Oberlin Blogs

A Down Home Swingin' Circle in the Sea (of Tranquility?)

December 8, 2022

Sean Norton ’25

I have a propensity for dressing like a cowboy. It’s wonderful and I encourage all of you to try it, but it’s also worth noting that I am very much not from the land of cowboys and in fact have never ridden a horse. That being said, I am a cowboy. Admittedly my taste leans more to the rhinestone side of the profession, and I have the whole nine yards: black and gold embroidered Western shirts with pearl buttons, a selection of shiny belt buckles, rattlesnake skin cowboy boots and a ten-gallon turquoise hat—not to mention my newly acquired pair of flaming bullwhips. The look has seen a lot of refinement over the years, but tragically few rodeos. 

Rather than pursuing my rodeo clowning career, I went to a very hippie dippie crunchy granola high school where every week all the students and all the staff would get together in the gym and discuss, amend, and vote on proposals submitted by anyone to change anything at all about the school. I could often be found in the center of the gym, bedecked in my full cow wrangling regalia, facilitating the democratic process. It was great. 

Lacking such an outlet for cowboy attire here at Oberlin, and lacking the gall to pull up to my first semester of classes dressed like a nut, I had sadly stowed my stetson in my dorm. But soon enough, I saw the poster for Country Night at the Sco, and knew immediately what I must do. Now, I don’t even really like country music, but I missed being a cowboy, so I gathered some of my friends, donned my boots, coiled my whip at my side, and moseyed on over to the Sco to be greeted by Dolly Parton’s drawling tones. 

And it was a blast! For like 40 minutes………

So we bailed to the big porch outside of Wilder Hall and sat around talking for a while. But dejected we were not! For we had heard about a happening later that night at a couple of my friends’ co-op, Harkness. No one had very much information besides “Show up at 11 for the Jellyfish Parade!” So we did, and to our surprise and delight discovered a variety of giant cloth jellyfish on poles and sticks and rods and heads being bucket-brigaded out the door and distributed to a massive throng of people gathered in Hark Bowl. Many of these homebrew jellies had rows of light strung through them, and the blue and turquoise glow they gave off lent the jubilant crowd a nautical bent. Next came the organizers, who laid out the plan: March and sing through campus on the way to the arch in Tappan Square, where we’d all fall silent and give our thanks to the full moon. 

They began to lead us in the jellyfish song, a simple, eerie melody to be sung by several hundred people. Rather captured by the whole affair, we joined in and began to process in a snaking column towards Tappan Square. My friend Noa, herself a member of Hark, ran inside to grab her guitar and headed to the front of the snake to join the cadre of live instruments adding to the chorus. Farther down the line, the rest of us walked and sang in lockstep with strangers till we reached the archway and our jelly snake—perhaps a siphonophore, as it were—dissolved into an amorphous blob. 

The music died, and everyone cast their gazes upwards, to look upon the shining countenance of our oldest satellite. Silence fell, and stayed fallen much longer than I would have thought for an otherwise raucous event. But after some moments of lunar reflection, the fiddles struck back up again, with a jaunty reel this time, and everyone circled up, joined hands and began to dance and whirl in a series of concentric rings. It’s pretty hard not to giggle in delight when getting pulled off your feet to jolly bluegrass. 

This first parade was by far the most cult-like activity I had participated in in quite a while, and definitely the most heartwarming. It was just the sort of strange ritual I had hoped to find out here. And I haven’t missed one since. 


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