Despite having a wandering spirit and a lust for discovering new sites & having new adventures, there are places I’ve put down roots, places I go where I’ll always be more than just a visitor. Driving down the highway with the rest of the holiday crowd, headed west to Chicago through heavy December rains, I’m on a familiar route. There’s a promise of “home” when I pull my well-traveled SUV into a very familiar driveway.
Chicago’s southwestern suburb of Brookfield is still where I call home, even though I’ve now lived elsewhere as long as I lived in my childhood home, a brick two-story on a street that was once lined with elm trees. Elm Street represents my earliest years, and those awkward in-between years, a symbol of my personal development, including as many failures as successes. But that’s what builds character.
What could be more symbolic of home, family, and heritage, while at the same time sending a message of growth, reaching out, and exploration than a large shade tree like an elm? “Elm is thought to be the tree of old Family and family tradition… The main aspect of Elm symbolism is strength; and in that quality it leaves behind even the most powerful trees, such as Oak, Alder or Yew.” http://unfading.net/elm.html
But the trees aren’t invincible. Dutch Elm Disease, for which there is no cure once a tree is infected, brought an end to the rows of trees lining Elm Street. These changes in landscaping didn’t uproot me – I have family still living in the room I shared with my sister, then covered in Rumpelstiltskin wallpaper, and clearing snow from the sidewalks I wore out several pairs of roller skates on. It’s a mixture of nostalgia, a desire for family, and wanting to see a familiar city with new eyes that urges me back during the holidays.
My family often buys me jewelry for Christmas, and this year they didn’t disappoint. A painted glass pendant from a Chicago area art show, visited this summer, waited under the Christmas tree. Vibrant, metallic green dominates the striking pendant, a backdrop for the silhouette of a simple black tree, void of leaves and reaching high into the air, as roots plunge down into the earth.
The note written on the tag – “Because your “roots” have spread through love, caring, adventure & joy.”
Opportunities to find art such as this, by artists from across the country, are abundant in Chicago. Seasonal art shows flood the summer with a rainbow of visual arts, from fine art and travel photography to meditative watercolor paintings, from edgy metal sculptures to all matter of beautiful pieces carved from fallen trees. The warm wood tones have always drawn my attention the most. I credit my parents’ appreciation for independent artists with spurring me along in many of my creative endeavors.
Inside the red brick house, in conversation between news updates and the weatherman’s tracking of Santa’s progress across the globe, I mention that I’m involved in starting up a book club for 2016. I hope to grow in my own personal development, through the pages of 12 works of nonfiction. I’m invited to help myself to any of my father’s collection of books, which takes up space in just about every room of the house. He likes to read, and has a lot of books. A lot. I gather them into a stack, atop another Christmas gift – National Geographic’s “Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places”. I have a lot of exploring to do, and a new addition to my Canon lineup to assist.
When possible, home also means a visit to the zoo, this time the Lincoln Park Zoo in downtown Chicago. I’m greeted at the front gate by a variety of feathery, spiny and furry creatures. The big cats are especially on alert; it’s an unseasonably warm day, and I’ve brought a dog into the park with me, unaware of the rules against such. I’m face-to-face with these beautiful feline creatures, alert and seeming to pose for “selfies” with the small crowd of visitors gathered on Christmas Eve Day. That is, until the female lions (the hunters in the family) spot the dog, and instincts kick in. I make a quick retreat from the metal cages.
When it’s time to make the journey back across Indiana and into Ohio, Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” is already in progress in the CD player. I’ve wanted to read this book for quite some time, but worried it might spark an itch to travel. Too late! The drive gives me just enough time to listen to this story of wilderness adventures, solitary reflection and unexpected growth for the author.
Christmas and the New Year can be tough for some people, as old memories are dragged up and current struggles come to the surface. Others embrace the chance to close out one year surrounded by the people closest to them, and prepare for continued adventures in the New Year. For me it’s a little of both, but I look forward to seeing where my wanderlust takes me in the months to come.
Ready for the Next Adventure!
Dutch Elm Disease: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/plantinfo/dutch_elm_disease
Brookfield, IL: http://brookfieldil.gov/
GiG Glass Art on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GiGGlassArt/?fref=ts
Lincoln Park Zoo: http://www.lpzoo.org/
Author Bill Bryson: http://www.billbrysonbooks.com/
A Walk in the Woods – Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail: http://www.billbrysonbooks.com/index.php/a-walk-in-the-woods-film-tie-in-rediscovering-america-on-the-appalachian-trail/#us