Hyde Park


Berries & bricks III (Credit: Celia Her City)

We all have our struggles.  I struggle with uncertainty.  I struggle with it because I don’t think I have to be this way, yet I’ve been this way my whole life, I believe.

There are legitimate grounds for being uncertain, but too much uncertainty cramps a personality.  Under certain circumstances, uncertainty can impede the sufferer from acting in a way that is appropriate and brave.  Because modern life involves many choices, uncertainty is a handicap when it comes to navigating the everyday.

Berries & bricks II (Credit: Celia Her City)

Sometimes, uncertainty arises from taking something trivial to be important.  How many really consequential decisions do we make in our lives?  A friend of my father’s once told me, “The only really important decisions you make are who to marry, how to earn a living, and what to do with your money.”  Do you think it’s true?

Berries and bricks I (Credit: Celia Her City)

Uncertainty may come from thinking too much.  In this way, great practical or philosophical weight may come to be attached to what is only immediate and discrete.  Social and aesthetic preoccupations may get in the way of what is intuitive and truest to oneself.

It’s enough to make one envy the misshapen tree, gloriously growing every which way, laden with the most beautiful berries, its irregular shape fairly reeking with charm.

The wall of books

A reader (Credit: Celia Her City)

I was a big reader growing up, and I lived the life of the mind for many years.

Books mattered more, did more to excite and inspire me, than any other influence.  My parents and teachers were very important, of course, but books left the memories that loomed the largest, taught the best lessons, remained most vivid.  Whether it was biography or Dickens or the work of great photographers, the content of books taught me about the world and opened doors behind which lay whole realms of knowledge.

I wanted to live the life of the mind when I was in my twenties.  Ironically, I didn’t know enough about myself or the real world to manage it.  There’s a knack to staying in that happy cocoon.  Today, when I look at a wall of books, I have warm and cold feelings.  The warmth comes from learning, the cold from the neverendingness of knowledge.

P.S. A new biography of Dickens has come out, by the way.

Proud house

Proud house, Hyde Park (Credit: Celia Her City)

Hyde Park:  The area around the University has a lot of assertive architecture.  The massive houses along Woodlawn recall the days when Hyde Park was a young, remote, tony suburb, with a newfangled commuter rail connecting it to the Gilded Age city.

Proud house detail (Credit: Celia Her City)

When I see a proud house like this, I’m grateful that ambitious Americans chose to build their homes in the borrowed styles of other periods and countries.  To whomever built this house so long ago: thank you!  We are still enjoying your handiwork now.

Bare ornamental

Bare ornamental

A weeping ornamental does its work in Hyde Park.  The neighborhood is fretted with many such scenes: trees, once covered with the delicate blooms of spring, now dried up and naked; ivy-veined walls, stripped of their bright cloaks of leaves.  Evergreens, newly powerful, smugly come into their own.  Death mats the garden beds.  Stillness grips all.

Thanksgiving wrap

Thanksgiving table (Credit: Celia Her City)

Wednesday: I spent the day setting the table and arranging flowers for Thanksgiving.  My sister arrived from Boston around 5.  We had a friend over for dinner, ordered in from Home Made Pizza Co, ate in a smaller room off the dining room, and had a good time.

Thanksgiving guest (Credit: Celia Her City)

Thursday: My husband and I had agreed on a strict division of labor.  He would make the turkey, stuffing, and gravy; I would make the potatoes, vegetables, and the pies.  Thank goodness my sister was here because she did half the stuff I was supposed to.

I don’t have kids (Mr C has a grown son by his previous marriage), so dinner was for a small circle, which I was thrilled to host.  My husband and I usually spend Thanksgiving at the homes of friends or relatives.  This was the first time we had ever made Thanksgiving dinner together at home.  One of our guests brought Julius, one of the world’s greatest dogs.  Dinner was everything it should be, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Friday: I went shopping with my sister (mainly to see the lights).  After about 40 minutes of shopping, we went to the Lavazza in the Drake and spent about 2 hours having coffee.  In the evening we went out with my brother’s family to eat Mexican.  I should have taken some pictures for the blog, but I didn’t.  My bad.

The toymaker on Racine (Credit: Celia Her City)

Saturday: My sister left first thing in the morning.  I got up and drove her to O’Hare.  That night Mr C and I went to a friend’s place to see some other friends who were in from Madison.  On our way to catch a cab afterward we walked past this toymaker’s.  (If you click on the link, be sure to click on the doorknob to go in.)

The new Sem Co-op (Credit: Celia Her City)

Sunday: I spent a lot time in the kitchen washing and putting away dishes and trying to wake up.  Around noon I drove to Hyde Park to see one of my closest friends and her family.  We walked over to campus to see the new Sem Co-op bookstore.  It was weird to be there.  Both Jack and Richard looked totally freaked out, but I bet the new store will work out once everyone gets used to how modern it is.  I think I would have liked it more if it weren’t trying so hard to look like the old bookstore.