Resolution Reflections

Even though I did miss a few days of walking, I am calling my Walk Every Day in 2013 resolution a complete success.

To be honest, I’ve never successfully completed a New Year’s resolution before this one. And to think it only took me 50 years! At this rate I won’t complete another resolution until I’m 100 years old. Wait, I guess I wouldn’t have made any resolutions until I was at least 10, so at this rate I won’t complete another resolution until I’m 90. Either way, I really don’t want to go that long before completing another resolution. So before I make any new resolutions, I’ve been reflecting on what made this resolution successful:

  • It was pretty specific–I resolved to take a daily walk in 2013.
  • Despite that specificity, I allowed for variety within the parameters of the resolution–I walked on trails, through my neighborhood and other towns, on a treadmill, and even on a meditative labyrinth. I biked a few times too.
  • It had regularity–even though I got really sick of titling each day’s post with a number (and even messed up a couple of times), it really did make me write something about each day and make up many of the days that I missed by walking twice on a later day.

Some things that surprised me during the year of walking–in addition to actually completing the resolution–were:

  • The Illinois prairie is beautiful. Flat to the horizon, waving grass and fields of wildflowers took my breath away.
  • Even though I did not see my 2013 grail bird, the pileated woodpecker, I saw a variety of new birds, many within just ten miles of my home.
  • I’ve learned a surprising amount of local history.
  • I feel like I am more observant of the world around me. I see color, lines, shapes, and structures with new eyes.
  • I like being outdoors–even in the winter.
  • Walking, hiking, and biking has been a great activity for our youngest son (who’s fourteen and has autism). Moving on quiet trail has been a great way for him to expend some of his energy, and he loves the outdoors.
  • My family got into this far more than I expected. They voluntarily joined me often.

In fact, this year of walking worked because my family supported me and wanted to walk with me, which means it was really more than just about walking.

I set out doing all of this because I felt some nondescript need to be creative in my mid-life. The creativity part was certainly rewarding. I have really enjoyed writing, taking pictures, and learning about photography. But so much more rewarding was spending time with my family and seeing new places and things. And that’s why this resolution has been a success.

I think that this walking thing has become enough of a habit that I will continue to do it almost every day. (I have walked each day in 2014 so far, despite some horrible weather.) I’m sure that my family will still join me on a regular basis, and I’ll keep posting about my walks too–just not every day. I’ll post about the interesting walks and will attempt to take The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge each week.

As for a 2014 resolution, I’ve decided to keep it really simple this year–I’m giving up potato chips.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community


Walking through Chicago history at Graceland Cemetery

Historic Community

I learned about Graceland Cemetery in the Notes section of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, where he noted that Graceland is “an utterly charming haven where, paradoxically, history comes alive.” (394) I could not agree more. I took a walk there on a sunny day in early September and loved it. It’s gorgeous and so interesting.

Many of the figures in Chicago history are buried at Graceland on Chicago’s north side. I cannot name them all, but architects like Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and Mies van der Rohe are buried at Graceland. Marshall Field and Potter Palmer, both famous Chicago businessmen, and the inventors, Cyrus McCormick and George Pullman, are at Graceland too.

Graceland is a different type of community to be sure, but it is a community of people that have accomplished great things, and even though these people were not all contemporaries, their stories are all together at Graceland Cemetery.

Graceland Monuments

Graceland Cemetary Graceland VaultsThanks, Daily Post, for the chance to post again about one of my favorite walks this year as I complete my resolution.

Day Three Hundred Two

I’m almost finished with the audio book, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, so I listened again today as I walked around my neighborhood.

In today’s reading, the Great Plains Drought Area Committee issued a report to the president in August, 1936. The findings were bad. Although the area suffered a severe drought in the 1930s, this area simply does not receive enough average rainfall to raise crops on a regular basis. It was not just a single act of nature that caused the dust storms. Instead, the storms were caused by:

  • homesteading
  • World War I demands for wheat
  • over farming
  • over grazing
  • encouraging inappropriate, sustained agriculture
  • tearing out the buffalo grass which held down the soil

Based on these findings, Hugh Bennett, the head of the Soil Erosion Service, had different types of grasses planted, hoping to find something that would take root. His plan to cover the plains again in grass would take time. Not wanting to wait and in spite of the warnings, President Franklin Roosevelt had another idea–to plant trees up and down the plains.

I don’t think this will end well.

Day Three Hundred One

The Plow that Broke the Plains

I had the car in for repairs today and walked home after dropping it off and again to pick it up. I love being close enough to the mechanic that I’m able to walk.

I listened to some more of my audio book, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Today’s passage was about the making of the documentary, The Plow that Broke the Plains. After walking, I watched the movie.

The 25 minute movie, made in 1936 by Pare Lorentz, is worth a watch. The movie features real people from the region, and they were payed much-needed wages for their efforts. Some of the scenes feel staged, and it’s a little clunky in parts, but it did draw national attention to the struggles of the people living through the Dust Bowl.

It was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1999.

Day Two Hundred Forty-seven

Scouting and Walking

I’ve been planning this outing for a while.

In Ted Villaire’s book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Chicago, there are several hikes in the Illinois River Valley chapter that I have wanted to walk. Since many of these walks are fairly far from my home, I thought I’d do one reconnaissance mission and do three or four mini walks to see which ones would be appropriate for willing family members to join me at a later time.

Reconnaissance is right up my alley.

My first stop was the western side of Channahon, Illinois. I have walked along the Illinois & Michigan Canal in the eastern part of Channahon. Today though, I wanted to continue going west on the I & M Canal where it joins with the DuPage River. I enjoyed walking along the canal at the state park and seeing the locks, turtles, and great herons.

I &M CanalDuPage River

As the I & M bends south, it runs near the Des Plaines and Kankakee Rivers. All three rivers converge nearby to form the Illinois River. Near this convergence, I stopped briefly and walked around McKinley Woods Nature Preserve. We will definitely come back here for a hike through the woods to the canal and river.

Next, I drove south and west to Goose Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve. This preserve is run by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is the largest contiguous prairie in the state. Some of the prairie has being reclaimed after the land had been farmed and mined. Farmers planted most of the trees that I saw (as wind breaks). The tall grasses and prairie flowers were absolutely beautiful.

Goose Lake

I took four additional pictures which I have entered in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea (my take on sea–a sea of grass).

I drove then within the Goose Lake Preserve to Heidecke Lake where I saw kildeer, herons, and a smaller pair of birds (spotted sandpiper, perhaps) along the shoreline. This lake was originally a cooling station for a generating station. The constant flame of industry burning is visible across the lake as well.  I’m guessing, by the large number of docks, that this is a popular fishing spot on weekends. I’ve read that bald eagles have been spotted here in the winter–that’ll get my family members to join me here some time!

Goose Lake-Heidecke LakeGreat reconnaissance mission (and walking)!

Day Two Hundred Forty-four

Chicago History and Resting Places

IMG_1110Seven or eight years ago, I read Devil in the White City, a book about the 1893 World’s Fair held in Chicago. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.  It’s a historically accurate nonfiction account that reads more like a great novel. The book shifts back and forth between the planning of the fair, including biographies of its organizers, and the story of the serial killer that preyed upon fair visitors.

The author, Erik Larson, in his end notes gives the following credit:  “Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski’s Graveyards of Chicago (1999)…led me to Graceland Cemetery, an utterly charming haven where, paradoxically, history comes alive.”

Since reading this, I have wanted to visit Graceland Cemetery.  Today, I did. It is a really beautiful and interesting place where generations of prominent Chicagoans, including business titans, politicians, and influential architects, have been laid to rest. And they did it in style!

The first thing I noticed was all of the obelisks. Among the obelisks are some really impressive monuments, both in size and beauty.

Graceland MonumentsThe grand family vaults also impressed me with their ornate doors and arches.

Graceland VaultsThere are also the understated memorials, including Daniel Burnham’s island grave site surrounded by willows and other plants with a large boulder and simple plaque for a headstone.

Graceland CemetaryI did not have a cemetery map with me, so I just roamed about.  Only one other couple was there, driving around in their car, and I really enjoyed the serenity as I wandered up and down the lanes seeing the beautiful monuments and recognizing that so much of Chicago’s history is resting in one beautiful place.

Day Two Hundred Twenty-six

Not So Much

I have really enjoyed most of my walks along the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Since my daughter is home and said she would like to join us today, I thought the I & M would be a great place to take her. I just didn’t pick the best section.

We started in downtown Lockport, Illinois, and headed north. Right away, the trail moves away from the canal. We walked directly behind some businesses (complete with workers on break, staring as we went by) in an alley-like walkway before the trail heads into some trees and toward the canal again.

Soon, we came to a clearing with a group of old buildings–a school, a train station, a jail, and a couple of outhouses. These buildings appear to have been moved here from different towns in Will County. A parking lot is being added at this site as well. If the county is adding a new park here, I have been unable to find any information on it.

I & M Lockport North

As we headed north, the I & M Trail joins Centennial Trail and runs between industrial properties. A constant line of dump trucks came and went on a drive parallel to the trail as we walked.  After a half-mile or so, we turned around.and headed back to downtown Lockport where we looked around Lincoln’s Landing again before heading home.

Although we found the old buildings interesting and did see a heron fly by, this part of the trail offers little in beauty or wildlife.  I still enjoyed walking and spending time with my daughter and son though!

My favorite picture of the walk: