Letter from Birdland | City, country have similarities

Letter from Birdland | City, country have similarities

Birdland is hot and steamy, but we are in Chicago again. I'm enjoying this dual city/country life. I wouldn't want to leave the farm, but in Chicago, I can see the benefits of city living. Sometimes the city even helps me see my home more clearly.

I wanted to show Michael my favorite coffee shop, First Sip, but it wasn't open yet. My husband and I peered in the window full of delicate plants, while I pointed out the quirky furniture, including the sewing machine table where I like to sit.

The old Singer machine with a knee pedal and decorated with gold filigree, just like my grandmother's, is ready next to me as I write. I am always tempted to scoot over and sew something, but I never think to bring my work basket.

Above the counter hang hundreds of china teacups, the best of the thrift store finds. At least that's how I would decorate my own coffee shop. The cups hang by their handles on string, so they appear to be levitating, like an antique beaded curtain or a magic tea party.

Down the block, we discover a grocery. I am looking for a hairbrush, which I forgot to pack. They don't have any, but I find packets of seeds I don't see in our farm store at home: Asian basil, Nappa cabbage, bok choy, some kind of red pepper that looks like a bush of bright cherries. I can't read the writing that might tell me if it's a sweet pepper or hot.

A woman is bending to sweep in the aisles with a short-handled broom made of some kind of soft rushes woven into a fan. I find a bunch of these brooms hanging in the housewares aisle. They are woven with bright cords in a pattern almost like a God's eye. The wooden handles are covered with bright green plastic with writing in two languages. The English words say, "It's more fun in the Philippines!" The bright colors cheer me.

Michael catches me looking and says, "You can get one if you want." We both know I don't need his permission, but he means that he wants one, and Mr. We-Have-Enough-Stuff-in-Our-House won't tease me about my consumerism if I buy one. I do buy it, and the seeds, thinking how rich the diversity is in the store, of the neighborhood.

We wander around and find seafood on ice and vegetables and fruits we've never seen before.

Near my broom are stacks of porcelain bowls and soup spoons, shelves of incense and bamboo steamers. A nice variety of housewares, but we have to go down a few blocks to find my hairbrush in a convenience store. We stop at a Vietnamese bakery for our morning coffee and buy some breakfast, a tiny quiche, some creme puffs. Then we add a couple of steamed dumplings.

Walking around in the city reminds me of my corner meadow at home. Around each turn of the path hides a surprise. My meadow is a tiny pocket of variety in acres of corn. Don't get me wrong; fields of corn and beans can be beautiful, especially when the wind ripples across, making waves like a green sea. And the daily changes of the cycle of sprouting, growing tall, bearing seeds and dying mean the color wheel constantly spins.

But I like best meandering through my meadow, when each turn might bring a new bloom.

Just this week the tiny potted rose I planted last year after Valentine's Day put out a mess of rosebuds that are opening now, and the day lilies sent up tall stems with bright orange flowers that bloom for one day.

I look ahead and see that sunflowers have spread, knee high now, and will soon be bobbing their sunny heads. Purple coneflower is coming soon. Tucked into a pocket of goldenrod, I find some lambs' ears that I missed, with their head of purple flowers on a stalk, and look! A miniature day lily has already bloomed behind a stand of stickweed that I need to pull. In the city or in my meadow, I'll keep my eyes open for surprises.

Communicate beauty; spread peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the variety of culture and biology offered in the city and in the meadow. 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.

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