nature, photography

a day of mindfulness

It couldn’t have been more beautiful this past Saturday afternoon. The sky was bright blue and the air was crisp. Sylvan and I decided it would be fun to do a little exploring while the sun was shining. Neither of us have really explored the Oregon State campus in detail, outside of attending community events, going to class, or checking out the amazing earth art willow installation by Patrick Dougherty.

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Our campus venture began as we walked through the beautiful aisle of huge oak trees that line Campus Way. Hearty green and gold moss hugged the sidewalks as we walked down the path. We stopped at each bench, each inscription, and took time to appreciate all the small details of the path. We made connections, had realizations, and shared our appreciations at each commemorative marker that we visited. It was so rewarding to take the time to observe all of the little things that get passed by each day, usually without a second thought.

A lot of the buildings are locked on the weekends but, luckily, some of them have weekend entrances. These are usually side doors, or somewhat more obscure entrances. From the second story windows of the historic Benton Hall*, we could hear a plethora of intermingled instruments. Violin vibrations sang out of one window while another person practiced brass horn major scales from a different room. A piano’s acoustic energy filled the air along the sidewalk as we walked up to the side entrance. I had chills dancing across my body!

The halls were empty inside, but you could hear the sounds of muffled music coming from all directions. I was fascinated by the height proportions of the women’s restroom door. It was double the size of a standard-sized door. Sylvan went to go look for the men’s room and he realized that the two washrooms used to be one, long lavatory. They have since been divided by a thin wall, but that doesn’t stop two people (most likely a boy and a girl) from hearing each other as if they were just a stall away.

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From here, we ventured across campus, peeking in buildings and taking unknown paths whenever possible. Sadly, two of the buildings we really wanted to explore were on complete lock down, so we will have to go back during business hours to sneak around. It is just so much more magical when the halls are empty and quiet and you get to peek around corners just for the fun of it.

We decided to continue our exploring towards downtown and we stopped at many landmarks that had previously peaked our curiosity. It was a very peaceful walk, with lots of conversation, but also lots of silence. We explored the old passenger car, the depot, some back alleys and neighborhoods. We sat and talked about our observations at a small neighborhood park and decided to take a moment to read a passage from Being Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh. I flipped open the book and went to a random passage. It happened to fit so perfectly with our adventures thus far:

“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax, to be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.”

From there, we walked along the sidewalks, helped a woman push her vintage pickup from her driveway, collected some sap from a bleeding tree, ran into a friend, and searched out the poem of the month house. Being the first week of March, we were delighted to find a fresh stack of poems, just waiting to be shared and discussed. This month’s poem was titled “Daffodils“, by Franz Dolp.

I looked Franz up when I got home and saw that he was a retired OSU economics professor that, sadly, had passed away after a car accident in 2004. It was really inspiring to read about his life and his adventures and his deep appreciation for nature. In the article, one friend of Dolp’s commented, “He’s one of the few people I met who seemed fully present. Whatever was going on, he could fully attend to it.”

These are definitely words and appreciations that we should all consider each day the sun rises and each evening the moon appears. Dolp was obviously a very inspiring man, and sometimes we don’t recognize all that we are thankful for until the time has passed and people have moved on.

Our day taught me many things about the history, accomplishments, and appreciations of this little town — and those lessons and gained knowledge extend far beyond the city limits. I know from here on out, I will think of our day, of Franz Dolp, of our discoveries and reflections, and I will remember to take a breath, clear my mind, and remember to live in the present. I want to always be thankful for what I have today, and for the people that have come in and out of my life. And most importantly, to call my family more often to let them know how much I love them and how much I am thinking of them all the time.

*A bit about OSU’s Benton Hall: “First called the College Building or the Administration Building, it has been known as Benton Hall since 1947.  The building was paid for by the citizens of Benton County at a cost of $25,000 and dedicated in 1888.  It is a frame building with a brick exterior; the brick was cemented over in 1899. The original entrance was a large stairway up to the 2nd floor, which was removed in 1899.” {source}

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