my own inner child."
Kevin Kirby also catches a glimpse of the monumental city from his office in a Rosslyn high-rise. "At least once a day -- and sometimes many more, depending on how busy I am -- I will roll my chair over or stand right next to the window and look to my left. From this angle, my best view is of the Lincoln Memorial, where I proposed to my wife on the steps on a numbingly cold January night a little over three years ago."
Kevin says if his desk was one wall down, he'd have sweeping views of the Potomac. "I'd be worried, though, that I'd get used to it. This way, the view always gives me chills."
The Capitol is a signature icon, and Steve Livengood says one of the best views of the glowing white orb can be had from the fourth-floor development office at the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, where he's chief guide.
Wrote Steve: "In the winter, the spectacular late-afternoon sunsets appear right behind the Capitol dome and make for a constantly changing inspirational backdrop. We often open the blinds and gasp for the sheer beauty of it."
As nice as that view is, though, Steve said that his favorite was the one from his American University dorm room in 1965. "From the top floor, north end room of the old Letts Hall section, my roommates and I had a spectacular view of the Cathedral and Washington Monument. It could be seen only from that room."
Sara Prohaska had a similar experience when she was a student at George Washington University and lived in Francis Scott Key Hall, at the corner of 20th and F streets NW. "From my bed next to the window, I could lay there at night and see the Washington Monument. What could be a better view? I live in Philadelphia now, but I miss D.C. horribly. I long to look out and see the fabulous views of an amazing city."
Jeanette Mims works at the Department of Agriculture's Cotton Annex Building, at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW. From the kitchen on the sixth floor, "the Jefferson Memorial looks like a stone's throw away." She also can see the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the 14th Street Bridge and the Pentagon. "I have been a Washingtonian all my life, and every time I head to the kitchen here, I have to look out of that window."
Lisa Byington also has a view that she says is "classic D.C.": the taxicabs jockeying for position in front of the Fairmont and Hyatt hotels at 24th and N streets NW. She watches from her law firm office as the drivers pull U-turns and three-point turns, "impervious to the honks of through-motorists who just want to get past the logjam." Lisa says the drivers "handle their big metal beasts with ease. . . . It may not have the beauty of the cherry trees or the Monument, but it's interesting and distracting nonetheless."
The internal combustion engine also captivates Robert Albritton, whose office on Commerce Street in Springfield overlooks the Mixing Bowl. "I often look out on the work and watch the traffic when I need a break."
You'd expect the view from Columbia Heights to be good, especially if you were on the fourth floor of a building called the Highview. And Vahan Callan's is: "My view spans from the Washington Monument, downtown, National Airport, Foggy Bottom, the National Cathedral, Columbia Heights and of course the vibrant and exciting neighborhood directly below."
Deborah Sola revels in nature from her 16th-floor Rosslyn condo. "Sunrises and storms are particularly spectacular, and I've seen some incredibly vivid rainbows that hang just outside my balcony." Fifteen feet away is a pair of buzzards roosting on an office building balcony. "They are so ugly, they are almost cute," she wrote. "I wouldn't trade my nest in the sky for anything!"
Some views are universal, others are incredibly personal. "What I see from my front door would seem mundane to most," wrote Jim Hartman, "but it has a special meaning for me."
Last summer, after being away from home since 1968, Jim returned to the Silver Spring house where he grew up and bought it from his stepfather. "Being back here allows my spirit to intertwine with those of my departed parents, of my siblings, and of the many friends who passed through its doors. It is nice to say, 'I am home,' and to once again enjoy a view that, for so long, I took for granted."
Proof that a view sometimes registers on more than just the eyes.