Oberlin is no big city, in fact, it’s a very small town. Though attending a college in such a small town at the top of Ohio has its occasional draws, there are also moments and places that make it extremely worthwhile. For instance, there’s a creek everyone in the college knows about that is referred to simply as “the creek”; it’s a drive away, and yet we’re somehow all going to the same unnamed creek. Part of the magic of this place is that though everyone seems to know about it, I’ve never seen it filled with people. Instead, the times I’ve gone, my friends and I were the only ones around.
I was recently reflecting on changing seasons in Ohio and my surprise at the luscious nature that seemed to sprout up everywhere in the summertime. Thinking of all those shades of green brought back a great memory from summer semester, when only second- and third-years were on campus, finishing up our school years on the strange COVID school schedule of 2021.
In the summertime, we were all recently vaccinated for the first time, and the semester was marked by meeting new friends and outdoor adventures. I had met Ish and Jo, who were already friends, through mutual friends, and we decided to absolutely solidify what we decided would be a steadfast future friendship by all going to the creek. We had all spent time in groups together, but never just us three, so the car ride was a quintessential windows-down, air buzzing with excitement kind of excursion. We became sidetracked by a tire sale in someone’s front yard, but ditched the idea when we saw the size of the tires (up close) in relation to a human being. More importantly, on the meandering drive to the creek we came upon a huge sign tacked up to a barn that read Cherry Picking! Of course we pulled in and paid seven dollars for a gallon bucket.
In a matter of minutes we had crossed the road into a trove of cherry trees. We climbed up tree trunks and swatted at branches, reaching for the brightest cherries. Maybe we ate some out of the bucket or off the tree, but the pits that littered the grass proved we were not the first. The landscape looked unreal. The trees were heavy with fruit and like little kids we were holding each other up to reach the tallest branch, then turning to catch cherries in our mouths as Ish pelted them down with near perfect aim towards the beloved bucket. This memory felt like the epitome of summer, but as the light began to grow more golden, we realized we had never made it to the creek.
Scrambling back to the barn, then the car, we promptly rolled all the windows back down and rushed to catch the light as it flooded across fields and towards the creek. A long bumpy dirt road leads to a tiny parking lot and a walk through sparse woods to get down to the water. I remember the light filtering through the trees really beautifully and our cackling over some silly conversation as we bantered back and forth.
The water is deep at parts and extremely shallow at others so it’s always a surprise when first wading in. A swinging rope where a tire swing probably used to be hangs over the water, inviting mass splashing and good fun. We swam across the creek and started making our way further along the bank, not bothering to keep too much of an eye on our towels and other belongings left on the other side. At golden hour that day, we somehow had the entire place to ourselves. That is partially the magic of the creek. In the summertime, I constantly heard everyone talking about going or wanting to go, but the couple times I made it there with my friends, the space was always blissfully empty and extremely tranquil.
I didn’t know that these two people would become such close friends of mine that summer, but the memory of scrambling through the creek, up onto huge rocks to dry off under the sun is a really happy one. In the middle of the creek, we had a big chat and floated alongside each other. The trees are tall and thin and the leaves are rounded and bright green. There’s something both intriguing and terrifying about stepping into creek sludge as one tries to climb out back onto the bank. As the light began to fall, we made our way back in through the trees towards the car and drove back with huge wind blowing through the windows.
Oberlin is not a big city, it’s not a large town. But part of going to school in a space that is not crowded with people are the spaces that are peaceful and hidden away, like the creek. Those are the places where some of my best memories exist, and if I can give any advice to incoming students it would be to actively seek out those places, filled with nature where silly shrieking is encouraged and long conversations come naturally.
Responses to this Entry
It's actually called Chance Creek Nature Preserve, and has been owned by the college since the 1930s.
Posted by: David Walker on January 25, 2022 2:02 PM
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