Chicago’s Loyola Park is graced by an extensive beach. As large as it is, in the days before ubiquitous air conditioning, one could expect it to be heavily occupied. Think of it as a human Serengeti Plain with herds of various humans replacing African wildlife. With concerns about skin cancer and other, cooler alternatives, the traffic in the 21st Century is not so heavy.
Somewhere around the turn of the century, someone at the Chicago Park District had the bright idea of recreating the dunes that once lined the shores. With less summer traffic, there would be space to plant dune grasses that would anchor the sand from wind and water erosion, letting nature handle some of the work of beach maintenance. With less summer traffic, there would be room for dune grasses to be protected from being trampled. As it is a “green” project, much of the work of planting and weeding might be done by volunteers. In many ways, it’s a project lifted out of the pages of McHarg’s Design with Nature.
I wish I could tell the story of how this project came to flower, but I don’t know it. And that’s not what this post is about. Rather, I want to explore the beauty of the dune grasses and the wonderful way photography can lie.
A few days before Christmas, a friend and I paid a visit to the North Park Village Nature Center. This is located between Bryn Mawr Avenue and Peterson Avenue along Pulaski Road in Chicago. Extending eastward to Central Park Avenue, it occupies 46 acres of the 155 acre North Park Village campus. North Park Village is senior citizen housing.
The Nature Center is a Chicago Park District facility. Most of it, I’m told, is an Oak savanna: lightly forested prairie dominated by one or another species of Oak. Competing trees and underbrush are kept down by fire or poor soil or human intervention. There are also two ponds in a wetland area. As you might imagine, it’s a good place for watching birds and deer. (The geezers feed them.)
While Lake Michigan often gives unwary visitors an oceanic feel, it rarely comes very close to the mountainous rages of the real thing. This is about as lively as you’re likely to see, though the Lake can do better. Nonetheless, it was an odd Fall day. Both the Lake and the clouds seemed to come in waves, and the light did strange things with the air. It gave the afternoon a magical feeling of expectancy.
If this were fiction, it might be the setting for a story about a forlorn ghost that searches for the answer to a simple question: Why?
This isn’t fiction. But for the air and the light, it was a mundane afternoon.
Some experimental* autumnal low-light photography of the neighborhood:
* continuing to look at these photos constitutes consent, absolving Yip Abides of any responsibility for aesthetic or emotional side-effects. You have been informed!
I’ve often wondered why, in the “Arts”, the term experimental is meant to be good. And why the consumers of such material are never asked to provide their informed consent nor informed of any potential issues consumption might bring… unlike in medicine, for example.