lakefront

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.

Montrose Avenue Beach

Montrose Avenue Beach

Celia loves going to the everyman beach between Montrose and Foster.  This is where the landscape opens up and buildings recede, taking a back seat to the expansive beauty of the lake and sky.

Thousands of people flocked to the beach and surrounding park yesterday to fish, picnic, sun, play beach volleyball, test the waters; meet up with friends.  Devotees come with plenty of baggage: tents, cardboard boxes laden with food, massive coolers that only the most strapping men can lift.

Ladies following the Islamic code lay on the ground with their husbands, eyes wary, covered with cloth from head to toe.  Not so many yards off, nonchalant teen girls did their best to imitate Kerri Walsh, in skimpy bikinis whacking the volleyball.

Cyclorama

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.

The magic hedge

The magic hedge

The fence surrounding the magic hedge (Credit: Celia Her City)

The magic hedge is one of Chicago’s great natural treasures.  It’s a fenced-off piece of land that juts out into Lake Michigan, capping a promontory in a large lakefront park.

Red-leaved path in the Magic Hedge (Credit: Celia Her City)

The magic hedge is a secret place—a seemingly neglected, hidden-away treasure crisscrossed by a network of hard-beaten paths.  In reality a mature bird sanctuary, it’s a place where birds and humans go to be happy.

Blasted tree (Credit: Celia Her City)

The magic hedge isn’t manicured.  It feels wild and remote: a jumbled welter of beaten-down prairie plants and wind-blasted trees.

Leading to lake (Credit: Celia Her City)

Yet wander its paths, and you will be treated to some unexpected views.

hedge-grass&city

Lake grasses (Credit: Celia Her City)

Northern vista (Credit: Celia Her City)

To the north, the magic hedge gives onto a renaturalized sand dune.  Beyond the dune is a dog run and a breakwater where people come to fish.

Figures in the dune (Credit: Celia Her City)

Here, you can almost forget that you are anywhere near the city.  The distances are so great you can forget about the city and its noise.

Along the north side of the hedge (Credit: Celia Her City)

Yet this part of the park gives beautiful views of the beaches and high-rises that line the northern portion of Lake Shore Drive.  The historic old Edgewater Hotel is pink.

hedgeimmensity

The magic hedge is a gateway to perspective, a place to recall the immensity of nature and the true magnificence of the city’s native setting.