Place Collecting

22 Jun

I like collecting places.

I know what you’re thinking: Coral, how can you collect places?

To find the answer, you must take a peek inside my head. I’m not sure if other people see life this way, but the only way for me to find out is to share this facet of my ambidextrous mind.

When I find a special place, I write it down in my journal. Pictures just aren’t the same. Photographing places with words enables me to live the moment again; to see it, smell it, taste it, hear it and touch it. To feel it. Not with my senses, but with my heart. Images cannot stir this feeling, nor sounds nor smells alone. It is the whole that illuminates the heart. As Gestalt would say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each part by itself is pleasurable, but when you put them all together…what you have is magic.*

Some of my favorite places that I have collected over the years are:

1) Cape Cod in the summer; cozily cramped in a cottage just minutes away from the water. And those sunsets…feet comfortably snug in the white-and-gray sand, tall grass swaying to the soft, mellow song of dusk’s winds, watching the glowing, fading hues of the sky dip into the bay.

2) Eldorado Mountain in the spring; tepid winds and radiant sunshine, snow capped boulders and blossoming wildflowers, existing together side by side beyond the scope of the usual. But how can one expect the usual when gets the chance to see miles and miles of Colorado State?

3) The forest behind my former sleepaway camp in Upstate New York. Whenever I needed to clear my head or just felt like taking a few moments to appreciate the little things, I’d run to forest behind my camp, plop myself down on a rock and sing to the trees. I was a kid after all, and a very dreamy one as well, but sometimes, when I turn back to my memory of the canopying trees and the mossy, piney smell that floated on the wings of the wind, tranquility fills me and transports me back to that contented, peaceful feeling.

4) Doing flips off the deck onto a snow covered trampoline. Other kids couldn’t understand why I looked forward to going to Montreal for winter vacation. I saw it as my best kept secret.

I have so many more, but with my bedtime steadily approaching and sleep welling beneath my eyes, I would like to mention one place, a new place I have added to my collection.

I found it today as I made my way toward the OU office on Broadway. I’ve been to the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side and Midtown. I’ve taken the 1 all the way up to 181st and all the way down to the Ferry. I’ve braved the Q and and the B, hopped the 7 and the R (okay that was by mistake), but never had I taken the time stop and look at just how beautiful Downtown Manhattan is. I had been to South Street Seaport, but my mind wasn’t in the right place to appreciate what was around me. Yet today, I was overwhelmed my the aesthetic comeliness of the area.

But what was it that made it so beautiful?

The tall, majestic buildings.

The piano available for anyone and everyone to play on in Battery Park.

The easy accessibility to the same sight my ancestors saw when they first arrived to this country– Lady Liberty.

Not having to go to Midtown to get kosher food (thank you, Cafe 11!!).

Having the option of taking the Staten Island Ferry, a favorite pastime of mine.

Strolling through the sunshine, noticing other Jews along the way. Seeing other Jews makes me happy, even in the Jew capital of the Diaspora.

There were many factors that made this day a remarkable one, and the truth is, even if I stayed up all night trying to recall all of them, I would still be unable to convey to you just how wonderful it felt to be in that place at that moment. So for now, just take Gestalt’s word for it. Take it and run with it. Start your own place collection, if you haven’t already. Go out there, enjoy the sunshine, the scenery and all the parts that make the sum of G-d’s world so, so wondrous.

*Idea taken from author Wendlin Van Draanen.

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2 Responses to “Place Collecting”

  1. SternGrad June 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    I do this with times in my life and music. I first discovered this when I bought a new CD before a family vacation, listened to the CD a lot during the trip and then lost the CD. A long time later I heard a song from the CD and felt as though I had been transported back to the trip- memories came rushing back. I tried it when I left seminary- the month before I left I had bought a new CD and I picked one song which I listened to many times, and on the day that I left Israel I listened to it as many times as I could. I didn’t listen to that song for a very long time and now whenever I play it, I feel myself go back in time to that time and place in my life. If you listen to the song too often afterward then it wears off, but the power of music to do this is amazing.

    I’ve never tried collecting places by writing them down, but it sounds like an incredible experience! Your descriptions are beautiful, I can almost picture being there.

    • coralcap June 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

      I also have that with music, maybe even more so than with places. Just yesterday I recharged my iPod after not using it for a few months (it’s been having issues), and listening to those songs brought back really strong memories from high school. Some of them I enjoyed and some of them made me feel really awkward and strange; like I’d outgrown them.

      And you’re right. if you listen to a song too many times, it loses its sentimentality. There’s this one song I listened to, no joke, thousands of times during the last 3 months of 10th grade, and now if I listen to it, the songs goes in one ear and out the other.

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