Consolation on parting

Consolation on parting

I took this picture just after seeing my sister off at the Jackson stop of the Blue Line.  After a delightful if too brief visit, she was bound for O’Hare and a flight back to her family in the Twin Cities.  We see one another a few times a year.  It was a terrible letdown to part with her.

The beauty of the city could scarcely assuage me, though its heavens were thoughtfully raining sympathetic tears.



Once you notice them, they are everywhere.  Columns, with varied capitals.  Corinthian, Doric, Ionic, even some they didn’t teach you in elementary school.  I love these old-time building facades, with their heavy, overdone, enthusiastic quality.

This one is the base of the Edison Building, on Adams.  The whole building is covered with patterned brick and stone, elaborate arches and columns, even some fancy stone medallions up top.

This photograph has been given a ‘watercolor’ effect.

The implied city

Night energy diffused (along the Inner Drive), © 2013 Celia Her City

To walk this stretch of park is to tread the very fringes of the city.  To the left of the park, with its driving range and harbor, lie only the ribbon of Lake Shore Drive and the Lake.  From the right, across the park’s patchy dimness, lights from the nearest congested neighborhood stream.  In the funny glow of the clouds, the lives of the millions who dwell here are implied.

This photograph has been given a diffusion effect.

A mysterious storm

A memorable snow falls on Dearborn Street, © 2013 Celia Her CityA memorable storm enveloped my office one February day.  I had barely set down my coat or caught my breath before the big window that I have written of before beckoned me.

The big window beckoned

I looked out. The snow had intensified the colors of the buildings and muffled Chicago’s customary noise.  The storm was as intense as it was unexpected.  The mid-day streets were unusually silent.

The Mies van der Rohe building began disappearing

Looking to the north, I was surprised to see the Mies van der Rohe building disappearing, as the flurry of snow contracted my view.

It began snowing harder

The snow fell heavily.  Soon I could see only a handful of the nearest buildings.  The newest of them was the Standard Club, which went up in the 1920s.  A curious feeling stole over me as I saw myself surrounded by such old things.  Everything in sight was at least ninety years old.

A curious feeling stole over me

My attention was drawn to the magnificent stone ornaments of the Monadnock Building flanking my view.

Only the old was visible

To the south were the Fisher and Old Colony Buildings.  Like my own building, they are well over a hundred years old.

Lovely old surfaces filled the view

Conditions were curiously similar to the most persuasive account I have read of time-travel, Jack Finney’s wonderful historical novel called Time and Again.  In it, the narrator travels back more than a century as an evening snowstorm envelops New York’s Central Park and the lodgings he has taken at the Dakota Hotel.  Can we slip back through time, in those moments when the past asserts itself powerfully enough?

The only question was, how far back would I go?

The only question in my mind was how far back I would go.  Would I be carried back to the 1920s, when the Standard Club was new, or as far back as the 1890s and the glorious razzle-dazzle of the Gilded Age?

All images © 2013 Celia Her City

A special-occasion centerpiece

A special-occasion centerpiece with tulips and lilies

My husband gave me some flowers for Valentine’s Day.  We were having dinner at home last night with another couple, so I decided to make a special-occasion centerpiece.

Like my photography, my flower-arranging is an amateur undertaking.  What I know about it I’ve learned from trial and error.  I’ve picked up tips by looking at professional arrangements and from articles in magazines.

Here’s my approach to making a centerpiece for a dinner table.

1.  The goal is to make a small but showy arrangement low enough for your dinner guests to see over.  This means selecting a low vase, preferably opaque.  I look for something wide-mouthed, so that the flowers can be placed at an angle, creating a wide, lively arrangement large enough to hold its own on the table.  The “vase” in this arrangement is an old cachepot that I had bought used.

2.  It’s good to have more foliage than flowers, and to combine plant materials that are rigid and flowing.  Forming the backbone of this arrangement are two stems of lilies, combined with draping eucalyptus, inexpensive baby’s breath, and several tulips, whose broad green leaves were as important as the yellow heads in achieving the effect that I was after.

3. Use a florist’s frog.  The one I have is from a flea market; they are also available on Amazon.  The frog is the anchor that keeps the flowers standing up straight or drooping over; without it, they would inevitably flop out of the vase.

4. Don’t be afraid to cut the flowers short.  For this arrangement, I had to cut off the lilies’ long stems.  I used to be timid about cutting flowers short.  No more!  You want the arrangement to be full, with the flowers forming a harmonious visual whole with the vase.

This bouquet will grow in beauty over the next couple of days, as the lilies and tulips open further.


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