On the ephemeral

Lanterns, © 2014 Celia Her City.On Presidents Day, snow fell heavily into the evening.  The yard of the country house filled with it, the lanterns illuminating its dimpled surface, peace radiating from its untouched beauty.

In the morning we left without looking into the courtyard again.  The roads had been plowed, and, as we drove, we marveled at how quickly the snow was melting away.  In Indiana, the temperature was 52 degrees.  By the time we reached home, it was nearly spring.

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.



I love seeing these guys when it snows.  Impressive in any weather, the Board of Trade Building is sparely adorned with Art Deco ornaments representing trade and the commodities, the general theme being harvest and abundance—not to mention wealth, for those who grow rich through farming and trade.

Snowcapped figures on the Chicago Board of Trade Buildling, © 2013 Celia Her City

Flanking the big clock are these two figures, an Egyptian and a Native American, holding wheat and corn.  Also (I never realized this before), the ornaments elsewhere on the facade are bulls!

The implied city

Night energy diffused (along the Inner Drive), © 2013 Celia Her City

To walk this stretch of park is to tread the very fringes of the city.  To the left of the park, with its driving range and harbor, lie only the ribbon of Lake Shore Drive and the Lake.  From the right, across the park’s patchy dimness, lights from the nearest congested neighborhood stream.  In the funny glow of the clouds, the lives of the millions who dwell here are implied.

This photograph has been given a diffusion effect.

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