Monday, May 25, 2009


Cornell University, one of the famed Ivy League schools, is situated for the most part on top of the hill overlooking Ithaca and Cayuga Lake. It is one of the most beautiful campuses among the Ivy League, of for that matter among American universities in general, because of the stunning setting of its locale.

I have fond memories of walking across the central quadrangle, the summer I spent here in 1990, of taking in the beauty of the place, and the imposing beauty of the campus buildings. Architecturally, Cornell is a good mix of old and new. Older buildings have been well preserved, and newer buildings have been well-integrated into the overall plan. One of the best ideas was to put the new university bookstore and library annex under the sprawling lawn of the park going uphill from the central quadrangle. That was a genuinely brilliant idea, as it mixes accessibility with preserved parkland.

Cornell's modern art museum

Today I drove around the campus a few times, before parking by the modern art museum and wandering further on foot. I was in no hurry, as the afternoon wore on, as I had already planned to camp out tonight in one of the region's state parks. I know the Ithaca region pretty well, by now, and the state parks nearby, from which there are many to choose.

The famous clock tower on the central campus is the tallest peak on this part of the hill on which the campus dwells. Sounding the hours, the clock tower is a central feature, and a way of tracking where and when you are, as you wander the campus and surrounds.

Late spring. Some of the office and residential buildings are surrounded by trees in bloom. The sunlight today is bright and warm, coaxing everyone outside. The sidewalk cafés in the university shopping area, on the hill just south of the central campus, are packed with folks. The semester will be over soon, and in the late afternoon, everyone's out to let off steam, and decompress from the long, snowy winter.

I wander back to the truck, and the late afternoon light striking some of Cornell's buildings is classically beautiful. Soon it will time to go back down the hill, set up camp, and cook dinner. A satisfying end to an afternoon of wandering and reminiscing, absorbed in memory, revisiting old haunts, re-examining my life here back then, and where I have come to, now. This was an important place to me, a pivotal place, even if only briefly inhabited.

And made more beautiful by all the trees now in full bloom.

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