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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Patience in Springfield, Missouri

Thirty Times a Minute

Could the act of looking at animals be part of a larger search for connection with something beyond ourselves, beyond our humanness—an attempt to connect with the mystery that nature inspires, even when this experience is heavily mediated? Why do so many people want to look at animals? Why do we defend or implicitly support the ... Read More »

Hummingbird moth 2

Lessons for an Apologetic Gardener

Am I the only person who apologizes to worms? To the small creatures that make their homes in soil, a gardener must seem like Godzilla galumphing through Tokyo, bringing destruction with every scoop of the trowel or scrape of the hoe. I find myself asking forgiveness of spiders, centipedes, and everything that crawls, slithers, or ... Read More »

fade paddle

Down Clear Creek

“Your God damn rivers,” he said at one point, “ain’t got no God damn water in them most of the God damn time.” (John Graves, “Kindred Spirits” in A John Graves Reader, p. 188)

Clear Creek is not the kind of stream most people would think to paddle. There are no designated ... Read More »

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A Question of Monarchs

A line of people curves like the body of a giant caterpillar, twisting up the mountain into the endangered oyamel fir forest. Michoacán, Mexico—the cloud-misted overwintering site of the monarch butterfly. Near the middle of the caterpillar of people, I kept pace, thinking about Catholic peregrinos who journey on well-worn footpaths and roads, ... Read More »


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 »

IMG_4206 Turkey Vulture

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 »

Barks 1

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 »

bee in honey

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 »

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