March 2, 2016

LEUNG | A Collection

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We are sitting on top of a rock in Park Güell, feet dangling off the sides. It’s late December, but a warm wind ruffles my hair and blows across my skin. From our spot high up, we can see all of Barcelona sprawled out in front of us. La Sagrada Família’s unique structure and style stands out among the many buildings and, beyond and almost hazy, is the sea. An old man is playing the guitar at the bottom of the rock and the gentle tones drift into the air. I have the feeling he is trying to sell his CD to the many tourists enjoying this Gaudi spot, but no one is paying attention to that. As I perch, I am only aware of the presence of my sister and her friend sitting next to me, the peaceful ambiance the sound of the guitar creates, and the overwhelming feeling of being totally and completely at ease. The sun is setting slowly but I am here in one of the most vibrant cities and my heart is fire.

“Tuesday June 16, 2015

8:19 p.m., Adirondack Train: Montreal to New York City

The sun is setting outside and it’s beautiful. I feel so content and tranquil right now. The sky is blue with hints of warm orange and we’re rolling past green hills and open water and I’m at the window looking out and trying to take it all in. The clouds are white streaks. It’s weird that I have the entire summer free. I get so restless I need to keep going. I don’t ever want to feel as if I’m wasting time away. I want everyday to count. The sky is pink now. It makes the water look pink. I want love and I want adventure. I want to be myself and explore myself. The sky is a tangerine color. Orange now. The color is fading — 8:48 p.m.”

The rows of cacti seem to stretch on forever. I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe it’s because this is my first exposure to the Southwest, but everything about the landscape is blowing me away. The sky is huge, as if it might swallow me whole at any second. All the Edward Abbey quotes from the Desert Solitaire make sense now. Sitting high on a rock in Saguaro National Park  — I’m beginning to think I have a thing with rocks — I watch the sunset create a background for the hundreds of cacti. It’s a moment where I can actually hear nature, like it’s  breathing a sigh of relief because the day is over and the dry heat of the afternoon is fading. As the sun makes its descent, I feel the life from the sky and the ground and the wind and the cacti vibrating all around me.

I’m sitting on my bed in the dorm, hair still damp from a shower and wearing an oversized flannel (a man’s flannel, infinitely comfier and cozier than a woman’s). The Paper Kites are playing in the background. I lean back against my tapestry, cross-legged, totally surrendering to the wall. My friend sits in the chair across from my bed, just the two of us. As the sun starts to set, I shush him and watch as the soft light of the sun illuminates us for a short while. Then it sets fast, dropping, falling, out of sight.

The Stars.

We have only known each other for a week now, but that’s the funny thing about summer camps. It’s a three week program, and even though most of us aren’t even in the same one, we keep coming back to each other. There is something so comfortable and real about our interactions that make us find each other at the end of the day. It’s nighttime and we are hanging out together on the lawn, lying on our backs and looking up at the sky. Snuggling closer to him, I sing some lyrics from a Coldplay song (“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you”) while he laughs. We revel in the peacefulness of the dark sky and the flecks of light. I don’t know how long we lay there, with the stars watching us from above, but this moment is all I need.

We are making our way back from the party in a huge group, fumbling up the sidewalks and up the hill. We are happy and laughing, talking about the obnoxious guys who wouldn’t leave us alone at the party and our own dysfunctional lives. We are holding hands as if we need support, and maybe we do. I tell everyone to look up and see how there are so many stars in the sky tonight. It has to be the fact that we are in Ithaca; nowhere else have I seen the sky so full of light. They mirror the lights of downtown Ithaca you can see if you look down the hill and into the distance, as I do so often at night. Exhausted and tired, content and happy, we follow the stars back home.

It’s these moments that make me regain an appreciation for life — some of the best moments have not been crafted or forced, but occur at the most natural times. I remember stumbling upon a quote that read, “Collect moments, not things,” and from that point on those words have stuck with me. Moments are pieces that we look back upon, reminisce and cherish. The more we collect, the more we live.

Gaby Leung is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached [email protected]. Serendipitous Musings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.