The Arboretum – A Case of Extravagant Beauty

I live in the same university community where I arrived as a seventeen year old freshman in the fall of 1968. I never dreamed I’d still be here fifty-three years later. I’d always thought I’d return to Chicago, live near my family, make my own, find a job and settle into urban life, snuggled against the shore of Lake Michigan, my ancestral waters. Life is unpredictable. In 1971 I met my future husband, a transplanted suburbanite from Chicago’s north side. We moved in together in April, 1972, both of us trying to finish up school which we’d left by the wayside as politics, protest and an alternative community became the center of our lives. I still wanted to leave here and move home. We got married in Chicago in 1976 but didn’t stay there, returning to this town. Somehow or other, we both settled into each other and into jobs. By that time, my younger sister had moved here,too. In 1978, we bought a house. We had our first kid in 1981. My parents moved here in 1986. I always missed Lake Michigan and still do. We solved that problem by vacationing there for at least a weekend every year. I am in my hometown now and will end my life here, as Michael already has. And I’m good with that.

Living in a university community has lots of advantages, especially when it’s located fairly close to three major metropolitan areas. What isn’t here isn’t too far away. By drawing students from those big cities, in addition to having a large foreign student population among the 50,000 attendees, lots of sophisticated amenities have sprung up here over the years. A world class performing arts center, a Silicon Valley type research consortium with cutting edge science coupled with the university research community, and a progressive atmosphere make this place a pretty great spot to call home. During the past unprecedented year, Covid testing and vaccines rolled out so smoothly, I felt guilty every time I read, saw or heard about the chaos in so many places throughout this country. At one point, testing here accounted for 10% of all given nationwide. Nothing is perfect but this a place where people can feel fortunate to have landed. And then there’s the subject of this missive. I live in a place that values green space and where many people believe in climate change. I’m so glad. We have great parks. But we also have the arboretum and Japan House which sprawl across about 57 acres right on the edge of campus. A place for research, teaching, public programs and opportunities for sharing Japanese traditions, it is also is the home to the spring cherry blossom extravaganza that can be seen locally rather than abroad or in Washington, DC. Yesterday on a mild windy day, I walked through it, soaking in all the natural beauty and the creations which enhance its peaceful ambience. I’d like to share that walk with you, just as I took it, through my photos. The repetition is part of the walk – sometimes you think one picture is enough. But it really isn’t. Enjoy.

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