Fall 2017 Retreat

Reflection by Shruthi Rajasekar ’18

I have been looking forward to the retreat since I joined the Edwards Collective. Most of the people were not individuals I knew in Edwards, so I was excited to meet new people! I was supposed to be on campus during all of fall break for tech week of a new opera… but I insisted that they schedule the rehearsals around the retreat! So I went in with high expectations, and it did not disappoint.

There are many memories I could point to as my favorites: a beautiful walk to the Croton Gorge Park, deeply personal conversations on the lawn chairs overlooking the lake, astute comments from the brilliant RGSs between quiet work sessions,  making s’mores at the fire pit, conversations about cultural identity over dinner, thorough analyses of Met Opera productions, detailed discussions about the merits of various chords. Indeed, these were all incredible parts of the retreat that are worthy of reflection. Among the many things that inspire my endless gratitude for the Edwards Collective (including, but not limited to, living in that beautiful house, cooking and eating together, having a break from Princeton but being with my lovely peers, experiencing the pure beauty of Croton-on-Hudson, enjoying the awe-inspiring supply of avocados), I’m perhaps most grateful for the small Moleskin notebook that I was given for my retreat journey. Unlike my notebooks for class, which are clearly stratified, this one is a jumbled mess of notes, journal entries, tiny compositions, and several terrible doodles– and I love it.  

But perhaps the moment that has lived with me the longest is the spontaneous dance party on our last night of cleaning. We were faced with rather a tremendous mess– and suddenly, someone turned on some music, and we were dancing as we swiffered. It’s been a very long time since I’ve listened to music for pure pleasure; in the past four years, anytime that I’ve heard any remotely interesting sound, I’ve immediately started analyzing it. Hazard of the occupation, I suppose, but it’s been a little saddening to lose that simple bliss (even if the deeper study has ultimately brought more joy). If I need to relax, I tend to do so in silence. It was incredible, then, to experience the music as purely a vehicle for motion (never mind that I can’t dance to save my life)… made more powerful by our communal celebration and insane attempts at improvising harmonies. I’ll always remember how our DJ put on a song that I had heretofore considered rather banal– just a C Major arpeggiated chord. And yet, its unabashed sense of enthusiasm affected me in a way I can’t adequately describe. All I can is this: two weeks later, I was in Chicago for a nerve-racking interview, and, oddly enough, I successfully calmed myself down by thinking of this song. I didn’t know the name nor the artist (pathetic, I know), so I quietly sang it to myself during the cab ride from the airport. It’s funny… throughout the retreat, I had great conversations and insights that will no doubt improve my art-making, but this dance party–this unexamined experience of sheer joy– has had the greatest impact on me.