July 7, 2008

Let the Fourth Begin

Setting the stage, this is the view looking south across Millennium and Grant Parks from my offices at Prudential Plaza:

That smattering of white rectangles represents the spine of Taste of Chicago running south down Columbus Drive. Petrillo Bandshell and its audience delta lie slightly below and to the left. Buckingham Fountain was not spouting at the moment I clicked this picture, but if it was, you would see its spew at dead center where that open space is. Beyond that, to the left, is the south mooring field of Monroe Harbor where our Little Place on the Water is floating. This is where I'm spending the Fourth of July weekend.

But before I get there, as I leave my office, I need to walk through the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. I say "need" because, full disclosure now, I am not a natural-born water baby. I am, in fact, a prairie baby. I am, by design, a land-based mammal. I prefer my feet on solid ground. So before I hand over my mortal being to the good graces of Poseidon, I need to connect briefly with the god in charge of the earth, who, if you've been anywhere near Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, you cannot honestly conclude is anyone other than a god named "Lurie."

Because this delicately designed prairie garden is the closest thing you're gonna find to heaven on earth:

Don't you just want to run through this field in many layers of lace and gingham, beribboned straw hat flying, swinging the basket into which you will collect the blossoms for tonight's dinnertable centerpiece?

Well, me neither. But whenever I'm here I have to resist the urge to just roll around in it. I'm evidently not the only one. The polite signs warning visitors to stay on the paths and leave the trailblazing to the gardeners are copious.

Look at me! I'm a thistle! And I'm bigger and taller than any building in Chicago!:

Check out the blue stems:

According to the sign, this plant is a Mediterranean Sea Holly.

One day earlier this year when we first arrived in Monroe Harbor, I heard a birdsong that was so familiar, yet I couldn't place it. Birds are a huge presence in Monroe Harbor (and another blogworthy subject if I can just become a better bird photographer). The song I heard was so incongruous with the typical harbor birdsongs: Canadian geese, sure. Hear their trumpet calls all the time. Seagulls, of course. They're natives to the environment and their lunatic squawk is constant. But it was this other song that was making me nuts. I couldn't identify it except that it seemed totally out of place in a waterfront environment. Some moments later, a red-winged blackbird alighted on Smitten's lifeline and began singing the familiar tune. Where on earth did this bird come from? wondered the girl who only thinks of red-winged blackbirds in the context of a Wisconsin cornfield.

Turns out, they are as enchanted by this garden as I am and they (excuse me) flock to it.

Such an abundance of textures and colors. The tranquility you experience within minutes after wandering out of the tourist- and traffic-jammed city hustle and into this eden is deep and remarkable.

I confess to a preponderance of Prudential Plaza pix in this blog. I work in 2 Pru and I really love the building. Our friend Alan, a New Yorker to the core, explained to me some years back (while we were sailing, in fact) that 2 Pru was designed as an homage to Manhattan's Chrysler building. Perhaps. And while I need to confess that during a recent trip to NYC, I almost burst into tears at the site of the Chrysler Building, I think 2 Pru is the luvliest thing going on Chicago's skyline. During our floating summers I spend a lot of time gazing at our skyline, so I feel a certain sense of authority.

Next stop, Taste of Chicago ...

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