Letter from Birdland: An Art adventure in the Windy City

Letter from Birdland: An Art adventure in the Windy City

In Birdland, this morning bloomed bright, clear and cold. When I went out to the coop this morning, I could only find five of the eight pullets. (I bought them as pullets, but I'm pretty sure one of them is a cockerel. Sometimes that happens.)

I brought in the frozen water to thaw and refilled yesterday's water drinker. I told Michael, "Three of the baby chickens are gone." He said that maybe they didn't come in last night and are in the yard. "Or they might be hiding behind the turkey's house." My husband looks on the bright side, and maybe he's right. When I went back out with the water, they were all there again. I counted twice to be sure.

Over the weekend, I was up in Chicago with my dear friends, Nancy and Cheryl. We wanted to have a little getaway and planned out our trip, buying groceries before leaving town. We ate all weekend for $20 each, cooking salmon pesto pasta in our room and packing a hummus and vegetable lunch for our adventures.

On Friday, we spent the day at the Art Institute. Cheryl, the artist in the family, mapped out our day to visit all the favorites, but first I had to say hello to my special marble sculptures, the old man baby (a satyr standing inside a theatrical mask of an old, curly-bearded man, the baby hand thrust through the old man's mouth, the baby face visible inside the mask if you peek through the eye holes); Michael's favorite little girl, her hair braided innocently around her head, which is slightly tilted to the right, as if she's considering something; and my favorite ram, bigger than life, with a curly coat on his back and haunches.

Then we went in search of Georgia O'Keefe and Rodin. Nancy was taking it all in, always a gallery behind Cheryl and me.

We took a lunchtime break outside in the Lurie Gardens. It was warm and sunny — not like today — and we sat next to the artificial stream (empty of water now) that runs down the hill between beds of native plants.

I wanted to show my friends the skating ribbon (I had my skates in the car, but in the end we decided to just watch) and then we walked over to the bean for the obligatory picture.

Back in the museum, I wanted to see Monet's "Wheat Stacks," all the same, but painted in different lights and different seasons, and Cheryl showed me her favorite painting: "The Petite Creuse River," also by Monet. She knew right where to find it and stopped me as we entered the gallery. "Look at it from here," she commanded. "Doesn't that just look like sunlight?" And indeed we could feel the warmth of the dappled sunshine from the doorway. "That's light," she repeated, staring into the valley scene.

We admired it silently for a while, and then I crossed the gallery to look at the brushstrokes up close. Up close, it looks completely different, splotches of color on flat canvas.

It took us awhile to find the souvenir quilts, an exhibition open until April 1, and one my favorites was "Quilt Show," a sampler from the 1940s, each of the central blocks was a woman holding up a tiny quilt in different patterns.

The edging blocks were also samples of patterns. Another showed intricately embroidered birds perched on plants, for example, a goldfinch on a violet, a mockingbird on an iris, a quail on mistletoe. Looking more closely, I discovered that these are state birds and state flowers (only 48 states when the quilt was made, so 48 blocks fit nicely). I found our state (cardinal and violet) amongst many that share the same bird, but different flowers.

After a full day in the museum, we headed uptown to cook ourselves some supper and talk over the day. Tomorrow we were headed to the Botanic Gardens, but I'll have to tell you next time about the fascinating lecture about saving seeds (and really saving cultural heritage) that we attended.

Just now I have a couple of dogs who tell me they want a walk, and the sun is out and warm enough if I walk briskly and wear a hat.

Paint beauty; dapple peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in discovering pockets of culture. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (4):Art, Environment, Travel, Pets