I was having a bad day. It was the usual type of bad day for me; no one particular thing happened, just lots of little ones. I had a toothache. I found out that a correction was made to a recent midterm that doesn't help me, so it brings me down closer to the mean, in a class graded on a curve. I found out that my car needs minor service. And so on.
So I needed a break from the world. I've never liked going on walks very much in the city. I guess I don't appreciate the serenity and beauty of artificial things, or something like that. But I decided to try a walk anyway. I grabbed my Discman, put in Animals by Pink Floyd, put on my jacket, and left.
Pigs On The Wing, Part One. I leave my dorm and decide to head down to the Biopond area. It's the closest thing I can think of to the calming, natural environment I'm looking for.
Dogs. I've never been to the Biopond this late at night alone before. It's pitch black out, and I don't really know my way through the small park and gardens. It's a little scary. But I'm enjoying it. "If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?" I decide to turn left at the fork, push my way through 8 foot bushes on both sides, and make my way down to the pond. For the first time since I left the main walkway for the Biopond, I see other people. A couple sitting on a bench on the other side of the pond. I make an effort not to make eye contact. I don't want to disturb the peacefulness for them; I want to be part of the nature for them, if anything.
Pigs (Three Different Ones). I walk over the waterfall, stopping to hear the water rushing over the sounds of the music. And finally I am a bit more relaxed. I go off to the end of the pond, out of view of the couple on the bench. I sit on a picnic table, admiring shadows and trees and water and nature. I feel a part of it. I head out, over the waterfall again, and get lost in the gardens again. On my way back to the main path, I notice the sign posted, asking visitors to Please Respect This Fragile Place. "Ha ha, charade you are." It seems so out-of-place for something to admit its own fragility in the middle of Philadelphia. But that's exactly what the Biopond is, a beautiful icicle which somehow has earned the respect of those who know of it.
Sheep. I head into the Quad, a place I've always relished for the juxtaposition between natural and artificial. "Things are not what they seem." I wander to the balcony overlooking the vast courtyard, surrounded by dorms on all sides, reminiscent almost of a prison. I lay down on a bench, looking up at the stars. At the occasional helicopter. I hear the faint din of a cell phone conversation behind me. And the real world slowly starts to come back into view. But I stay on the bench for a bit longer.
Pigs On The Wing, Part Two. "Now that I've found somewhere safe to bury my bone." I get up and go inside, to warm up and catch up with friends.
Two hours later, I was back on the balcony for the annual Penn tradition, the Econ Scream. At around midnight, hundreds of people all scream simultaneously, supposedly because of the stress of the next day's Econ midterm, except that most of the people who were on the balcony probably don't even take Econ. I didn't scream, I just sat and watched and smiled. And then there were occasional, shorter screams in the minutes following, as the much-hyped yet sparsely-populated corollary to the Econ Scream, the Econ Streak, began.
In some respects I had come full circle, yet I felt much better by the end. Somehow.