SINGAPORE is not called the clean and green city for nothing. We have 415 parks and gardens all over the island. Considering how small a country we are, that’s plenty of green spaces. Where you find green, you get fresh air; and where you find fresh air, you get calmer, clearer minds, and readier smiles. Even music behaves differently under the open skies among the trees, the grass, and the breeze.
For a time when I lived near Marine Parade just 15 minutes away from the East Coast Park by foot, I always had the sense that the music that kept pace with my dawn brisk walks sounded freer and fuller. Certainly, with the iPod, you could crank up the volume with greater abandon and not have to worry about bringing the house down. But the volume was the least of it. The music always felt bigger, bolder and brighter—didn’t matter if it was Madonna or Mozart, Diana Krall or Joni Mitchell, flamenco or classical. It felt that way because of the sheer space and expanse around you.
One time, I danced alone in the quiet of a gazebo, with the screaming trumpets of Tito Puente’s band in my ears, and the racy, raucous jumble of Latin percussion. The salsa feet moved; I spun, and spun again, on my luminescent green Adidas, which didn’t look half as sexy as my nude-pink dancing shoes, but oh, what fun it was! It was a private, solo salsa session—no cover charge, no closing hour, with the sea for a view and the sea breeze to keep cool.
Gone are those East Coast days, since I moved to the west some three years ago. I may miss the East Coast, but I’m now in much closer proximity to the Botanic Gardens, Singapore’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here at the 156-year-old Gardens founded in 1859, there are gardens within the main garden—gardens I’ve walked and explored before but whose names (other than the Healing Garden) never quite stick, simply because there are too many. Of course, there’s the famous National Orchid Garden, but fees apply.
What I love best about the Botanic Gardens is that it is a happy place, one so fond and dear to me because the memory of one Sunday walk, when I was just four or five, still stays in my mind. I remember the clunky 1970s perambulator of my kid brother: was he strapped in it, or was he just starting to walk, I couldn’t quite remember. I only hold vividly in my mind that stretch of path that overlooks the Palm Valley and the Symphony Lake, probably not even called that then.
I hardly walk that path anymore, but the last time I did, the memory rushed back with an irresistible sweetness. We’ve all grown older, but the trees all around, they’ve always been there, strong and sturdy as ever. And the birds and the insects, they must have gone through so many cycles of new births and new lives. How priceless, just to able to catch that thought, to marvel, and to wonder, in our ultra-busy lives that sometimes crowd out memories and happy moments!
“The best things in life are free.” Write about some of the occasions
when you have found this to be true.
(‘O’ Levels 2014, Paper One, Question #4)
This essay was written on August 12, 2015
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