About a mile off east of campus down 31st street, there is a nice little beach right out on Lake Michigan. It is clean. You can see the skyline if you look north. But mostly I go there when I want to be out in the open air. Sometimes I do reading down there. Mostly I run and I walk by it. On this occasion I went out when it was snowing--the first snow of the season--and dark.
I was alone. It was very quiet. This is why I prefer snow to rain--its silence blankets the world just as white envelops the ground. Snow makes the world seem smaller and safer; it encloses you on all sides and puts you in a world not quite in the one you were before white flakes started falling. The sky turns a purple (if you're near any urban light source whatsoever) and everything you do seems hushed and reverent.
The lake itself was quiet on this particular occasion. The water pushed gently at the sand, and I felt like walking across it. I went out on the dock and stood by myself for a while, and Walt Whitman ran through my head:
"I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."
"Song of Myself" has always been one of my favorite poems, and this seemed particularly fitting. I stood in the wind and felt untamed and untranslatable. Sometimes it's only in the quiet and alone that I can feel everything without the filtering influence of others; I can remember who I am. Chicago might not seem like a place with many of those spots, but if you look hard enough (look for me under your bootsoles) you will find them.