The Southern Ridges

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Yesterday I ran to the top of Mount Faber without stopping on my fourth try. Fourth try! I'm really out of shape. At 106 meters (348 ft), Mount Faber is one of the higher hills in Singapore. It is part of the Southern Ridges, a trek through nature established and maintained lovingly by National Parks Board.

From Mount Faber, you could run, or walk, to Telok Blangah Green and then to HortPark, a one-stop gardening resource center. There in the orderly park you could run into Ralph Waldo Emerson, or at least his words. He tells us still that "The earth laughs in flowers." As is characteristic of the American philosopher and writer, the words are unforgettable. Flowers appeal to our eyes and nose. They can even be touched and eaten. But heard? As bursts of laughter from the earth? So they are.

I have the good fortune to meet many flowers of Singapore on this visit. Even in this carefully manicured place, nature works its surprising magic. A younger queer poet who defies good taste by dwelling hungrily on the prepuce of Christ. A literary scholar who wants to chart the cultural exchanges and transformations in the Islamicate world to find a way of talking about Islam without referring to theology solely. A teacher who left his profession to set up a cafe called Populace. A lawyer who left his big law firm to adjudicate heartrending family court cases.

And most surprising, perhaps, the bursts of laughter that still emit from the treasure of an old climbing vine. A well-loved independent publisher who has retired, only to help a friend create from scratch an on-line platform for the printing and distribution of books that looks set to change the game in Singapore. Nature finds a way not only to grow but also to renew. There is hope yet that I will run without stopping the entire Southern Ridges, all the way to the Labrador Nature Reserve.

Jee Leong Koh
July 11, 2019


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