We were at the Mart shopping for a kitchen sink when I noticed that the showroom we were in had a marvelous view.

We continued looking at sinks.  I looked up, and suddenly the sky looked like this:

Cloudburst over Chicago, © Celia Her City

A Chicago rooftop during a cloudburst, © 2013 Celia Her City

Five minutes later.

View of west River North from an upper floor of the Merchandise Mart, Chicago © 2013 Celia Her City

A view from the Mart just after a rain, © 2013 Celia Her City

View north from the Merchandise Mart just after a rain, © 2013 Celia Her City

As I watched, I saw the train that I take to work running through River North.

The Brown Line train, seen from an upper floor of the Mart (Chicago), © 2013 Celia Her City

That was the most exciting part, I think.

Click on images to greatly enlarge.

Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Lady slipper © 2013 Celia Her City

Getting out of the city presents some thrilling opportunities to see amazing plants that grow in the Midwest’s relatively unfrequented woodlands and swamps.  One such is the yellow lady’s slipper orchid, a showy native perennial which I saw recently for the first time.

The inflated, balloonlike petal that gives the plant its name nests at the center of several other slender, twisting, greenish-yellow petals and sepals that are streaked with purple.  Though this plant has been known to these parts for hundreds of years, its status is no longer secure.  The plants should never be picked or disturbed.  They rely on very particular conditions to flourish and reproduce.

Yellow lady-slipper orchids (Cypripedium calceolus), © 2013 Celia Her City

According Stan Tekiela, author of Wildflowers of Michigan,

Orchids are highly specialized plants needing their own special fungus growing on their roots to survive. This is why they . .  . should be enjoyed in the wild only.  Orchid seeds are like specks of dust; they consist only of an embryo (no stored food).  They depend on being invaded by a fungal hyphae to infuse the seeds with nutrients.  This process takes several years before any roots or shoots develop.  All orchids are protected by conservation laws in Michigan.

The genus name Cypripedium means literally “the foot of Venus,” which I think is an apt name for a glorious flower.

Click here and here for related posts about lady slippers in other parts of the U.S.

Perfect devotion

Photograph of a dog waiting for its owner outside Einstein Brothers' Bagels, Chicago

The dog was so still that at first I thought it was a lawn ornament, put there by the owners of the shop.  As I got closer, I saw that the dog was real, but that it was utterly intent on its owner’s return.

Closeup of a dog waiting for its owner outside Einstein Brothers' Bagels, Chicago

I always feel apprehensive when I see a nice dog like this left alone on a sidewalk, however briefly.  I feel the animal’s vulnerability, which, in a busy urban setting, is real.  What a relief when the owner came out, and the two were reunited; happy dog!

The el  stairs

The el stairs

Many thousand people clamber daily up and down el stairs like these; how many thousand, Celia couldn’t begin to say.  The stairs’ steel treads are noisy and unforgiving, sanded in winter to keep patrons from falling.  Much life is lived in the shadow of the el, or right next to it, unflappably.  Even scholars read right next to it, in this library.

Tulips and traveling

Tall tulips in a brown and white vase, © 2013 Celia Her City

A week ago yesterday, I bought these tulips at the outdoor farmers’ market, and enjoyed them for a day.  Then we went to Michigan for the weekend, had some amazing adventures there, and by the time we got home Barbara and Krystina had thrown the tulips away.  Because by that time they were dead, I am sure.

So it has been, more generally, with our spring.  Slow to arrive (and with the temperature today still little better than fifty), the season came and went all too swiftly.  The leaves are all out on the trees, the daffodils and tulips are spent, and Memorial Day is upon us–all suggestions that we are on the verge of summer.  Yet I wish I could have enjoyed my tulips just a little longer.

‘I should not be’

The octophant, © 2013 Celia Her City

You think you know Grant Park, and then. . . .

I was leaving the park the other day when I noticed this amazing sign, positioned atop the Art Nouveau-style entrance to the Metra train station at Van Buren.  Has it been there forever?  Perhaps my readers can say. . . .

The Octophant, proclaimed here as “real and alive,” was ostensibly an “exhibition of the impossible” at the Century of Progress, a World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1933.

The sad melange of the animal form, coupled with the 3-D exuberance of the sign, produced a powerful effect on me.  I felt as though to descend into the Metra would be a venture into the surreal, a venture best undertaken by those far more stalwart and steady than I.

Click image to enlarge.
Click here
for links to info on the COP.

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