Sunset flares at Champ de Mars in Paris

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I’ve visited many cities in my life…magnificently beautiful cities such as Rome and Florence, Madrid and London, or my favorite, the jewel of Paris. I’ve walked through impressively monolithic cities such as Beijing and Berlin and New York City.

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I’ve strolled through delicately crafted cities such as Siena, Italy or Geneva, Switzerland or Coimbra, Portugal. I’ve even stumbled through the broken streets of rough-shod, and difficult to spell, cities in the Middle East such as Jeddah and Riyadh.

All these cities have their own style, their own flair, but all of them are nothing more than cities when you come right down to it…bricks and stone, metal and glass. They are out “there” and you are in “here.”

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Not so of the Chicago I saw for the first time last week.

It’s not a city so much as it is a new human environment, a new nature built by man, one that has the magnetism of a spectacular mountain range outlined against a moody sky and the tranquility that hums within a vast stand of redwoods, empowering you with its reach of possibilities while sobering you with its grandeur.

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Nettie and I took the architectural river tour, emerging from Ogden Slip and entering the Chicago River as it flows into the heart of this landscape, where structures towered above us in a beautiful synchrony of space and form, of color and light, of essence and immateriality, casting their silver shadows while reflecting the world around them in the mirrored surfaces of their skin.

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Within minutes, the world out there disappeared and this new world enveloped us. Our eyes wide, our hearts held breathless by the beauty around us, I took picture after picture of the glorious splendor that daunted us while uplifting us simultaneously.

The next day, we walked through what I thought would be the pedestrian streets of this Chicago only to experience the same sensations as the day before.

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We came upon Millennium Park, which appeared as if a meadow or dell or fen where a field of art emerges from the ground itself in waterfalls with human faces in the crown fountain.

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We continued down the pathways and trails of this garden where a colossal sterling-sided sculpture bloomed before us as if it were a mushroom pushing up from the loamy earth. This work of art, cloud gate, makes you part of the billowing skyline that surrounds you, part of the new nature created by your presence, part of the pavilions and outdoor concert halls brought to life with your own voice.

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What is it? I kept asking myself. What is it?

What is it here in Chicago that is so different from other cities?

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Beauty? Other cities are beautiful. Grandeur? Not unique to Chicago. Style? Nope. Scale? No, not that either.

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I finally came upon it…harmony.

All the pieces fit together here.

They form a unified sensation as if you were walking through a forest primeval, all the senses stimulated and in balance…color, texture, sound, even smell and taste…yes, we ate our share of Chicago Dogs and Deep Dish Pizza.

I heard the music then, ethereal in its distance, intimate in my memory…My kind of town, Chicago is. My kind of town, Chicago is. My kind of…nature, Chicago is. My kind of world, Chicago is.

 

–To see more shots of Chicago and Botanical Gardens of Highland Park, click here.

 

5 Responses to Chicago – My Kind Of…Nature

  1. Dave Pruett says:

    Wish we had known you were in town. Our condo looks down on the Ogden slip. Would have been great to see you. Glad you enjoyed the city.

  2. Virginia says:

    Frank and Annette, you are so right about Chicago. Joe and I have traveled to almost all of those other places you mentioned and are currently traveling in Bergan, Norway. We LOVED Chicago when we visited in 2000 and 2002. Truly a gem of a place. Really enjoyed your post. Best to you both! Virginia

  3. George Grengs says:

    Frank,
    Yes, Chicago is a wonderful city. We’re going to be there in June for a few days. Can’t wait to hang out and enjoy the sites. The river cruise is amazing – history and architecture and beauty all wrapped into a float down the river! GG

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