I heard there were foxes along the lakefront…

About five years ago I would see this one fox in the mornings, running in the street around Oklahoma between Delaware and Superior. One day I found it dead, hit by a car. More recently I’ve seen one on the South Shore bike path by the water intake station. A descendant, perhaps? Sometimes I see one by the North ramp from Lincoln Memorial Drive onto the Hoan Bridge.

I’ve seen coyotes all over the city. I heard once about a Native American tradition that says you will find your power animal by seeing it three times on the same path. After seeing the same coyote on the Cambridge Woods bike trail on two consecutive days, I went out the next day in hopes of being chosen by this magnificent specimen. All I saw were bunnies. Lesson learned.

Maybe one day I’ll see a bear, or a cougar!



Peace in 2014…
My great-grandfather was born in the late 1800’s, and toward the end of his life lived at the top of the high rise building by Howell and Lincoln when it was reserved for the elderly. The story goes that when he was young he learned to draw a dove from a circus hand. The image is now part of our family archives.


The Milwaukee River was my first wilderness.

I grew up playing in the woods down by the river, all up and down between Riverside and Estabrook Parks. I remember the rope swing at the Bonzai tree, long before they cut off the branch that held it. Lots of (stolen) bikes got destroyed going over that drop. Back then skating and BMX were just getting started, kids like Amedeo G. were heroes, and there was a cool scene at Funland (now Harry’s).

When we moved to Bay View I had to give up being able to walk from my back yard into the Cambridge Woods, but I always go back to visit and to pull garlic mustard. This morning when I went out I could hear that screech owl that’s always around, down by Hubbard Park. I also ran into a small band of spooky forest people.



Humboldt Park is full of magic…

I heard that gnomes, elves, and fairies could be found in the park and that some of them have taken up residence in the trees, so I went to see for myself. I wandered aimlessly at first, but a chorus of crickets chiding my wood-headedness told me where to find the lair of the Blue Fairy. I found her just before the dawn, while Orion could still be seen cartwheeling across the Southeastern sky. I chose his brightest star, and being careful not to say its name (beetlejuice, beetlejuice, beetle…) I did as she bade me, and made a wish.


Down on the Hank Aaron Trail…

I saw in the Shepherd that there is a walk along the Hank Aaron Trail today to view the public art, so I thought I’d add a piece to the work on display. I hope this version of my Great Grandfather’s dove doodle will ride for a long time, like the one in Bay View.

The paintings mounted on the fence commemorate the fair housing marches of the late 1960′s. I was a baby back then, and my parents had a hard time finding housing on the East Side because people didn’t want to rent to families with young children. They were asked to leave the apartment in which they lived because they displayed the sign of a political candidate in their street-facing window.

My parents and my mother’s family were active in James Groppi’s movement. I rode above the marchers on my father’s shoulders. I remember passing by an abandoned building bearing the sign of the Youth Commandos when I rode the #60 Burleigh bus to Jackie Robinson Middle School in the early years of school desegregation. Now I shop at Groppi’s in Bay View.

The Milwaukee River rolls by the trail and under the 16th Street Viaduct, our own Edmund Pettus Bridge. Many many rivers yet to cross.

Hank Aaron Trail Walk

The Itals - Roll River Jordan

Sleep is the brother of death.
– Mohammed

Here we are, all of us: in a dream-caravan,
A caravan, but a dream – a dream, but a caravan.
And we know which are the dreams.
Therein lies the hope.
 – Bahauddin Naqshband

This piece may not end up outside…we’ll see. The quote in the painting is from Wendell Berry’s novel, Remembering, which I’ve used in other pieces. When I first read it I was reminded of the Sufi teaching stories of the Mulla Nasrudin from my childhood. You can read some of them here, from Idries Shah Sayyid’s Caravan of Dreams.


Wherever there is a rock there is a garden.

In the dry gardens of Zen temples the monks rake wave patterns around rocks not only to represent this pattern as found in nature, but also as a meditation on how a clear mind is perturbed by ripples of thought.

When I was a kid my dad would take my brothers and me down to the lake and we’d jump around the rocks. If we found a good piece of driftwood he’d throw it way out into the water, and we’d try to hit it with rocks. We would spend hours doing that.

Writing about death, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh explains that we are like waves in water; we rise and fall, now here now there, but continue our journey in an endless cycle as part of a much larger whole. Our manifestation may be impermanent, but our existence is eternal.

My dad passed away not long ago. He remains a patterning force in my mind, and I can see him when I look without trying.