I saw my first warbler this morning. The birds still migrate south to north this time of year as if nothing even happened. In their world, I suppose not that much did. Some habitat was destroyed—but it’s not like that hadn’t happened before.
I’m in this little 1970s era strip mall that backs up against a bend of the Chicago River—I realize you’re too young to remember it. If this place had been built more recently, the developer would have made a big fuss about river access. Everything would have been oriented around utilizing the river as a scenic asset. The buildings would be LEED-certified and arranged around a permeable paver parking lot.
But that wasn’t the way planners thought back when they plopped down these eight shops and a parking lot. The river is hidden back behind the camera store and the Omaha Steak Shop that used to be here—the latter of which went defunct once the city of Omaha was wiped off the surface of the earth. No more Omaha, ergo, no more frozen slabs of steer coming our way from the windy plains of Nebraska. (I wonder what all those happy cows are doing out there now.) Anyway, to even find the river, you have to walk out past the trash dumpsters and the freight entrance.
But even though it’s hard to find the river when you’re on the ground, migrating birds have no trouble following it from the air. I’ve seen the aerial photos—the river is a mossy colored ribbon winding an uncomplicated path through all the suburban crapola which my office complex is complicit in creating. The birds seem to follow this ribbon on their migratory path north each spring.
Mason taught me that. I miss Eve and Mason.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.