This is my rock. There are many like it, but this one is mine. That one’s mine, too. All of these, actually.
I like to think everybody owns a little piece of this campus. We should, after what we pay in tuition, at least. Everybody’s got that one area, that one bench in the Shakespeare Garden or that particular study corral in 4 East that has their name written all over it. For me, it’s the Lakefill rocks, right at the southeast strip of the Lakefill, where the rocks still face east toward the lake but begin to curve a little south and out of the corner of your eye you can see the light pollution from the city.
I’ve lived in the same house in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania for 17 years now. When I was four years old my family decided to install a pool in the backyard. The construction process was long and grueling, but after a few weeks we had the finished project. All the neighborhood kids would come over to swim and it was everything we hoped it would be.
If it’s around 11:30 p.m. and I’m nowhere to be found, odds are I’m probably at the Lakefill rocks. Last year I would go almost every week and sit, staring out at the darkness, the total blackness where night meets water, or if I was in the mood the beautiful oranges and yellows of the city to the south, the waves crashing on the rocks below me, loud, deafening sometimes, spraying outward and upward, inward, sitting, thinking about everything and nothing all at once, a hodgepodge mishmash of thoughts rushing through my brain, or sometimes, blissful serenity. Just sitting and thinking, or not thinking.
I remember the first few weeks after they installed the pool I didn’t sleep a wink. I could hear it from my bedroom window, the new, unfamiliar sounds of the miniature waves crashing off of the walls, the steady flow of the water that should have been tranquil but irked me to no end. I complained to my parents about it but they told me it’d get better with time.
I remember hearing a parable when I was little: A man and a woman, madly in love, build their dream house by a scenic waterfall. They move in, only to be deafened by the sound of the waterfall. The two quickly begin to hate the house, the waterfall, and each other, and they fight constantly and their relationship nearly falls apart. Then one day, over breakfast coffee, the man looks up from the paper and asks his wife, “Do you hear that?” The wife looks up and asks, “Hear what?” The man smiles and says, “Exactly.”
They had grown to accept the sound of the waterfall into their lives. Eventually the noise of the pool waves disappeared, too, when I wasn’t actively listening for them, but from that day I could always pick them out and hone in on them from my bedroom window when I wanted to. I could ignore or generate smooth ocean waves at basically the flip of a switch. Instant tranquility.
The rocks give me the duality I have in my bedroom back home. They’re where I go when I’m feeling homesick, or maybe more accurately, when I haven’t called in three weeks and feel obligated to be homesick. Sitting on the Lakefill, looking at the old love notes or inside jokes painted on the rock faces, staring out at the vast blank canvas of the lake or the city to the south that will be my home for the next three years, awash with feeling and emotion, the sound of the waves crashing and dying around me tonight – or silence. Beautiful, beautiful silence.