This week, family business has called me to Ohio, so I’m spending two days in the town that was my home for 16 years. Driving into town I noticed the signs of spring: trees in blossom, branches budding into leaf. It makes me think of the quintessential springtime rite that is specific to this small college town. Every city has its traditions, and in Oberlin, Ohio the springtime tradition is the Big Parade.
The Big Parade is the quirkiest small-town parade I’ve ever seen. College students create floats and costumes just for fun. For several weeks leading up to the parade, free float-making workshops are offered at the old college ice rink. Sometimes there are more people walking in the parade than watching the parade. School kids and community organizations of all kinds participate.
The highlight of the Big Parade for me is the Kendal at Oberlin Precision Lawn Chair Drill Brigade. Kendal is a local retirement community. The elders who perform in the Drill Brigade march with folding lawn chairs, dressed in bright colors, marching in neat rows to the commands of their leader. They carry the lawn chairs; they fold and unfold the lawn chairs; they sit on the lawn chairs in the midst of the parade.
Last year at this time I was at the Big Parade, seeing old friends, enjoying the fun. This year, of course, the college is shut down and no one is parading. My other favorite rite of spring in Oberlin, however, is still there and hasn’t been shut down.
On the college campus just off the town square in the middle of town is a pair of blossoming trees. At this time of year they flower with luscious luxurious pink and white fragrant blossoms. The two trees grow together and have branches that form a single low canopy, so that a person can duck inside to find a space surrounded and enclosed by blossoms. It is magical being inside this canopy. It’s a sacred place.
The Big Parade may be cancelled, but the trees are blooming and this sacred place is still there.
Every city has its traditions; every place has its sacred spots. May you find your sacred place and may you feel at home.
Spirit of Life and Love; Divine Spirit of the flowering trees; Spirit of laughter and fun and frivolity: be with me now.
May the Big Parade be blessed, even as it sleeps for a year. May children everywhere -- and adults – know the joy of dressing in costumes and colors just for fun.
May the Kendal at Oberlin Precision Lawn Chair Drill Brigade be blessed; may they train in their off-season and be sharper than ever next year.
May we all find the things that endure, that things that are not cancelled this spring, even as we mourn what is cancelled and lost.
May all people find a place where they feel safe and nurtured and connected…connected to Mother Earth and connected to the divine. May we all find our happy place, our sacred place. May we know that this place is always available to us.
Amen. Blessed be.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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