Due to the pandemic, much of my first year on Notre Dame’s campus was spent outside. Growing up, I did not particularly appreciate the outdoors. To me, the outdoors was a stinky unknown always filled with lots of bugs (never a good time). I thought the outdoors were beautiful from afar, but I did not desire to go on walks or sit outside and appreciate nature. My first year at Notre Dame pushed me to spend more time outside. At first, it was stressful – there were so many bees and giant ants – but I soon became acclimated to those creatures and the nature here. Once I finally moved past focusing on the bugs, I found myself looking up to squirrels, the trees, the sky, the stars and the beautiful architecture around campus.
Notre Dame’s campus is known for having a lot of plump and brave squirrels. From the time I was young, each year, I would count the number of squirrels I saw starting in the fall. Because I did not spend much time outdoors, my squirrel counts often totaled no greater than 40 squirrels a year. It did not take long at all for me to reach and quickly surpass that previous record. My first semester, I counted over 400 squirrels! In the spring, I counted over 200. And now, in case you’re wondering, I’m at 323 squirrels counted for this semester. While the squirrel count may seem silly, it encourages me to look up and witness the great nature and life all around that I may not have noticed before.
While some people run to deal with stress, I find myself walking to relieve stress. When things for classes get overwhelming or stressful, I go on walks around campus. Similar to the reminder to look up created by the squirrel count, going on walks helps remind me of my place in creation and help me find a sense of peace with all the nature around me. Often on these walks, I either pray or pick a playlist to listen to. In both cases, I make sure to put my phone away so that I can focus on looking up and taking in the world around me. Especially this autumn, the leaves have been captivatingly beautiful. Intense reds and oranges fill the quads, and the constant stream of leaves floating through the sky as they fall makes for picturesque walks.
We are so blessed here at Notre Dame to have two beautiful lakes. These lakes are a perfect space to get away from schoolwork and take a relaxing break. Whether it’s a walk around the lakes, an afternoon spent in a hammock with someone dear to you or watching the sunset or sunrise, the lakes make for a perfect escape.
Growing up in a city meant I was never really able to see the stars at night. The last night before I left for break at the end of my first semester, my friends and I sat on God Quad and took in the stars. Since then, whenever I am outside and it is dark, I look up to see the stars. Sometimes the clouds mean I am unable to see the stars, but often the clouds themselves look beautiful, even at night. Looking up at the stars reminds me of how much more is out there, and the grandness of creation helps place any troubles I have in a context that makes them seem far more surmountable.
Then, of course, there is the beautiful architecture around campus. From The Word of Life mural at the library to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to the Grotto to the Golden Dome, Notre Dame enhanced the natural beauty and life of the campus with elegant buildings. As an aside, if the permacloud ever makes you feel sad, know that the Golden Dome magically shines even brighter when it is cloudy. In all, I am so very thankful for getting to live, learn, and grow on a campus with so much beauty all around, reminding me of God’s creation and the great love He has for us. Know that you are so loved, dear reader.
Follow HCND on Twitter, like us on Facebook, Pin with us and show our Instagram some love!