I never wandered too far beyond campus in past semesters, partly because I never had access to a car and partly because I was so busy with classes, jobs and extracurriculars. In the fall, with COVID restrictions, I found a little more time to explore Oberlin. With a few long walks I found spots that I now like to return to with friends, or read a book in the grass. If you’re reading this as someone who has never been to Oberlin, I encourage you to seek these places out if you’re on campus again. Without any more rumbling and grumbling I present to you three great places to sit and have a think:
1. The Little Reservoir
I’m definitely starting strong with this one. The first time I ever discovered this place, the sky was a strong blue and little clouds were traveling across, like a Pixar movie or a painting. The little reservoir is an almost perfect circle of water and when I found it, the sky was reflected in the water like a mirror. A large ring of grass circles the water and is dotted by benches. The infamous “if found swimming pay $100” sign has been artfully defaced at the forefront of the reservoir, and is a beacon of Oberlin College kids. The space is up on its own little hill, but surrounded by the edge of a golf course and woods. Everything around me seemed very green in the fall, and in the summer, when all the leaves are still on trees and more water is in the reservoir, it really feels like a huge, quiet pond. This is an ideal place for a picnic or sitting to reflect for a while. I’ve also been told it’s a good place to swim, but you didn’t hear it from me.
2. The Arb
The Arb, a loving nickname for the Oberlin Arboretum, is a classic place to take a walk, a book, or a friend. Apparently built on a swamp, the space is man-made. When Oberlin was first founded all the trees, plants, walkways and ponds found in the arb were planted and created so that there could be a space filled with nature near campus. A small forest passes a creek and opens onto large fields, flowers, and almost infinite winding paths. Once, when taking a walk in the fall I turned into an open field and saw three deer. One was a mother, chomping on some grass, and the other two were babies. They pranced around and I sat down to watch from afar.
The last time I was in the Arb I was on a run, passing a hill. Winded and tired, I stopped to listen to the wind rushing through the trees. Though it can start to look a little grey in the winter, the Arb is an incredible place all year around. Banks of snow on the little bridge that crosses the creek are just as peaceful as summertime rabbits hopping through tall grass. I’ve spent time in the Arb on runs, taking moments of peaceful reflection, building rafts out of sticks to float across water, reading books aloud with friends and trying (though failing) to identify wild berries. If I had to describe it in a phrase, I’d say it’s the kind of place that you want to take so many pictures of, but none of them can quite capture the exact way you’re feeling, or the exact light that comes through the trees.
3. The Solar Panel Field
What is this place? Tucked away in the corner of the track just beyond the gym, a field is filled with rows of massive solar panels. In the summertime, wild flowers and tall grass grow in thick patches along the dirt paths that curve around the field. When I first saw this space I was both confused and intrigued, but I’d recommend going simply to form your own opinions. The solar panel field is commonly used as a running path, and my initial introduction to the space occurred during a warm-up run for rugby practice. Go for a run there! Or if you hate running I’d recommend taking a journal or a book and finding a comfy patch of grass to spend some time on. I’m still not sure the exact purpose of every solar panel, but the overgrown nature, bugs and birds in the field are enough to make an afternoon there worthwhile.
Oberlin nature is a beautiful thing! I think being here in the summer, when the trees are truly green and the grass becomes easily overgrown, has given me a new appreciation for outdoor spaces. I urge anyone reading to take meals, books and art supplies outside if possible, whether it be in Oberlin or beyond.