Last month I went back to Chicago, the place where I was born and raised. During the trip, I had some extra time to visit places that I haven’t been to in many decades. Notably I visited Little Red School House Nature Center, Racoon Grove Nature Preserve, Plum Creek Nature Center, and my alma mater, Governor’s State University. These sites played a major role in developing the person I am today.
While I wandered these old haunts, I felt disoriented. There was something strangely familiar about each of them, but there was also something obviously different. I knew in my head that I had walked these grounds and my early love of nature was nurtured there. I worked in a variety of jobs at each of these natural areas after graduating GSU with a BS in Environmental Biology. You see, my dream since I was a kid was to be a conservationist. I loved the outdoors and wild things. How things change.
Back then, I “knew” I couldn’t be an artist because I couldn’t draw. So I pursued training in my second love, nature science. I experienced some interesting things during my formative years. My training gave me a keen eye to see what was around me, the colors, the light, the movement, and all. I still have a photo pinned to my cork board that I took at Racoon Grove. Some day I will render that photo into a quilt.
Little did I know back then that I would eventually be an artist who sells their work. When you live somewhere a long time, you see things change gradually over time and you adapt. When you go back years later, the changes are much more dramatic. On my trip I noticed that the road to my school was foreign, so much new construction had replaced the farm fields I knew so well. The two nature centers had been remodeled beyond my recognition. And Raccoon Grove seemed somehow smaller.
I also realized that I too have changed. My eyes see things differently, clouded by decades of experience. I am grateful to have had these youth-filled experiences, they have helped me be a better artist. What I learned on this journey, was you can never go back. But that’s OK, even going back to a strangely familiar place has enriched me. Every day I see more clearly.