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Exploring, Surviving, and Thriving

caleb.eckert's picture

1. I felt happiest on the Nature Trail (1), followed by the Meditation Room in Woodside (2), the front sitting area in the GIAC (3), the South Lot (4), and the organic chemistry lab (5).

2. My comfort came from a combined sense of quiet in a space and feeling at home where I was. In addition, I think my comfort and happiness stemmed from my personal connection to other places through my own memories and associations. The Nature Trail comes first on my list because, as I walked, I felt my shoulders relax, muscle tension release, and my pace slow almost immediately. Watching a squirrel rummage in the leaves, hearing birdsong cut through the motor sounds from the road nearby, breathing in crisp winter air—each of these reminded me of the wide open spaces that have always been present in my life. That environment cleared away my cluttered mind, at least for some time, as worries about “me” seemed far less important while regaining my senses in the woods. My time spent there was, and always is, a mental breath of fresh air. The Meditation Room is second because Woodside Cottage, as the name says, feels cozy, especially in comparison to the other indoor spaces I visited. Its distance from main roads made it an incredibly quiet and homey space, with old books stacked on the bookshelves and morning light coming through the windows. Yet I was also highly aware of my own presence in that space: it seemed too quiet, too empty; an uneasy heavy silence to be in for too long. The GIAC’s sitting area was not much to my taste. The glass windows brought in some natural light, but I was constantly aware of the echoing electronic hum throughout the building. There were sitting chairs and couches galore, but the space felt distinctly like a waiting room. Spending time in the South Lot was also strange. Being a parking lot, my experience walking slowly through it felt thoroughly foreign. I felt odd without a car or a “reason” to be there. It remained a temporary, transitory space that I had very little feeling of home in—not to mention the loud cars pulling in and out of the parking spaces. Lastly, the organic chemistry lab, with its various loud electronic hums, equipment names I didn’t understand, inside chemistry jokes taped to the machines, and complex microscopic processing techniques used for comprehension, seemed most distant from me. My lack of experiences in the natural sciences, the clinical and sterilized machinery, and the machines themselves made me feel the least comfortable of all the spaces.

3. For plants, the locations would begin with the Nature Trail (1), the South Lot (2), the front sitting area in the GIAC (3), the Meditation Room in Woodside (4), and the organic chemistry lab (5).

4. Plants are most comfortable with the right kind of soil and the right amount of sunlight and water, and so I ordered these locations as such. I also have some strange (perhaps contrived) sense that plants may also be somewhat “social” organisms that, to some extent, need one another to grow and live well. It’s just a feeling—and maybe I am projecting my own human needs—that plants often need to be somewhat close to each other to lead a good, healthy, balanced life. Space and proximity to other plants, then, is also a factor. The Nature Trail had much soil, running water, and varying spaces of direct sunlight and shade, whereas the organic chemistry lab had no plants, little space for them to live, and few windows.

5. The similarities between human and plants seem to be a need for some amount of space and setting to grow (physically and/or intellectually). There are places we can live in that allow us to survive, and then those that facilitate life beyond survival. Both plants and humans need to fulfill certain basic needs to grow at all, both built on our own hardiness and relationship to other organisms and conditions where we live.

6. For humans, comfort does not just mean a place to survive, but also place to be fulfilled in less tangible ways. Humans are reliant on the well-being of our memory-filled internal lives. Our capacity for higher-level thinking pushes us to seek contentment beyond physiological needs into psychological ones that are dependent on past experience and identity. That is, how we see ourselves in an environment plays largely into how comfortable we are in that space. Given ideal physiological conditions, a plant will grow in that setting without conscious thought. Plants, generally unable to move, cannot do much to change the conditions they have been brought into, whereas humans are able to manipulate places and things to fulfill their physical and intellectual needs.