I would like to live in a place that is in a city, with great public transit nearby, with many different restaurants and museums, a variety of people, and tons of things to do…and that is on the edge of a forest.
Yes, that’s the paradox that is Miss Healthypants. I am City Mouse and Country Mouse, all rolled into one.
Case in point: This past week, I spent some time viewing an art exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, ate Indonesian Bakmi Goreng at Zen Noodles and Sushi (yummy!), and enjoyed people-watching on Broadway Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood…I also took a stroll through the Che-che-pin-qua Woods (in the city’s surrounding forest preserves), intently watched nesting geese, took a long walk along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront, and watched otters frolic and play on “Wild America.”
I love the hard steel structures of city buildings and trains, and the soft dewy grass beneath my feet.
But this time of year, as the weather starts to get warmer (finally!), I start to get nostalgic for the country life. I love nature and animals, and I want to spend as much time with both of them as possible—but I still want to live in the city. What is one Miss Healthypants to do?
Well, luckily, we do have our share of wild animals, even in the city. Maybe they’re not the most rare animals, but they’re still animals, and I for one, do appreciate them. For example:
1. We have pigeons. Loads and loads of pigeons. My sister Sheri scoffs at them and calls them “rats with wings,” but I really and truly do like pigeons. And I enjoy watching them. If you really pay attention to pigeons, you will likely see a pigeon fight break out, which is always interesting. And let’s face it; the way they walk—jutting their heads forward and back with every step—is just plain funny.
2. We have sparrows. Yeah, I know—not really rare—but they’re cute! And of course, we have seagulls, robins, and all sorts of other “Midwestern” birds.
3. We have ducks and geese. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE it when a duck calls out in a slowly trailing off tone, “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack.” I find it very amusing. And geese—well, you just gotta respect them. They don’t like you messing with them, and they don’t mind letting you know it, either.
4. We have rats. I don’t care what you say, I think rats are cute—especially subway rats. I love to watch them dart back and forth between the rails. A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I had just left a restaurant in Chinatown, and we saw a rat running around the dumpsters near the restaurant. I was fascinated. Yeah, I know I’m weird. I just think rodents are so damn cute!
5. We have squirrels. Believe it or not, where I grew up in small-town Wisconsin, I very rarely saw squirrels. I’m not sure why that was, but I think squirrels are adorable, and I’m glad they’re plentiful in this city. I am always amazed to watch their dexterity in jumping from tree to tree, from branch to branch. They never fall! And also, the squirrels in this city are very friendly. If you come up to them and make a little squeaking noise, they will come running up to you, expecting a handout. It’s pretty funny—and I’ll admit, frightening at times. I know they’re small and all, but I still wouldn’t want one of them crawling up my leg!
6. We have rabbits. On Easter Sunday, Iwanski and I were taking a nature walk, and we came upon a big group of rabbits. The child in me was delighted to see the bunch of Easter bunnies!
7. We have falcons. That’s right, I said falcons. Several years ago, a local group brought some peregrine falcons into the city to try to help try to raise their population (they were at one time an endangered species). And apparently pigeons make a tasty meal for falcons. One time, when Iwanski and I were on the observation deck at the Sears Tower, we actually saw two falcons flying around, one of them with a rat in its talons. That was freakin’ cool!
8. We have otters. Yes, we read that there are actually river otters now living in the Chicago River. Iwanski and I haven’t been lucky enough yet to see them.
9. We have deer. They’re mainly in the forest preserves, but some of the forest preserves are actually in the city limits. Sometimes I wonder if those deer realize that they live in the city of Chicago.
10. We have raccoons. One time, when Iwanski and I had just returned from a summer vacation, we saw a raccoon sitting next to a homeless woman on a planter, creeping ever-so-closely to her, while she sat there, completely oblivious to what was happening. (Luckily, a man who was walking very close-by lunged at the raccoon, and he ran away. That lady was so lucky that she didn’t get bitten!)
Wow, I guess we do have some nature in the city! And let’s not forget the coyote that two years ago, jumped into the cooler at a Quizno’s restaurant downtown, or the huge cougar that had to be shot by the cops on the North side of Chicago, a year ago this month.
I guess Chicago isn’t too bad a spot for both the City Mouse and the Country Mouse inside of me, after all.
And it’s nice to know that if I really start to get a hankering for some “real” nature (you know, the kind that isn’t surrounded by high-rises and screeching el trains), the Cook County forest preserves are only a bus or train ride away.