Book Ends

Ithaca is really quite stunning. There are parts of it that are adequately bustling and busy, but Zibin’s residence is tucked away uphill in a residential niche that’s peaceful and quiet. Unlike Downtown Toronto where amenities, groceries and entertainment are just short walks away, the city of Ithaca (NY) sprawls over the slope of a hill (though being several hundred feet high it could be considered practically a mountain by Singaporean standards :P) and is quite inaccessible by foot.

Several times today I was captivated by beauty. With no tall buildings around, the sky here seems to be endlessly vast. As we drove downhill to campus, the view of the whole city amidst thick greenery and the backdrop of Cayuga Lake was breath-taking. I can only imagine how exquisite autumn would be here. I definitely hope to admire the fall colours in Ithaca this year (Zhen, when’s the best time?).

I liked Ithaca the very first time I visited way back in May 2000 (I think the date is right). It was a breath of fresh air, coming from Toronto. The greenery, the lake, the waterfalls, streams and ragged gorges and the quiet life here struck my fancy. I remembered thinking that Weizhen could visit Toronto for civilization and good food, and that I could visit Cornell for its amazing natural beauty.

Being here really reminds me of the year I spent in “Scarberia” (Scarborough/Siberia) in ’98-’99. Away from ‘civilization’, from family, and friends, but plonked in a ‘chalet-like’ campus. Those first few months were my sabbatical from the hurried existence I had lived until then. I learned to appreciate the beauty of simply being alive… of breathing crisp, fresh air… walking under brilliant blue skies… I even came to appreciate the process of eating a simple meal at a new level. It was the first time in my life I was so much alone, and yet I felt more fully alive and in tune with myself than ever before.

It’s my last year in Toronto, and once again I’m given an opportunity to experience living in a peaceful and naturally stunning environment. True, I wouldn’t be in Ithaca as much as I was in Scarborough. And even when I’m here, I’m far from being alone *smile*. And yet, there is a quiet here, and a solitude, that almost seems like a friend come to visit me from 7 years ago.


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