While I hope to one day be lucky enough to travel abroad, it is unfortunately not something that I can currently enjoy. But luckily for me, I do not need to travel long distances to experience wonder. Even a short trip down the road to rest my feet in a gently-flowing creek and watch the sun set over the horizon has a profound effect on me.
My high school – the North Carolina School of Science in Mathematics – is residential, so it is easy to go on adventures with friends. One Friday afternoon, April sixteenth to be exact, my close friend Stephen and I set out in a new direction, into a neighborhood near campus. We had never travelled that way before and were curious as to what wonders it might hold. The houses and gardens were breathtaking, with a wide variety of architecture styles and colors. We were amazed that we had never noticed the beauty before – that we had never even bothered to travel in this direction. The afternoon became even better when we discovered a patch of woods with a creek, running beside an asphalt-paved trail. We found a sign that told us were at Ellerbe Creek, in Durham, North Carolina.
We walked along the paved trail for a few minutes, but Stephen and I are more fond of the feeling of pure nature on our bare feet than the feeling of rough, unnatural pavement. We found a lightly-used footpath that delved deeper into the woods, marveling in the beauty around us as we walked. Before long, we began to hear the sound of lightly-flowing water and knew that we had found the creek. We began our search for a place to sit and place our feet in the cool water. We were close to giving up when, unexpectedly, we found an absolutely perfect spot with smooth rocks and shallow water.
Sitting on the rocks together, enjoying the feeling of crisp, cool water on our feet was an amazing experience, but nature had more to offer still. It was dusk, and the sun was slowly descending. We watched the sky transform from one solid, cloud-less shade of light blue to four distinct phases of orange, purple, dark blue, and light blue, as if someone had painted the sky with wide, vibrant strokes. The sun continued to disappear behind the horizon until there was barely enough light to see each other. The water was still and murky black, filled with the doubt of nighttime. In that moment, the world was quiet.
And in the moment, I forgot about all the troubles of the material world. I forgot that there were houses thirty feet away, that campus with homework and drama was only a few hundred. My mind was at peace, surrounded by nature, with a person I love.
I do not need to travel across the sea to realize the beauty of the world. We do not need to go in search of beauty; we only need to open our eyes to the beauty already around us. That small trip, discovering a creek and watching the sunset, was all I needed. I have learned to find beauty when faced with intense emotions, to find beauty when overwhelmed by work, to find beauty when everything seems to be going wrong, to find beauty in myself – just by opening my eyes.
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