The Oberlin Stories Project

On combining interests in creative writing and environmental studies

Becca Orleans ’16

“In providing a text that shares experiences of running and strength in running, I hope that this collection helps women feel more empowered to openly move throughout the environment.”

Becca at the shore

As a freshman it was easy, at first, for my world to become very small. I went from my co-op to my classes to the library. When a place is unfamiliar, I like to stick to what I know. That tendency kept me from seeing Oberlin for what it fully is.

I started to expand my Oberlin world second semester when I picked up running in my free time. Through running I’ve found the bike path, the reservoir, the solar panels, ideas for essays, and words for short stories, among other things.

In her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit writes that walking is a way of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world. I feel this way about running. I’ve developed a greater understanding of Oberlin and my place at Oberlin through traveling it on foot.

As a creative writing and environmental studies double major, people often ask me how I’m going to merge the two fields. I sometimes think about this question while I run, especially as graduation looms nearer. While on a run at the beginning of my junior year, I found that an answer to this question lay in the practice of running itself. Running is the most time I spend outside every day. It’s how I’ve gotten to know Oberlin, how I’ve become intimate with the surrounding landscape. It is, in a sense, the most “natural” or “environmental” part of my day. From talking to other runners, I knew I was not the only person who felt this way. And so I came up with a project for an environmental studies class in which I interviewed women who run. I asked them ten questions regarding where they run, why they run, and how they feel about the practice. I transcribed these interviews and turned the transcriptions into found poems.

I ended up with a collection of poems that support women who run. The poems talk about what we like about running, what we fear when we run, what motivates us. In providing a text that shares experiences of running and strength in running, I hope that this collection helps women feel more empowered to openly move throughout the environment. This project was, in many ways, a quintessential Oberlin experience. I explored something I care about, using my brain in a variety of ways and across disciplines while receiving the support of peers and professors.

I started by saying that in the beginning of my time at Oberlin, it was easy for my world to become very small. But now I would say that there are other things that are easy at Oberlin. At Oberlin it’s easy to find people who support you, people who are willing to participate in your efforts. It’s easy to be inspired by your friends and your professors. It’s easy to take what you care about and turn it into something creative and constructive.


And then these pieces of trash
in the same places for years
like literally years
and I want to move them
because I’m environmental and whatever
but also like I can’t,
they’re kind of sacred.

And then this abandoned house
that I just fell in love with
I would run by all the time and they tore it down
a couple months ago.
But I wouldn’t have known that was there
you know I have no reason to drive
down that street, ever.

Part of living in a rural area
there’s just no way–
like these streets are not–
like you only go down–
you only drive to drive somewhere.
You don’t just go for a drive.

But yeah it was this beautiful house it was pink
and weird and small
and it had this rusted basketball hoop.