Returning to earth

Returning to earth

When it comes to flying, the return to earth is what I like best.

Then, the fretfulness I’ve struggled to subdue during my flight is buried in curiosity.  An eagerness to be reunited with my planet takes over.  As a detailed view of human life crystallizes, feelings of gratitude, relief, and wonder prevail.

I love seeing the earth from this godlike perspective.  Far from making me feel all-powerful, seeing the earth from a plane is atomizing: I feel tiny and powerless, but in a true way.  My appreciation for the land and all that humans have created on it intensifies.  All their works are marvelous to perceive.  From the air, evils are harder to see, and what order we’ve built up over time looks pure and lovely.


Today, the waters that define Boston were peaceful under a bright summer haze.  Workers had already left their work.  Making the best of a beautiful Friday afternoon, they were already sailing their boats or hurrying out of town for a getaway.

From on high, the boats were like small herds of flimsy origami.  Up close, their substance appeared, cruising along the Charles and other waterways.

Over the centuries, painters have painted many scenes like these: the escape from the confines of land to the radiant openness of skies and seas.


Taxiing along past a placid seascape: Boston, hello.


North Avenue beach house (Chicago), © 2013 Celia Her City

Cramped—inside battened buildings crisped with steam radiators, inside buses ventilated with warm carbon monoxide, inside coats inflated to immobilize us—, we wait for this season on the wheel to come round.  We step onto the shady veranda, beholding the smooth sand, and feeling the promise of a brief tryst with summer beckoning.

Click image to enlarge.

Home, where the strange is familiar

Pink haired woman with argyle leggings and pink sneakers walking past a long neglected storefront on a North Clark Street, Chicago

Yes, I’m home, back in the city.  After a good night’s sleep in my own bed, I’m up writing my post in a way that’s customary: propped up in the bed in our spare bedroom, drinking my morning coffee.  I do my best work in the early morning, before starting my day.  I swear I could produce a masterpiece in my bathrobe.  Luckily Mr C sleeps late, which gives me lots of time to compose.

What does “home” mean to residents of a big city?  Driving around the Twin Cities got me thinking about how cities differ, and how I’ve come to think of Chicago as ‘my city.’  Born elsewhere, I came to Chicago in adulthood.  My decision to stay here and make this my home was one I made deliberately.  Beyond my domicile and a network of personal and professional relationships that sustains me, lies a vast population and universe that will always be strange.  Knowing it–and loving it–could take an eternity, especially if you’re a female cat like me.

I chip away at its strangeness, recently with photography and with blogging.  With each post and image, the swath of association and meaning broadens.  The city may never cease to be strange, but its strangeness is now familiar to me.  A pink-haired lady with Fair Isle tights?  She’s my fellow-wayfarer, setting forth with faux-leopardskin pack and pink-sneakered stride.

He could have taken the elevator

He could have taken the elevator

This tableau with stuffed bears inside Bass Outdoor World is only one of its surreal features.  I visited one of these stores for the first time the other day and found it an assault on my gentle sensibilities.  A salesman proudly told me that the store contained $2 million worth of taxidermy.  Across the US, there are 51 similar stores, with plans for many more in the offing.

What is Bass Outdoor World?  It’s a colossal store selling gear for outdoor pastimes—camping and hiking, hunting and fishing.  The stores are often on the fringe of metropolitan areas, along the highways that affluent people use to reach their vacations.  The stores have huge parking lots, vast inventories.  They are extravagantly materialistic, while seeming to worship the natural world.

The Bass Outdoor shop in Portage Indiana is a cavernous two-story building, with a rough-hewn timbered look under fluorescent lighting.  It features a dizzying array of fishing gear, a showroom of expensive boats, and, upstairs, a hunters’ paradise with a sobering display of guns.

As the United States becomes more built up, our focus on the glories of outdoor life becomes more intense, too.  There is a vast commercial market for roughing it, a market where you can buy fancy sights and expensive comfortable chairs from which to shoot  deer.  With enough expenditure, campsite conveniences rivaling the comforts of domestic life can be had.

Have you ever been to Bass Outdoor World?

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