The land the Lake made

Winter blowout, Warren Dunes, Michigan, © 2013 Celia Her City.

Less than two hours from Chicago lies the alien world of the Warren Dunes.  There one feels the immensity of our Lake and the unusual environments it creates and sustains.  Prevailing winds and waves push the sand of Lake Michigan toward its eastern shore, heaping it up on beaches and gradually forming it into vast and ever-changing blowouts and peaks.

Winter blowout, Warren Dunes, Michigan, © 2013 Celia Her City.

To the shifting matter of this landscape, rugged plants cling.  Dune grasses and evergreens manage to root, and even some flowers and deciduous trees manage to get going, only to be suffocated with sand after a time.

In the winter, snow helps to flesh out the contours of an awesome scene.

Winter palette

Winter Palette (Diversey Harbor)

Does the palette of winter appeal to you?  I confess to liking the monochromatic color scheme that takes over on cloudy days, simplifying the views.  I wandered around the other morning, visiting some of my favorite haunts, appreciating the beiges and greys, the patterns that pop out without being pretty.  Across the expanse of Diversey Harbor, the blue door of a boathouse virtually screamed at me.

Sycamore trees near Diversey Harbor, Chicago (Credit: Celia Her City)

Along the edges of the harbor, the nervous energy of the sycamores was on exhibit.

Nervousness on a higher plane (Credit: Celia Her City)

What crazy trees!  I love how their twigs grow out every which way in exuberant spurs, something that in the summer you cannot see.  Though, with their spotted bark, they seem always to be having the come-aparts, these native trees are stylish and imposing; hardy, too.

Will the crooked prevail?  (Credit: Celia Her City)

A hard freeze has finally taken hold at the lagoon, where the water level must be at a historical low.  With the snow, the precarious state of the lagoon’s walls can be appreciated fully.  I marvel that elderly fishermen dare to cycle over this path all summer.  Here, as with so much else in Chicago, it’s an open question whether the crooked shall prevail. . . . I try to imagine how we will ever fix these walls. . . .

The snowy path along the Nature Museum, Chicago (Credit: Celia Her City)

Except for the distant high-rises, the park looked outright bucolic around the Nature Museum, the snow setting off every detail of the prairie natives and split-rails.  Check out the dark rusty and gold colors of the resting prairie.


The North Pond‘s paths are deserted at last.  Inhospitable conditions have temporarily discouraged all the runners, cyclists, power-walkers, dogs, stroller-pushers, and geese.  I have seen coyotes on the frozen pond around here, but this morning I didn’t see any.  I alone enjoyed the chiaroscuro of the gnarly old trees.

Lakeview townhouses by David Adler (Credit: Celia Her City)

Leaving the park, I found myself back in “civilization,” my frozen tread accelerating past all the nice houses and high-rises that line the park along Lakeview.  I had to stop to admire the beautiful Adler townhouses, though, with their peach and yellow columns and the reddish-grey twigs of the serviceberries setting them off, just so.

Click the images to enlarge.

Thank you, everyone

Ice skaters, Millennium Park, Chicago (Credit: Celia Her City)

Thank you to everyone out there, whether in California, London, or Jakarta, who has been visiting my blog and taking the time to check out its photographs and written entries.  I really appreciate your comments and praise, and, even more, our casual “conversations.”  A special thanks to my 78 followers–I can’t quite figure out what you all have in common, but I’m very grateful for your company as I wander around this grand if lonely city!

This image treated with a “diffusion” effect.
Click it to enlarge.

Snow in the city

Snowy corner (Credit: Celia Her City)

At last some snow has fallen in the city.  It was brief, but, while it fell, it fell fiercely.  I always look forward to snow, because it muffles the clamor of the city, bringing a degree of peace by slowing it down.   Riding the bus along Michigan Avenue was more enjoyable than usual, because the snow jazzed up the ordinary views.

Nieman's (Credit: Celia Her City)


The new Burberry store, Chicago (Credit: Celia Her City)

The new Burberry store.  (That pedestrian hurried by without even looking.)

The Brooks Brothers store on Michigan Avenue, Chicago (Credit: Celia Her City)

Brooks Brothers.  I’m afraid I’m a dreadful sentimentalist when it comes to snow.

Though the snow was falling heavily as we passed Millennium Park, by the time I reached my destination, it had stopped.  I’m so glad I happened to be outside to see it.  Who knows whether we’ll get any more snow this season?

Snow falls on Millennium Park (Credit: Celia Her City)

By Millennium Park (Credit: Celia Her City)


Backlands 1 (Credit: Celia Her City)

The backlands: this is the Chicago you only see from the el.  Its alleys, fire escapes, backyards, and balconies are unselfconscious because all-but-invisible, save for the instant you peer down on them from the frigid el platform or a moving train.

There’s a gnarly, ugly, decrepit, character to much of the terrain: the untrimmed vine, the dying tree, jumbles of wires or garbage cans.  But with them come offerings of the unexpected, the whimsical or ingenious: the gardens people devise on tiny fire escapes; the signs meant for you to read as you rush by.

You glimpse the unwanted but, with it, many other things that keep the city running: the electrical grid, garbage trucks, construction crews.  Secret parking lots.  Boarded-up doors and graffiti bespeaking adventures and openings now inaccessible and archaic, layers of life quilted on to the city’s bricks and boards, congealed into something more enduring than little ol’ me.

Backlands 2 (Credit: Celia Her City)

An anchor in time, an anchor in weather

An anchor in time, an anchor in weather

All humans need an anchor.  Even the most footloose world travelers have some invisible ties that enable them to be free.  In the face of tumult and change, each of us learns to find reassurance and create order, whether by praying, playing the piano, or rearranging a room.  My manicurist tells me that she gets rid of stress by going shopping.

One of my anchors lies in my husband, who (unlike myself) is very habitual and has a keen sense of time.  The latter is a trait common to people who trade commodities as he does.

Perhaps his occupation also explains his keen interest in the weather, which for many of us supplies the day’s best occasion for contemplating the metaphysics of the universe in which we live.  Will it snow tomorrow?  Will the cold snap hold?  Will there be enough water to keep the Mississippi navigable next spring?  And if not, why?  The connections we make between weather and the human and cosmic order are almost as myriad as the times humans have used talking about the weather as a means of connecting with one another.

Nonetheless, I find it a little funny that we monitor the weather and find it reassuring.  We have thermometers in many of the rooms of our house, as well as a barometer (for measuring changes in atmospheric pressure) and a hygrometer (for measuring humidity) outside.  These instruments put numbers on what we are feeling, and somehow that is comforting because it suggests mastery and understanding of something that is actually uncontrollable, chaotic, and unknown.  If we feel low on a particular day, we can blame the barometer, and gird ourselves for the unexpected when it registers “Change.”

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