It took a weekend like the unseasonably warm one just past to remind Metro Scene how much wilderness and tranquility remains close to the middle of this huge metropolitan region. Driving on the George Washington Memorial Parkway upstream from Key Bridge, you're plunged within less than a minute into a remarkably rural environment.

On Saturday, two of us picked up carry-out sandwiches and drove to the parkway overlook that provides a panorama of the Potomac River just upstream from Fletcher's Boat House, as seen through the trees across the Potomac River in Washington.

Below was the surprisingly green river channel. On the beach on the far shore pranced two white Alsatian dogs. One spotted an animal swimming in the river and swam to catch it.

As the dog approached, the critter -- apparently a beaver -- did a splash and dived underwater. The dog retreated, then returned, and the scene was repeated. When the dog left permanently, the critter continued paddling about, once ducking a rock thoughtlessly thrown by some inhumane human on the far shore.

My companion, as I, was entranced. "I've seen beaver dams while at Girl Scout camps and the like," this native of the Los Angeles area said, "but I've never, until today, ever seen a beaver outside a zoo. And right here almost in the middle of Washington!"

Our town is a treasure in many ways more often than we think.