To: S <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Min Seo Riu <email@example.com>
Subject: New beginnings, old sonnets, same college town
When rain comes to Isla Vista, it always feels symbolic to me, like somehow the torrential downpour signifies the end of something old and the beginning of something new. Last year, this new beginning arrived on the first day of spring quarter, which — for my roommate and I — started at 6 a.m., thanks to the timely tsunami warning. Rain drops as big as marbles flung against our fragile window panes, and thunder periodically punctured the silent dawn in Isla Vista. Last spring was also, coincidentally, the quarter that I met you. So maybe it’s not just a feeling after all, maybe it’s just my personal, fortunate omen.
As all quarters are prone to feel, winter in Isla Vista started off in an unorganized scramble for any available spots in the English courses offered. And in my scramble for any open spots, I slipped into a small lecture taught by my favorite professor and listened to him recite a John Keats sonnet to the class: “The moving waters at their priestlike task / of pure ablution round earth’s human shores.” That’s how Keats described the ocean, which I thought was very fitting during a week when everything — dirt, debris and old vomit on Del Playa included — seemed to be washing down the drain. I bet he wasn’t imagining our humble college town when he wrote that line, but every time I heard the rain start up again, I kept thinking about I.V. Pure ablution round earth’s human shores — or, in other words, a storm strong enough to wash I.V. anew and bring about fresh beginnings.
It must have been the storm and the Keats poem that made me think about leaving I.V. for the first time. And not just in a “Well, one day I’ll graduate” kind of way, but in a more permanent, looming sort of way. One day, just like Keats had picked up his pen for the last time, I’ll imagine I.V. for the last time. Do you think that I.V. will be one of the things you think about on your deathbed? I think it will be, for me at least.
I’d want to remember it just like this: the feeling that something new is on its way. All the cracks and crevices that people like to gloss over in favor of their new gentrified apartment buildings with heinous rent rates and perfect beaches with beautiful students lounging around. I know that people will always remember the UC Santa Barbara lagoon (whose waters might be a biological hazard, but it’s darn pretty anyway!), but what about the broken-down car that I pass every day on the way to the dining commons? Whose tire has eroded the sidewalk beneath it and created a mini-pothole, filled up with rainwater that the birds will take baths in.
And what about the storm drains that sound like rushing rivers? The worms that come out in the storms that I spend an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to pick up with a stick in order to move them to safety (L always behind me, impatient and shivering from the rain)? Or the bucket L and I accidentally left face up, accumulating rainwater, until a week later we notice a little ecosystem growing in the still water. Who will remember it and its disgusting, ecological glory?
Or, perhaps, more thematically relevant to our college towns and its inhabitants: who will remember the vernal pools behind Carrillo that fill up after rainy days and become homes for a variety of egrets, hawks and amphibians? As sacred as they are scraggly, giving life to something temporary … just like Isla Vista!
I’ll talk to you soon. I miss you always. Wish me luck for the next quarter!