Look Up, Look Down: Escaping to the Real World

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Tulip tree flower (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

When spring peeks stealthily through the trees, the smell of the air transports me – as it were – to my grandmother’s vanity table. There I used to sniff her talcum powder, inhaling an aroma reminiscent of flowers, patting my face with the fluffy white powder puff, until I looked like a singer in a Japanese Noh drama.

Memories like this pour forth when I walk through a lush garden not far from a busy street on a campus teeming with thousands of students. It’s amazing, it is, that this sanctuary – for that is what it is – exists. Brick paths, mulched paths, wooden pergolas entwined with wisteria, tiny surging streams filled with plump goldfish, all invite me away from Twitter’s constant chatter and the flickering screen of my computer.

I settle down on a warm flat rock by a tinkling stream and a dozen alert goldfish, the size of small cats, glide over to me, their mouths sucking at the surface. Hoping for a crumb or two, they soon drift away when they sense that I am not a food source.

For me, it’s about food, yes, but more than just for my muscles and my lungs and my brain. There’s a cavernous place in my soul, hollowed out by the inhumanity of people in the world today. It’s easy to stare straight at it and forget that’s there’s a solution, perhaps temporary, but still something on which to focus. The beauty of nature never disappoints me.

As sunlight strobes across the water of the stream, I look down again and see the fish once more, lazily swimming, oblivious to the screaming headlines and constant horrors that humans wrought.

The wind gusts and a large white petal floats down, landing on my heart. I look up and see the sky through the silhouette of a tulip tree.

Wonder overwhelms me, for the beauty here, in this small patch of ground, charges me like no cup of coffee ever could.

I get up and walk away. Back to an unreal world.

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Goldfish (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

© 2013 C. Bertelsen


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