Sun and thorns

Sun and thorns, © 2013 Celia Her City

Another, truer photograph of the Art Institute’s South Garden.

I’ve learned more about the garden since posting a photo of it the other day.  It was designed in the 1960s by modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley and is considered to be one of the better surviving examples of his work.  Kiley died in 2004.  You can read more about his life and work here.

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.

Nature and civilization

Michigan Avenue from the North Garden of the Art Institute, Chicago © 2013 Celia Her City

Why, you may wonder, is Celia angry about the city’s decision to fell a few old trees?  Here, in the north garden of the Art Institute, we may find an answer.

For, on one side of the garden—just steps from Michigan Avenue—, are two improbably aged, enormous, gnarly, overreaching trees.  They are not decorous, they are not over-managed; they are awesome, merely.

In a town incessantly straining against its nature to be great, these trees are possibly the most cultured things around, because they are dignified, and because their stewards have accorded them the respect and even reverence necessary for them to survive.  Though the garden they’re situated in has been remade several times, they have been left alone to achieve the majesty and character that is the work of time.

Next time you are at the museum, be sure to take a moment out for these glorious trees.

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