Category Archives: urbs in horto

Chicago Fireworks Ketubah

Chicago Fireworks Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

Chicago Fireworks Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

New ketubah:  inspired by the beautiful skyline of Chicago, as seen from out on Lake Michigan.  This is a new interpretation of an earlier painting, which I created for my son Cameron and his wonderful wife, Blake, for the save-the-date for their wedding:

Chicago Skyline, by Judith Joseph

Chicago Skyline, by Judith Joseph

Blake’s beautiful mom, Raina, just married her beloved, Jeff, and they asked me to create a ketubah for them inspired by the earlier painting I had done for Blake and Cam.

When I look at Raina and Jeff, I can see the sparks fly between them, so I suggested we add fireworks.  Raina asked for lots of flowers, which is also appropriate for love, joy and the motto of the City of Chicago:  “Urbs In Horto”, which means, “City In A Garden.”

So much joy and fun for our family this year!  Blessings and joy to both couples!  See it here on my website.

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Flowerchild: Then and Now

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I walk daily on a path through a virgin prairie near where I live.  The blooms change week by week, and I photographed some of them, to preserve their image before they withered and stepped aside for the next wave of blossoms.

I was listening to the sound track of “Forrest Gump”, which has songs from the late 60’s and early 70’s, the music of my childhood and teen years.  “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane was playing:

“Come on now we’re marching to the sea
got a revolution got to revolution… ”

I thought about the flower children of the 60’s, calling for revolution, and the  reference to “marching to the sea”, which calls up Sherman’s march to the sea, from the Civil War.  I am currently reading Sick From Freedom:  African American Illness and Suffering During The Civil War and Reconstruction by Jim Downs.  Mr. Downs revises the glossy view of the emancipation of the African slaves in the United States, and documents the catastrophic wave of privation and disease which met the newly emancipated bondsmen and women, because of medical ignorance and administrative incapacity.  Thousands upon thousands of former slaves died of exposure, starvation and disease following emancipation.  Which is obviously not to say that they were better off in slavery; in fact, the fear of that argument kept the grim facts from coming to light for generations.  It is important that this story is finally being told.

It may seem odd to make a jump from beautiful wildflowers to catastrophic demographic displacement, while in the midst of a gorgeous meadow on a summer day, but that’s how my mind runs.  Tearing down, I thought,  is quick and easy; building up is slow and torturous.  As I listened to the song calling for political change, I felt glad that the cultural revolution of my youth did not escalate to a violent overthrow of the U.S. government.  This sounds simplistic; but as I watch social/political upheavals around the world, and see our country use “shock and awe” as a “defense” policy, I worry.  Change is essential; people are suffering under cruel dictatorships, but as with the prairie, the return of life following a scorched-earth policy takes generations; the cost is terrible and the results are always mixed.

My little photographic record (which led to this line of thought) began with seeing a flower I’d never seen before, a few days earlier.  Since I didn’t have my cellphone/camera that day, I took a mental photo and did a little sketch in watercolor while I was at my teaching job at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Fay, an avid gardener in my class, didn’t recognize it, either, and suggested that I take it to Plant Information, where they were able to identify it for me:    Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea Purpurea).  The description in the book said it requires a “rich, well-developed environment.”  In other words, it only grows where generations of untouched prairie plants have been able to flourish and propogate and create the right conditions; it’s not just going to pop up on a foreclosed subdivision where people stopped mowing the grass for a year or two.  Which explains why I’ve never seen it before; it doesn’t grow just anywhere.
The custodians of Gallery Park, the beautiful jewel which contains patches of untouched prairie, utilize controlled burns to maintain the natural cycle of destruction and rebirth that allows the prairie to flourish.  How do we replicate a “controlled” burn in the world of politics and nation building?  Now, there’s the challenge.

Looking For Wildness

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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.