Letter from Birdland: Windy City trip a cool experience

Letter from Birdland: Windy City trip a cool experience

Dear Birdland,

I hope you are well and drying out from all those rainstorms. I'm in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, and it's a lovely day up here. Seventy-three degrees with just a slight haze in the sky.

I took the train up last night to meet my dear friend, Emily, who usually lives in Georgia but is in town for a conference.

I hated to leave you, but my first train ride to Chicago since childhood was instructive.

I learned that I should take a sweater, even if it's summertime, that the seats are comfortable and roomier than the bus or a car and that the dining car empties out late in the evenings and makes a comfortable place to write.

And the most important lesson? Don't count on the timetable. You might get to Union Station at the appointed time or maybe three hours later.

At Paxton, our train was stopped by a broken-down freight train. We had to wait while another engine was sent to pull the freight train up the hill, so we could be on our way.

The woman next to me wondered what "hills" they would find in Paxton, and I wondered, too, but the wondering didn't get the freight train out of our way.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed the trip, and I realize that this delay was out of the ordinary. I relocated in the dining car and got caught up in some lively conversation and silly games with some other folks, which passed the time quite pleasantly.

Instead of arriving at 9:30, I had to wake Em up in the hotel at 1:30 and tumble into bed to leave the visiting for the morning.

In the morning, though, we only got to visit briefly, as Em had meetings. I was on my own. I walked out of the hotel and into the morning. My schedule was empty — but full of possibility.

I walked toward the lake, grabbing a sandwich from a coffee shop and then headed for Millennium Park. There I found the usual landmarks: the Bean and the Faces. I watched the tourists and children interact with the artwork as I sat on the park bench eating my sandwich. People were open and friendly, full of delight at the day.

I finished my brunch and began to wander. In a large tent, I found an outdoor schoolhouse. It was divided into classrooms full of young people studying science and technology, jewelry making, skateboard design. The most interesting classroom was the life drawing class. A model sat in a platform in the center of a circle of easels. The students' intent focus shifted from their charcoal drawings to the model and back again.

As I passed, I saw the same figure on all the easels, each with its own personality. Here a heavier line, there more detail. Continuing down the aisle between the classrooms, I noticed how engaged the students were, engrossed in their planning and figuring.

In one class, someone called a teacher over to check some work while another punched numbers into a calculator. Nobody seemed to mind that it was summertime and school should be out.

Big vinyl windows in the tent let in natural light and showed us the park beyond, but nobody stared wistfully outside.

I hope when I go back to school in the fall, we will all find the classes so engaging.

Well, take care, dear Birdland. I'll bet the baby chicks are starting to feather out and follow their mother further and further away from their hidden niche in the old grain wagon.

Are the corn and bean fields filling out with green velvety stripes? I'll bet the corn will be knee-high when I come back. Give my love to Michael and Ellis, and I'll be home soon.

Follow beauty; pursue peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is always happy to visit new places and see friends. You can read more of her writings and see pictures of Birdland at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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