The first time I came to Ohio was the summer after my junior year of high school. My mom and I rented a car for our big midwestern college tour road trip and I remember just how much we were pleasantly surprised by the verdant Ohio summer.
The earlier part of our trip was in Southern and Central Ohio, driving through lush rolling hills of endless corn and soy fields. I was born in the high desert of New Mexico and my mother has spent most of her professional life there, so any time I see greenery and bodies of water, a part of my soul sings (not to be cheesy or anything). We both commented on how rich Ohio seemed, not in the traditional sense, but in the sense that we could see very obviously just how much water there was, and how much wealth because of it.
I was worried about leaving behind the sky and mountains of my home when I moved to Oberlin. 1,500 miles makes a lot of difference, and although I didn’t feel that connected to the New Mexico landscape growing up, it has become more important and meaningful to me the longer I’ve been an Oberlin student.
During the fall especially I miss the bright yellow strip of forest lining the river that runs through town, little hot air balloons floating high in the distance (because of the balloon fiesta), and the sandhill cranes migrating before winter hits. That being said, in spending a long time away from Oberlin, I forgot it was possible to miss the Ohio landscape, too. Between January and August of 2020, I was in other places in the world, and coming back to Oberlin at the end of summer has reminded me just how beautiful this place is in a way that is strikingly different from the place I’m from.
When I first got back to Oberlin, I remembered how intensely green everything is. During my first week back, I probably went to the Arb, a favored student hang spot, especially now that outdoor gatherings are so much more popular, at least three times. Each time I was amazed all over again by emerald light filtering through what seems like row upon row of thin, tall trees.
Trips to Chance Creek, a nearby nature area, and walking and biking on the Oberlin bike path, were further reminders of the physical beauty of Oberlin and the surrounding area. If you had told an 18-year-old Ruth that she would come to love the corn fields, silos, red barns, and muted cotton-candy sunsets of Ohio, well, I would have been skeptical. But it’s true, and my long absence from Oberlin really has made my heart grow fonder for this place.
Oberlin fall is on its way. It’s still green, but the weather has cooled down and some trees are starting to bare their fall foliage. This past weekend, we had a cold morning and I treated myself to a coffee from Slow Train (the first coffee I’ve bought since March probably) and a beautiful bouquet from the farmer’s market, which ends in late October.
On Sunday, I walked to an epic yard sale my two housemates had discovered. The house was at the end of a street that parallels the Arb, replete with a beautiful garden out front and several pro-Biden/anti-Trump signs. The woman running the sale even gave me and my housemates some kale and tomatoes from her garden. As I walked back, plastic bag full of cheap thrifted clothing and a candle holder I found for free on the side of the road, I felt so blissful. I couldn’t help appreciating the glorious end-of-summer-beginning-of-fall feeling in the air.
A few days ago I borrowed my friend’s new (used) bike and took it for a spin on the Oberlin Bike Path. The bike path is part of a longer trail called the North Coast Inland Trail. It’s also one of the greenest places in Oberlin. During my 40-minute ride, I saw Ohio turning slowly to gold. The bike path parallels lots of agricultural fields, and I could see the corn turning yellow and swaths of goldenrod lining the path.
Ohio goes from green, to gold, to grey, and if you’re lucky, glittering crystal blue-white. As I biked along, only the wind in my ears, I was truly happy and stress-free. The best way I can describe it is that Ohio looks like the way a melancholy and beautiful folk song feels. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I resonate with it.
Right now, since my movement is confined, I have a renewed appreciation for my surroundings and the green bubble that is Oberlin, Ohio. I know that when the weather turns cold and grey, we’ll all wish that it was still summer, with damp air, green canopies, and evening rainstorms; or fall, with its myriad colors, crisp breezes, and golden light. So I’m trying to enjoy it all while it lasts, reveling in this place I’m lucky enough to call a second home.