Friday, July 3, 2020

It won’t kill you to get out of the house

     Summer rain pelted my face as I stood on my pedals, flying down the gravel trail alongside the I&M Canal. For one moment, boom, the whole knotted mess just fell away — the virus, the masks, the mango Lord of the Lies, everything — and I was just a kid on a bike going through the woods in far southwest Channahon. Gliding through green leaves, past great blue herons and angular waterways that were part of history yet also right there.
     Or more precisely, I realized it was gone. That somehow the door to my electronic cage had swung open and I had slipped back into the living world. It took a bit of groping to reconstruct regular life: each day a carbon copy of the day before, walking the dog, meals, work, sleep, rinse, repeat.   
     How’d I get from that treadmill to a village in Will County? Looking back, they didn’t actually invite me. What the folks hyping Illinois & Michigan Canal — ”This outdoor museum, perfect for social distancing, is the nation’s first official National Heritage Area” — did was offer photos and a phone call.
     ”Please let us know if you would be interested in images or if you would like to speak with Robin Malpass regarding the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area,” is how they put it.
     How about, I countered, we explore the area together? Like most men, I had a hidden agenda — to clap eyes on the I&M Canal, the pathway that led baby Chicago on its first tottering steps from being a few hovels clustered around the pointy log stockage of Fort Dearborn to the sprawling, skyscrapered, dynamic, carnival of a metropolis — on summers other than this one that is — we know and love.

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  1. ...or if you prefer to go north, highly recommend Moraine Hills State Park (McHenry) and Glacial Park (Ringwood). Outdoor peace and awe, without the crowds. Trails, rolling prairie, delta kames, wetlands, and wonderful serenity. Just for you!

  2. I want to go! It makes me less trepidatious about returning to Illinois when I hear about places like this I have yet to explore. I also don't mind being outdoors in the cold. The year I left Chicago and moved to Austin, 2014, I was out cutting down and burning invasive buckthorn trees to help restore a patch of forest off of Foster on a 10 degree day, and I biked miles to get there. I find the body warms up quickly when active in the tundra.


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