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The Point

Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA

In the past few weeks, my morning routine has started with a brief walk out to The Point, a small park just east of my apartment on Chicago’s South Side (a mere half-mile or so from the home of the current POTUS).

Each morning has been startlingly and intriguingly different, in terms of temperature, humidity, wind, traffic noise, precipitation, wildlife, and quality of light. I started bringing a camera along to try to capture a bit of each morning. Here are a few of the latest images; I’ll try to update the selection from time to time.

The Point has been a controversial landmark since well before I arrived in the neighborhood. The Mayor’s Office pushed for an aggressive plan to 'modernize’ the park several years ago, and the neighborhood fought back, trying to preserve the character and charm of the site as it currently exists. Bumper stickers throughout the city exhort, “SAVE THE POINT.” Meanwhile, others have argued in favor of modernization. One specific area of contention is the limestone rocks which Daley and others apparently wanted to rip out and replace with the same kind of concrete edging which lines most of the rest of the city’s shoreline.

I must confess that my sympathies are with the faction which wants to preserve things as they are. The park and its shoreline bear witness to eighty years of wind, rain, ice and wave action, and that history is written on the structures, trees and rocks of Promontory Point.

My tastes tend to run to structures and spaces which are old, weathered, or broken down. People with such tastes get their hearts continually broken as old structures are torn down for new, as vacant lots give way to Subway restaurants or gas stations, as fields and family farms yield to suburbia. I’m all in favor of good architecture and positive development. And God knows Hyde Park could use some more decent restaurants, interesting boutiques, and, yes, even more book stores. But I’d be delighted if the Point were allowed to weather away a few more decades before the developers come in and pave the shoreline.

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Late 2010

Thursday, Dec. 16 2010 4:22 a.m. UTC

Back at it as the year draws to a close and the barometer falls…

Daily Horizon

Saturday, Jan. 23 2010 5:54 p.m. UTC

Each day that I have the opportunity for a morning walk, I take the 'same’ photo. Standing in the same place, camera pointed at the same spot.

Over time, one gets a sense of the variability of the sky and water (or ice) — not just day to day, but hour by hour. It surprises me that, after many walks over the same route, there is always something worthy of notice, or worth a photograph.

These pictures were taken with the same camera setting (except for the black and white photo) and were not manipulated after the fact.

The object on the horizon is the 68th Ave. Water Crib. These cribs are the intakes for the Chicago water supply. This crib in particular was the site of a fire in 1909, which killed 70 workers.

From Wikipedia:

Until the 1990s, Crib Tenders lived on the cribs. Usually four man crews stayed aboard the cribs for a week at a time. Their duties included water testing, light maintenance, and dynamiting ice dams that formed against the cribs’ walls. Crib facilities included rudimentary bathrooms, showers, and bunk rooms—and a fantastic view of the city and lake.

That’s a job I wouldn’t mind having.

Updated Dec. 14, 2010: added more images

Entering Winter

Wednesday, Dec. 16 2009 4:02 a.m. UTC

I guess this is going to become a blog of sorts. The Point has become a bit of a daily practice, of walking and taking pictures, of seeing wildlife, of inhabiting edges. It is a way of starting the morning away from the computer, before doing daily stretches and sitting meditation, a way of clearing the decks before entering the work world.

One’s first experience of the Point is that of traffic noise. Since I moved here I have thought, “this place would be really nice if the traffic would just go away.” A few days ago, though, I realized that this was an interesting point of practice in and of itself: a meditation on choices, both mine, and others’.

The hundreds of drivers who pass by while I do my brief walk have chosen lives which involve driving to work every day. I have chosen a life which involves sitting at home on the computer and on the phone. It is also a life where I join the commuting flock when I visit with clients/collaborators or when I do errands or travel to see family and friends. It is the life we who participate in this civilization have collectively chosen — a life of convenience and climate change, of speed and noise and the paving of cities. The irritation of the traffic noise is a reminder to contemplate these things.

Meanwhile, Winter has arrived, and, with it, snow and some serious wave action. In addition to the usual crows, rats, seagulls, mallards and opossums, we have Canada geese and migratory ducks and other loon-like birds I can’t identify swimming just offshore. A big city it is, but there are reminders of the wilderness that is latent in all terrain. A hunger for those reminders helps pull me out the door each morning, just as the sun starts to shrug off the morning mist.

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