They say walking is good for you. I say it depends a lot on where and when you’re walking.
Suburbanites like me don’t get into their cities very often. Whenever I do in my Chicago, I’m pleasantly staggered by all that’s new since my last venture. Towering glass buildings and spacious boulevards seem to sprout up in asymmetrical splendor. Who are all these people inside all these places?
I parked near North Michigan Avenue, and walked the six blocks to my destination. The wheels of the passing cars thump aggressively across the pavement…the pedestrians passing you up are speechlessly hurrying to some deadline as they try to sip their last gulp of Starbucks…the racket of jackhammers breaking up sidewalks is all around you as you dodge your way through sturdy hardhats….the smell of quick breakfasts is detected wafting out of little street-side cafes…the whiff of the passing women’s perfumes, the whirr of the occasional motorcycle, the weariness of the squatting beggars. This entire maze of sights and sounds and smells is like some sprawling urban mural you could paint if only you knew how.
And yet, this mural is not for studying; it’s for surviving. There’s little patience out here at nine o’clock on a Monday morning for anyone to step out of the mural and simply behold it. Well, with the exception of the camera-toting tourists who gaze and gawk every few blocks. You wonder — you envy — what they see that a local doesn’t?
It was in that last block that I spotted it. A magnificently out of place little Lilac bush, struggling to live inside its cramped quarters. A curbside flower box. Cities like Chicago traditionally line their springtime main streets with something like tulips. And there were happy hosts of same. But for some cosmic reason which surely didn’t come out of the city’s Public Works Handbook, here was this one small Lilac plant.
Usually blooming for Mothers Day, it now stood at proud attention for Easter. An extraordinary little discovery which mesmerized this pedestrian. I stopped…I caressed…I smelled those four blooming Lilacs. In an instant, their deep exotic fragrance shot up my nose, activated my senses, and exploded this thought in my brain:
Spring has once again come to our great American Midwest. And this tender Lilac bush was there to make the announcement formal. An announcement so very welcome within a frenetic world with so few real Lilacs left in it.
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