Our plane’s descent carried us over a tapestry of light, as Chicago rolled out her welcome mat beneath a dark sky. More
Night never really sets in thoroughly in Chicago. We get closest to dark in summer, when the trees’ shadows leaf into a canopy, blocking out some of the streetlights’ glare. The lights are overly bright, to the point of making it hard to sleep.
How would we be affected were the city naturally dark at night? If the streetlights were fewer or more puny? For stay-at-home types, it would be quieter, more soothing; for live wires, much more an adventure to be out on the town.
A rooftop shows the work of generations, its flaking chimney, paint-spattered shingles, and ancient tar-paper overlaid with present-day graffiti, satellite dishes, and solar panels.
At this time of year, each fancy high-rise seems to be in competition with all others to be the most lovely. Gardeners are out daily primping the grounds, tweaking the seasonal shows they’ve dreamed up to show off the special structural elements of their property. This place on Oakdale near Sheridan makes beautiful use of its boxed-in site, dressing up what could be a dismal patch of neglected shade with these nice old native shrubs known as serviceberry.
The serviceberry has an unsensational flower, which nonetheless contributes to its beauty. If properly pruned, the serviceberry grows into a elegant small tree, and can be happy, as in this case, even in urban settings where it gets little light.
Smooth grey bark is one of the serviceberry’s chief glories. It looks great with dark evergreens and with ground-covers like vinca. Every year I look forward to seeing the tulips flowering under these trees.
Another tree I love looking at on Oakdale is this sour cherry. It is a standout specimen tree, whose colors pop against the backdrop of this old white rowhouse. Its buds form at the end of longish stems. They are a beautiful peachy pink color.
The tree has a spare open shape, so that the blossoms and fruit always stand out clearly, like ornaments hanging on a Christmas tree.
In the winter, the tree is covered with brilliant red cherries, which must be very sour, because they remain uneaten even as the tree begins another year.
The city is always building, leading to the complex vista that Celia, commuting, sees daily: the buildings, bridges, and balustrades rimming the River, offering a pleasing spectacle to the passing trains. Cars, trains, boats, and pedestrians pass distractedly through a landscape that’s the work of many decades and thousands upon thousands of laborers’ hands.
The repair barge in the river, for fixing the bridge, is fleeting evidence of all that goes in to making this the home that we know.