Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

It’s so easy to feel trapped. When I spend long stretches of time in my house, in my room, in my mind, my thoughts can overwhelm me. I come to believe that everything is that of which I think and that with which I interact. This solipsistic feeling can consequently cause my problems to magnify. I need some kind of escape to get out of this rut I have dug for myself. So, I venture outside and take a walk to the park near my house. Once I get there, I walk along a cement path as rollerbladers and dog walkers pass me by, until I reach an opening on the side of the path. I see in the distance dark trees that border a sunlit vista, and it beckons me. I follow a woodsy trail that opens into a vast meadow. Here is where I find myself in an oasis of unfettered nature tucked inside suburbia. Massive oaks soar vertically and kiss the empty, expansive blue sky. Just below them, the ground is totally saturated with flora in rich greens, earthy browns, and sweet pinks, with tiny white daisies acting as speckled adornments to the entire scenery. It is oh-so-silent, save the occasional sound of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze.

I like to pretend that this space is completely unknown to everyone else, and therefore entirely belonging to me. It is my own secret place — though the occasional discarded Doritos bag will try to prove otherwise. Sometimes I come to this spot to read or sketch. But usually I come just to sit and take it all in. Being in the meadow, surrounded by such awesome stimuli, shows me just how much more there is to the world outside of my own skull. When I look around and see the trees, flowers, and blades of grass, I’ll think of how every last one of them grew here without my knowledge or help. When I feel and hear the wind blow, I’ll think of how it touches not just me, but everything else here. And when I avert my gaze upwards and watch the clouds rolling, I’ll think of how the earth is always moving, always progressing. For this moment, not only do I leave all of the superficial traditions of human civilization, but I am taken outside of my mental prison and I become a part of a greater whole. I realize that there is so much to the universe beyond my perceptions and interactions, and that all will still operate even when I fail. In the grand scheme of things, I am a small and insignificant entity — and that is perhaps the most comforting thing to know.

Blaise Pascal stressed that we must know our own limits, for we are something but not everything. All too often we get lost in the trivialities that define our own lives, and confuse them as applicable for the world as a whole.We become self centered and relate our own successes, or lack thereof, to everything else surrounding us. Thus, we easily lose hope. I am not exempt from this toxic thinking pattern. However, my visits to the meadow in the park allow me to step outside of this, at least for a little. I am reminded that the world is immense and awesome. It offers so much, and all it asks for in return is our participation.

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