Journey to the Garden

When I first moved to the Chicago area in the summer of 2005, I was almost immediately struck by the immensity of the city. After several months, however, I was also struck by the unique way that urban living can cram your entire life into ever smaller cubes and distances.

IMG_0562For instance, my first apartment in Chicago was only 3.5 miles from my first job in Chicago. The grocery store was less than a mile’s walk away from the apartment, as was the laundromat, the cleaner’s, and tons of restaurants. My entire existence was contained within a meager, five-mile radius of my apartment. This was good, seeing as how I had no car and had to rely on public transportation.

IMG_0563However, this urban radius was a huge contrast from my former home in a small college town in Louisiana. There, my week-to-week life was more likely contained in a 90-mile radius: school in one town, work in another, and a host of family and relatives scattered all around. Where I grew to know my Chicago neighborhood like the back of my hand, I had formerly been intimately familiar with lengthy stretches of rural interstate highways lined with pine trees. I guess you could say that I’ve always liked a bit of contrast — especially when it comes to commuting.

IMG_0565I’ve complained at length a few times already about my midweek trips out to the garden. Though I do lament the time it takes and the headache of the two-trains-and-a-car-ride inevitability of the journey, I find myself at least partially enjoying myself; if for no other reason than the journey takes me outside of my typical, small, mostly on-foot, urban periphery.

IMG_0567 When looked upon as a whole, the journey sounds a little fantastic, actually. I leave my office, walking down streets of prim and proper lawns under the emerald canopy of shade trees serenaded by robins, starlings, sparrows, and goldfinches. Moments later I’m on a train rushing toward the hustle and bustle of the city. I leap off the train and dash through a crowded station filled with hurried commuters and clueless tourists, the air alive with white noise, conversation, muzak, IMG_0581and the general hum of the city. I dash across the concrete caverns, the towering skyscrapers, the street vendors, and scurry downstairs into a cavern filled with trains, exhaust fumes, and the roar of engines so loud that I feel it travel through my torso (I wear earplugs) with the ferociousness of jet engines. In less than a half hour, I’m once again aboard a train, but this time it’s an iron horse, storming across the open prairie, heading toward the west and the sunset and as mountainous, purple thunderheads grow ominously in the distance. Not bad for a three hour tour, eh?
Of course, after the eleventieth time I’ve made this trek, even my own active imagination has pretty well been put to the test and I begin to make note of the mundaneness all around me and start noticing the patterns and the oddities. It’s akin to sitting at the window on a bleak, January twilight. Staring off into the empty void of winter and the monochromatic landscape, eventually your eyes may fix on a surprising variation in the scenery that would otherwise go unnoticed in other seasons.
In this case, it’s usually a mystery, such as, “Why is there a new-looking barbecue pit sitting outside the rear exit to an old run-down warehouse?” Or my travel-weary mind playing tricks on me, “Is it just the odd, technicolor coating on these train windows, or have I gone back in time? These condos look like something straight out of the 1940s… and that old diner, is it still open?”
When I’ve grown tired of staring out the windows and gazing out at the towns whizzing past, I sometimes find myself people watching. Occasionally, when you make fairly regular train trips, you begin to see some of the same people and you discover that vague since of familiarity with people — where you’re still total strangers and yet you know that you could both identify one another in a police lineup. IMG_0598“That’s her, officer, the woman who’s wearing too much make-up. She always wears too much, actually, though I’d recognize her even more if she had her cell phone to her ear.”

There’s the man who always looks stressed and unhappy. Maybe he’s not really stressed and unhappy, maybe he’s just tired. I’ve been told I look rather grumpy when I’m tired. There’s the man who always sits in the back seat of the car and talks noisily with a few other passengers. No, they don’t really know each other, they just always see each other on the train. Today they’re talking about what movies they want to see… wait, no… apparently all movies suck in their opinion. They’re a fun bunch. Ugh! Stop making that woman laugh, she sounds like the wicked witch!

Or maybe I’ll dive into a book I happen to be reading, if I didn’t happen to leave it at home sitting on my nightstand… shucks… I’m so forgetful…

Eventually, as the train has almost completely emptied of passengers and imagination fodder, we reach my stop where James is waiting for me. I get into the car and we drive to the garden where I never know what’s in store.IMG_0622IMG_0403


~ by Jason on June 28, 2010.

2 Responses to “Journey to the Garden”

  1. keep up the stories sweety I love reading what you come up with. Love yall OXOXOXOX

  2. I agree with your mom! Love your posts!

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