Desk-bound Nature Lover

My Blog: Occasional postings about the joys of birding, hiking, camping, and sightseeing.

My life: I spend most of my days in offices, looking at a computer screen, and waiting for those few weekends when I can get out and enjoy some remnant of our precious natural heritage. But, boy, do I live on those weekends!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ten Things I Like About Northeast Illinois

I hate living in Illinois. That is the truth, and it is the mildest way I can say it short of dishonesty. It is more than two years since I left California and returned full time to Illinois, and the passage of time has only sharpened my homesickness for the San Francisco Bay area.

I don’t want to go into why I can’t move back to California but I can’t. So, rather than wallow in homesickness, I had better make the best of it.

Last week I saw a blog by another person who was homesick for California. ( She had moved to Maryland from the east bay area. To deal with her homesickness, she made a list of things she liked about Maryland. It seemed to me like a good idea. She was only able to come up with five things. I set a goal of coming up with ten. It was quite hard to come up with ten good things about the place I live, but I did it. So, here are ten things I like about living in the Chicago suburbs.

1. The Forest Preserves. Okay, these are pretty lame compared to the vast areas of public space in the Bay area. But compared to some cities, they are really something. As small as the forest preserves are, the people in charge of them really try to do them right. There is a serious attempt to recreate, as closely as possible, the native natural environments of the Chicago area: tall grass prairies, oak savannas, and hardwood forests. They are not big enough to take a decent hike in, but without these, I don’t think I could survive here.

2. Lake Michigan. The lake is beautiful. It is a joy to walk along the lake front, and there is a fair amount of public land along the lake front so that you can do it. Of course, I prefer the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, but half a loaf is better than none.

3. Chicago museums. Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History is the best natural history museum I have ever seen, outside of the Smithsonian Institute. The Chicago Art Institute is a world class art museum. Then there are the Shedd Aquarium and the Brookfield Zoo. I don’t go to these very often, but its nice to know that I can, and when I do, I like them a lot.

4. My wife and son like it here. My daughter, before she went off to college, saw nothing wrong with living in the Chicago area, either. (I guess there is no accounting for taste.) If they are happy, then I am at least somewhat happy too.

5. The Evanston North Shore Bird Club. I have a blast with these people. I’ve been a member of other birding clubs, but this one is the greatest.

6. Changing seasons. Of course, almost every place has changing seasons, but I like a full change from snowy winters to steamy summers. When I’ve lived places where the seasonal changes were milder (San Francisco, Tokyo) I missed Midwestern weather (kind of).

7. My Senator just got elected President. I was proud to have Barack Obama as my Senator, and I think I am going to like him as a President. (This more than makes up for the shame I have felt for living in the same state that produced Ronald Reagan.)

8. My job. As much as I hate living in Illinois, leaving here would probably mean leaving my job. I would need good luck to find a job I like as much.

9. No hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, or other natural disasters. Illinois can have some pretty damaging weather. Thunderstorms can blow down trees and flood your basement, but after watching the news about the firestorms in Southern California today, I feel pretty safe in Illinois.

10. Good schools. I heard a lot of complaints about the schools when I was in California. Even in the nicer communities it seemed to be a problem. You also hear complaints about Chicago schools, but out here in the north suburbs you almost never hear people complain about the schools. Apparently, they are pretty good here.


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