As it’s not snowing, raining, gale-ing, freezing, or otherwise being crappy today—everyone will be out in Chicago.
Like ants who keep their annual date in suburban kitchens, pedestrians have returned, visible after a long absence. Some carry coats in distrust of the upturn in the weather, but they’ve ventured out. People I’ve seen wrapped all winter reveal more skin than I’d considered, and some travel in groups, transporting conversation and laughter down sidewalks like lightning bolts of life, the air jazzed around them.
It feels great to be among them, “The glories strung,” as Walt Whitman said, “like beads on my smallest sights and hearings—on the walk in the street, and the passage over the river” (“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” l. 9).
Perhaps everyone who moves into a city worries he or she is leaving nature, but you really enter a second sort of nature—the hive-life of human nature. We are animals, and this weather turns us into an animal watchers. We pretend not to notice each other while secretly inventing the story for every expression, gait, tattoo, and costume.
You feel less alone. I may not converse with everyone I encounter—out of kindness and in the interest of avoiding chats with police—but sometimes I think I could. These isn’t-it-great-to-be-alive moments seem more intense when you recognize you share them.
During my time in Chicago winter has been as hard as everyone said it would be, but the relief of spring is sweeter too, a boon.
It is as if an invisible landscape suddenly became visible again, as if spring made us remember the sun, everything it illuminates, and one another.