Our Neighborhood

About a million years ago I joined #MakingTime, a month of daily prompts to reclaim life and find balance in the little spaces between Stuff.

It had some pretty awesome things about it and I enjoyed my escapades.

One of my daily challenges was to take 20 pictures of my day and really spend time looking at and appreciating my environment.

At the time I had grand thoughts of giving you an apartment tour or schematically route-mapping the neighborhood. Needless to say it didn’t happen. But I did grab my camera before taking my habitual walk that evening.

Now we live so close to the lake, I walk down to the water and back most days. Closing up the Before and making room for After.

The fact that it usually includes long light, laughing kids, lapping sands and languorous willow trees doesn’t hurt either.

So here is a snapshot of our new ‘hood and all those things I love about living here.

First off: our beach is no ordinary city beach. Volunteers and the parks system are replanting native dune grasses to combat erosion and encourage biodiversity. We have several acres of grassy hedge and the odd cactus on our pristine shoreline.

On most evenings it’s crowded, like a friendly European piazza, with people milling about, walking dogs and fishing off of the pier. But every once in a while I get the place to myself and watch the sailboats float by.

rogers park beach

I love that we can see the Big City skyline in the distance, but mostly our leafy neighborhood is very homey.

There are playgrounds and schools, a big library and the expected residential accoutrements. The guy two doors down who pulls his kayak by wagon to the shore each night is probably my favorite thing on our street. The fairy door in a split tree trunk is a close second.

 

neighborhood

 

Most of the area is full-on houses with old-fashioned details, but there are some cheerful apartment buildings and the odd Soviet-Bloc style dorm to spice things up.

 

houses

I heart that bay window hard and get a kick out of the creepy angels and vintage sundials, too. But probably my favorite view here is of a park bench. A really big park bench.

It’s a cut barrier between the beach and a large verdant park of tennis courts and baseball diamonds.

Each Spring the neighborhood association sells 6-foot sections to local community members for $30 and a Paint Party ensues.

Kids buy them as Father’s Day presents, Cub Scouts portray wildlife, local artists run wild — and we get a 600-foot long mural of our city and our neighborhood, freshly minted until the clean-up crew wipes the slate clean for next year.

The Trib (or Chicago Tribune to you outsiders) wrote about it a few years back in some detail.

Like most things in this next of the woods, it makes my heart happy.

 

Que Sera Sara -- Rogers Park benches painted Loyola Park

But the best thing of all here is the hodge-podge-iness.

I like the old ladies and their abundant porch roses. I like the kids playing soccer in the dead-end streets. I like the cliché college boys playing loud music and slugging 45s on the fire escape on Saturdays.

The mix-and-mingle of life is so much more alive than the homogenous.

In a city still broken up into ethnic enclaves, I am proud to live in a place where everybody is in it together. Where the newly arrived Jamaican immigrants open a deli of homemade goods. Where the stalwart old money families frequent the little Lebanese market. Where the latch-key soup-kitchen kids are in the same little league as the SUV-clad private schoolers.

Just like the best apple pies need several varieties of apple, the best neighborhoods need all kinds of people. Here there is an abundance of good things from all sides. And it feels like home.

 

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