Over 200 miles away from the rather obscure city of Providence, my site of observation is located at the heart of Princeton University in the little-less-obscure city of Princeton. Legend has it that the school is so kickass that they decided to name the entire city after it.
It is a beautiful campus, I have to admit, with majestic gothic architectures spread generously across the vast areas of green. My observations are made in a rather modest, rectangular-shaped lawn of approximately 2500-square-feet surrounding Spelman Halls, an apartment-complex style dorm emanating a distinctly modern vibe from the exterior. Soft and neatly cut, the lawn manages to retain its greenness amid the relentless February cold as it forms a mild contrast with the asphalt road (Pyne Drive it is officially called) leading upwards to the gym. The landscape appears rather flat – both literally and figuratively – until you consider a tall poplar. Poplar is a poplar is a poplar is a poplar. Home to many a squirrel. But is it actually a poplar? Does the physical matter of the tree mean poplar? I will tell for sure in the spring once the leaves grow out. At the risk of getting theoretical.
I stand beside the rock stairs that led to the dorm entrance. A sunny Saturday morning, surprisingly warm. Above 40 degrees for sure, very likely hitting 50. Through the crisp morning breeze I first peer through the branches. Naked and thin, but neatly spread out in a brazen sort of self-determination. Amid the muted serenity of the background they even seem slightly obnoxious. The ray of morning sunshine dissipates through their numerous fingers. The glittering light enters my eyes, scattered into salty grains. I squint. Only if the leaves were there – things would have been a bit more pleasant, I figure.
A squirrel climbs up the tree. Even the squirrels talk quantum physics at Princeton, two sources familiar with the matter (a.k.a. my girlfriend and her roommate, who are current students there) confirmed. That one’s surely a character. Its thighs thick and muscular, it glides up the bark like a natural-born baller. An existential gesture, peculiar for a winter. It offers a sign of life, I mean, a genuine one compared to that of the oppressed grasses, unanimously lying prostrate.