Tanks and towers

Chicago stop, © 2013 Celia Her City

The John Hancock and a Chicago water tank, © 2013 Celia Her City


Now dwindling in number, water tanks used to dot the skyline of the city.  These amazing rooftop cisterns came into use in the late-nineteenth century, when on-site water storage was recognized as a necessary fire-fighting measure.

Water tanks continue to be built in New York City for the ordinary purpose of maintaining the water pressure inside tall buildings with the aid of gravity.  In Chicago, however, water tanks are viewed as an anachronism.  It’s likely that these visually charming relics will disappear over time.  For now, I relish the contrast between our sleek but bland skyscrapers and these sturdy rooftop monuments.


This is just a funny self-portrait that I took one day at the office when I was goofing off.  I can’t even remember now how I did it.  All I know is it entailed using a mouse, a point-and-shoot, and Photo Booth.

So much for professionalism, on so many scores.

Nonetheless, looking at this picture kindles in me a feeling of proud kinship with those clever Renaissance painters who enjoyed finding ways to paint themselves into a scene.

There was a joyful moment of discovery when I found that I could use Photo Booth to take a picture of my office, with me in it, using the mouse at a distance.  Then, I think, I took a picture of that.

At 5 pm

At 5 pm

Commuters on the bus regard others enjoying the unfettered pleasures of being at the beach at the end of the day.  I look out at the passing scene through the bus window.  Being liberated from work is itself a pleasure, compounded by the pleasure of watching other people enjoying the day.

I think of how only the glass of the window separates me from the bathers, as we fly by on the bus, looking at the seascape just beyond the concrete median.  Yes, only the glass—our attire—the median—the speeding bus—and the destinations we travel toward—separate us from the joy of being at the beach at the end of the day, a humid weekday that’s perfectly draining, that’s made for wasting and whiling away.

Prairie metaphysics

For the first time, we noticed the mighty tree (Chickaming Prairie, MI), © 2013 Celia Her City

On the Chickaming prairie, there is a mighty tree dwarfing all others.  On our many visits, we had never noticed it before.  Then, this day, we noticed a bulge on the horizon: the crown of an unusually tall and spreading oak.

The grandest oak in these parts (Chickaming Prairie, MI). © 2013 Celia Her City.

Its grandeur was difficult to apprehend.  The closer we got, the more humbling it was.  With every step, it grew taller.  By its yardstick, we were children.

The mighty branches of the Chickaming Oak, © 2013 Celia Her City

To look up into its branches was dazzling. Each limb was itself as large as a tree, radiating with power and life’s energy.  All we could do was wonder and admire.  We didn’t think to theorize or measure.  The tree had its own metaphysics, with itself at the center.

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