By Caren Jeskey
Bruce, an old high school friend, left me alone at the Botanic Garden after a nice walk this past Monday. He’s the friend I inadvertently gave a hunk of concrete to as a housewarming gift several weeks back.
As we strolled, the naturalist he is taught me the difference between opposite and alternating leaves. He pointed out little beards on a prolific type of iris that I’ve studied on many a long walk. Now I can further delight in knowing that they are hipsters. (Am I dating myself? Maybe they’re not called hipsters anymore — the bearded, fashionable skinny short pants people? But I digress).
I can now better identify members of the Brassicaceae (more often called mustard) family, and know that their leaves grow in an alternating pattern, rather than the opposite pattern of, say, a maple tree. This family was formerly called Cruciferea. I’m not sure why the etymological change, but the B word is more fun to say. New Latin words on the tips of our tongues. Noted: I was in good company). It had thus far eluded me that Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale are also in this family of edible plants.
After more banter about how to extract opium from poppies and whether or not we like the blue metal cage sculpture in the middle of the lake, (I do, he does not), off Bruce went to his tennis lesson.
I soon noticed that a storm was quickly rolling in. As a lifelong cyclist and hiker, weather conditions are not hard for me to read. I beelined out of there and hopped on my bike. As I strapped my helmet on, watching a sea of seniors with lawn chairs stream in for Saturday June Band on the esplanade, I figured the good folks at the BG would get them to safety if necessary.
As I pedaled down the Lake Cook Trail towards the Green Bay Trail, an alert came through bluetooth into my left ear. (I bike and walk with only one earbud in, and at a low volume). “Tornado warning. Flying debris. Seek shelter.”
As the big fat raindrops started splashing on my arms and lightning streaked across the sky, I took a detour to the little kiddie train depot at Duke Park in Glencoe. I listened to a strange roll of thunder unlike any I’d ever heard before. Is this the train sound before the tornado takes you to Oz? I realized that I was standing next to electric train tracks and a sizable electrical box. I left my bike behind and got out of there, and stood under a tree, surveying my options.
As the tornado sirens got louder I felt that is was best to find some help. I ran to the first house I saw, rang the Ring, and also knocked. A woman peeked out of the glass to see me mouthing something at her, and she thankfully opened the door. I implored, “can I please hang out in your basement until this passes?” I was scared!
I know too many people, like Molly Glynn who was in a similar situation back in 2014, who are not aware of the danger they are facing during weather events. My childhood playground’s trees were decimated by a tornado less than 2 years ago right in Rogers Park. There have been more local tornados in the past handful of years, in this area, then I can recall for the previous 40+. Climate change has hit the Midwest.
I am probably too careful for some, but that’s OK. I won’t be the person recording the black bear chasing me, only to find my phone in his belly one day.
The kind young woman in Glencoe, her husband, their young kiddo and I headed downstairs as the lights flickered on and off. They brought me a glass of water and a chair to sit on. We chatted for 45 minutes or so, until the warnings had ended, and I took my leave. They offered for me to stay longer as the storm had not yet passed, but I looked outside and at the radar and decided I was safe. They had extended themselves quite enough already. Thank you kind couple Marli and Michael. A class act.
When I got to my bike I headed back to the Green Bay Trail (which I would not have done had I known then about Molly Glynn, the actress who got killed by a falling branch in a storm nearby in 2014). The sky to the north was clear and bright; the rumble of the storm and dark clouds clearly south of us now.
I pedaled to downtown Wilmette where I rewarded myself with a delicious piece of tuna and dined al fresco on a wet patio chair.