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New Year’s Night

On New Year's Night It Snowed, © 2014 Celia Her CityOn New Year’s night, it snowed.  We looked out to see the snow covering the evidence of other seasons: the stray oak leaves clinging to the juniper, the new growth on the mock orange and yew.

We decided to go out for a late-night constitutional.  We ended up walking farther than we intended to.

We looked back at the house, © 2014 Celia Her CityFrom the street, we looked up at the house, at the steps we had shoveled that morning, at the place where, until a few moments ago, we had been sitting lazily by a cheering fire.

We gazed at the house with satisfaction and pride.  In our mind’s eye, we could see the house over the decades, when it was a scrawnier thing without plantings, lightless, without terraces.  We could recall hours, days, and weeks there spent profitably or wildly; many others that sped or dragged past without our doing anything.

We could recall the house’s previous inhabitants, a father dead, a mother still living, wild children who once ran naked on the beach or played with firecrackers, who played tricks on one another, who are now well grown, some with children and even grandchildren of their own.  How the house had evolved in the middle of it all, how it had changed and become more beautiful, even during our brief tenure!

And now, with the snow, it was changing still!

We marveled, © 2014 Celia Her CityWe marveled at the unfamiliarity of familiar things, which the snow, falling thickly, was transforming.  We gazed at the old evergreens appreciatively, their boughs weighed with newness, however evanescent: it was all so beautiful, the light, the heavy shapes, the feathery azaleas in between.  We felt the old excitement of being out in the snow.  Being out in the snow at night was more magical still.

The night was charged with energy, © 2014 Celia Her CityFor the night was charged with energy.  Every house around the neighborhood was charged with it, the ground, trees, and dwellings all united with the same current.  All the sudden, our eyes had adjusted to the night, and we were dazzled with the perfect beauty of our surroundings.

Glowing with freshness and purity, © 2014 Celia Her City
What is New Year’s about after all?  For a moment all nature seemed charged with new possibility, with mystery.  Our walk around the block suddenly crackled and shone with drama, with a strangeness so wonderful it was almost unnerving.

Our familiar path looked strange, © 2014 Celia Her City
New Year’s is more than the hands of a clock or a midnight kiss.  It is wilder than the wildest party, this thing we call the future, that we rush to meet, that unfolds within the bounds of a world that we tell ourselves we know already.  Happy New Year, we say; but what will it be?

New year's night, © 2014 Celia Her City
Some such were my thoughts, as I tramped up the street, and my camera developed them into the picture you see, with a strange light in the north where no light should be.

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.