Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for April 2009

Taken by Cloud Gate

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Last weekend, after my academic conference in Chicago was over, I had the choice of hoping a train to the airport so that I could sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers in a crowded a gate area in O’Hare for two hours or wandering around Millennium Park beneath the towers of the city skyline in the cold and the damp with my luggage.  I chose to wander.

I went looking for a snake like bridge which I had seen a picture of.   At the foot of some rather tall buildings on a nondescript concrete pad was a really big and shiny coffee bean which I vaguely remembered from somewhere.

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I wandered off towards the lake, found the bridge and walked back by the bean to get to the train.  As I did I paused to watch people interact with it.  cloudgatefour1Everyone, every child and adult, walked up to it, touched it and wandered around and under it.  It drew you closer like a magnet with its ever changing perspective until you put your hand out to meet your own reflection.

It is an amazingly large concave mirror from every direction.  I loved the way it literally changed the way you saw the city bringing curves to the strait lines of the towers.  (Below you can see the light blue tower in the center still under construction at the top.)

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My favorite aspect of Cloud Gate was how it pulled in more of the skyline than you can take in with your own eyes: a giant snow globe with me and my suitcase as dots in the very center.  It gave you a chance to see yourself in the context of the city and I think that is quite the gift.

cloudgatethree

It was an amazing piece of public art. A wonderful, immense, and playful surprise in the center of the city.  I loved it.

Written by furthermusings

April 13, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Being a Visitor in The Old Neighborhood

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Last weekend I traveled to Chicago for a professional conference filled with academics, networking, and panels galore.  While the conference, hosted at the swanky Palmer Hilton downtown, was nice, it was also nice to be back in the city where I lived for a time in journey between college and grad school.

viewtowardsdowntownchicago1An old friend was a gracious host, providing a futon, a key and the friendship of his cat for several nights while he was away.  He lives 45 minutes north of downtown via the “L” train, a ten minute walk from the station, and not a mile from my old apartment.

One morning I took some time off from the conference and walked around Roger’s Park.  It was a crisp and beautiful morning, perfect for wandering up my old streets and then over to the lake.  I brought the camera and worked for a few photos.  I don’t think I have walked around since I drove away seven years ago with all my possessions packed in car, bound again for North Carolina.

Walking around was a strangely unemotional experience.  I revisited my grocery store.  I walked past my old building.  I was surprised that that the streets and the sights carried so little emotional weight.

Chicago wasn’t an easy time for me.  It was full of uncertainty.  It was lonely.  And I felt so utterly out of place.  Not only for my lack of natural connections (everybody was from Michigan, a place I’d never even visited), but also for feeling so out of place in life.  I had no purpose and I felt like I had no home.  When I lived there I felt like a stranger, estranged and disconnected from the themes of my life.

So it was strange last weekend to walk around and be a tourist in a Chicago neighborhood.  I was a visitor, peering down streets and snapping photos of interesting sites, much like I was in Brooklyn during when Charity and I visited in the fall.

Being a visitor is a very different than being a stranger.   A stranger is someone who’s out of place, someone who is unknown.  A visitor is someone who’s purposefully and temporarily out of place in order to take in a view before returning home.

rogersparkbenchwalkI like that I live in a place where I’m known, one that I’m comfortable in and love being in.  In part I love it for its natural connections that make it easy to be at home here.  In part I love it because it makes sense for me to be here and to be working on a dissertation.  In part I love it for its aesthetic and how mirrors and has shaped my own.  In part I love it for the church, friends and family I have here.

I enjoy visiting and traveling.  I think I can because here in my living room I feel at more at home and less of a stranger.

Written by furthermusings

April 12, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Reflections, Travel