If you live in an urban or suburban area, wildness is hard to find. I found it at Gallery Park in the Glen, a recently developed suburb that was created when the Glenview Naval Air Base was decommissioned. Along the verge and in between all the runways, naturalists found original, untouched Illinois prairie. Amazingly, in our era of greed and despoilment, environmentalists successfully lobbied for a set-aside of this untouched biodiversity, and the Glen planners preserved a pristine wetland/prairie area in the heart of the development.
I have found that I can briskly walk its paved paths and crushed gravel trails, which loop through neck-high grasses, for an hour without repeating my path. I see: a sandhill crane, many ducks, egrets, little birds that tweet up from the path, masses of purple asters, wild roses, weeping willows, oaks.
Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic, writes in today’s paper: “Chicago’s high-toned Latin motto, ‘Urbs in Horto’ (City in a Garden), makes it sound as though the expansive open spaces of the city’s lakefront extend to every corner of the city. They don’t.”
Kamin goes on to quote Perry Duis, a University of Illinois at Chicago historian, speaking about the dearth of green spaces planned into post-Great Fire Chicago: “The older industrial areas were so jammed by the expansion of factories that any kind of open space was considered to be sort of a luxury. It’s just logical… Chicago is the most thoroughly capitalistic city there is.”
As protestors mass on Wall St. and LaSalle St. in revolt against rampant corporate greed, it is well to bear in mind the environmental results of greed, in its most basic impact on our communities. If you can find yourself some wildness, embrace it and appreciate it, and fight for it.