City Creatures Blog

As urban populations grow, and contact with nature becomes more constricted, is our psychological and social well-being in jeopardy?  Are healthy ecological communities, biological diversity, and even wilderness compatible with urban areas?  An extension of our City Creatures project, this blog explores how cities can be remarkable places that offer opportunities for intimacy, connection, and transformation with other species, and with one another, in our shared urban habitats.  

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The Last Village by the Lake

Lying in my bed late into the night, if I hold my body still and concentrate, I can hear the waves of Lake Michigan. I wait for the El to pass, listen to the rumbling wheels give way to the echo of the surf, its sigh and heave, bouncing up into my window from the ... Read More »


Stumble Upon

Having gotten hopelessly lost on my way to the post office in my new Chicago neighborhood last week, a state from which even the smart phone’s smartness failed to deliver me, I stumbled across a community garden on the grounds of a public school. There were goldfinches, which I enjoy on account of their ... Read More »

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Vultures in Rosehill Cemetery

Plutarch wrote that “the vulture is a rare sight, and it is not easy to come upon a vulture’s young.” From ancient Greece to modern-day Chicago, at least that one thing has not changed.

Nearly two months had passed since the avid Chicago birder and photographer Kanae Hirabayashi had alerted my partner Joel and ... Read More »

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Dog’s Eye View: Little Adventures in the Borderlands

I once found the meaning of life in a seedy Chicago bar, in a worn medical dictionary someone had left on the counter (to settle arguments, maybe). In the very first paragraphs, it defined “life” in such lucid, coolly elegant prose it seemed like the actual meaning of life—especially after a couple of IPAs. I’ve ... Read More »

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Nature Leaving Me Buzzed

One can easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle of urban life, whether commuting by public transit to work, attending street and music festivals, or patronizing the variety of local bars and restaurants. Given the pace and distractions of city living, some effort may be required to slow down and reconnect with nature. ... Read More »


Jim Corbett, Truant Sea Lion of Lake Michigan

Sometime in early October 1892, a sea lion escaped from its pool in the Lincoln Park Zoo and slipped into Lake Michigan. Newspapers named the animal after Jim Corbett, a famous boxer who was in town at the time of the escape, and tracked Jim’s movements up and down the western shore of Lake Michigan. ... Read More »


How to Know Where the River Is

The southeast corner of Harlem and Washington, where I often wait for the bus going north to the school where I work, is irrefutably urban. North across Washington an apartment building edges the sidewalk. Across Harlem is a gas station painted with a green never seen in nature and  fronted with popsicle-shaped yews stuck in ... Read More »

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Why I Paint City Creatures

For 20 years, my artistic journey has been intertwined with city creatures. My watercolor paintings feature local and global flora and fauna, both common and endangered. Birds especially capture my attention—from devious red-winged blackbirds in Millennium Park to golden finches feeding on my sunflowers and skittish sparrows who gobble up the tiny seeds that fall ... Read More »


Two Years

We are approaching the two-year anniversary of the City Creatures blog. It’s been a fun ride. We pause this week to take a breath and scan the landscape.

Thank you to our 67 contributors … and counting … many of whom have shared multiple pieces. It’s been wonderful to watch this blog grow its audience and ... Read More »


More Than a Tree

When we moved into our house sixteen years ago, there were signs that the backyard’s towering silver maple was in decline. Little piles of sawdust at the base suggested carpenter ants were digging away at it from within. I knew that, one day, we’d probably have to cut the tree down. That day came on ... Read More »

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