Something very strange is happening today.
Before I go into this, a little background. I’m a student at Oberlin College, which means two things - #1, there are a lot of weirdoes here. And I mean a lot. It’s sort of a clearinghouse for odd intellectual types who were pariahs before they came here and are now flourishing in an environment that makes sense for them. And #2, we have crappy weather.
This is northern Ohio crappy weather. Which means, basically, it’s constantly on the move. If it’s sunny and warm today, don’t be surprised if it’s raining tomorrow and snowing in three days. It also means that from about November until April it’s constantly overcast and frequently percipitating one way or the other. So a sunny day in February is a rarity to be cherished. It’s even more unusual (although, as I said earlier, not exactly unheard of) for it to be 60 degrees out in February. Which it is today.
Apparently, everybody is coming out of some sort of malaise right now. There were a lot of depressed people for one reason or another last semester - a lot more than usual, that is - and nobody really realized that a lot of their friends were also feeling down, each for different reasons. This wasn’t helped by the Provost and his little lackey the President cancelling the Oberlin in London program - an extremely popular one and an extremely shitty move on their part, especially considering that they went over the heads of everybody else in doing it. So it’s the start of what’s either going to be a happy-go-lucky fun semester or more of the same.
I had only one class today because of my strange schedule, and that was done at 9:30 this morning. So after going to my job and then eating lunch, I formed a small coalition of the willing and hit the streets of Oberlin, planning on enjoying the weather. This was successful. We were feeling happy. And that’s when the strangeness became apparent to us.
You know in science fiction/suspense movies when the hero, not from whatever planet of humanoids he’s on, seems to be doing okay until something changes and everybody on the planet turns from what seem to be perfectly normal people into bizarre automatons with a bizzare agenda. Or turn into zombies or fly south for the winter or whatever. It was like that.
We were walking across the campus’ main quadrangle, Tappan Square, when I noticed somebody hugging a tree. This isn’t too normal, being as we are at a prototypical hippy campus. I remarked how funny it would be if there were a lot more people like that. That’s when we noticed that there were.
There were about thirty people scattered across the square of various ages and stripes, ranging from about 15 to about 60, with the bulk of them being average college student age. Each had staked out a tree, and each was standing there in quiet contemplation, occassionally touching the tree or stroking its bark. It was unnerving in a way that I’m at a loss to explain. The people seemed to be following some sort of script or religious devotion, somehow communing with God or with the dryad of their particular tree. I would have pegged it as some sort of prearranged thing, that they were trying to make a message of some sort (this is also that sort of campus) except that there had been no forewarning, no advertisement and (most damning of all) the participants seemed to be acting completely independently and unobtrusively. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if I’d been in slightly more of a hurry or slightly more introspective of a mood.
I’m not sure what’s going on. Maybe it’s a sign of the Apocalypse. Maybe it’s some sort of mass psychosis - a reasonable cross-section of the college just snapped. Whatever it is, I wonder if it’s going to happen again, or if this will just be a weird memory in a month or two. I think that I would, in fact, prefer for it never to be explained, as this idle speculation seems to me to be somehow more poetic than whatever reasonable explanation might surface. Anyway, that’s about all I had to say. It’s probably just the weather.