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Field & Street

My mistake was not noticing the young tree when it first sprouted behind the garbage cans. In a couple months it’s grown into a robust young thing, insinuated in the slit between the asphalt of the alley and the foundation of my house. Now, with branches higher than my thighs and roots entwined with the […]

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Field & Street

By Jill Riddell I’m invited to a friend’s parents’ house in Highland Park for a party, so I drive up with my friend Jay, for whom this is practically a wilderness excursion. Since his idea of enjoying nature is to step from his air-conditioned apartment onto the porch long enough for a cigarette, it’s unclear […]

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Field & Street

By Jill Riddell One hundred twenty-three trees were killed last Sunday, and I’m confessing to the crime. I freely admit I single-handedly pulled a crop of tender young maples out by the roots and sent their corpses to the landfill. After a few days of steady rain I’d gone to check on the herbs and […]

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Field & Street

By Jill Riddell During the years I worked for environmental organizations we used to joke, “Is it a beautiful Saturday in May? Is the sun out? Are birds singing? Great. Let’s get 14 environmentalists in a room with no windows and talk about money.” For a while it seemed as though I spent every Saturday […]

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Field & Street

By Jill Riddell I’m quizzing my husband Tim about his affection for crows. For him, crows are sort of a totem, an animal that shows up in his dreams and at pivotal times in his life. “They’re big, they’re black,” he says. “They’re mostly friendly.” “So?” I say. “What else?” “They’re not exotic with all […]

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Field & Street

By Jill Riddell On my first visit to N. Fagin Books I’d just gotten inside the door and taken in a breath of book-scented air when a woman with short brown hair and glasses asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. I told her about my need for information on butterflies and […]

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Field & Street

By Jill Riddell In 1684 a pioneer wrote about Illinois, “They had seen nothing like this river, for the fertility of the land, its prairies, woods, wild cattle, stag deer, wildcats, bustards, swans, ducks, parrots, and even beaver, and its many little lakes and rivers.” A decade ago I lifted this quote from John Madson’s […]

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Field & Street

I consider myself an accommodating host to the houseplants in my home, but I don’t possess the energy of the true fanatic. There are people with fetishes for finicky plants, and in my mind–until recently anyway–orchid fanciers were firmly in this category. Deserved or not, orchids have a reputation for being among the fussiest of […]

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Field & Street

At long last I’ve made it to Argonne. The 1,700-acre national laboratory has been an enigma to me ever since I started exploring the forest preserves around it ten years ago. There’s something about the way it’s tucked into the bottom-right-hand corner of Du Page County on my Tribune-McNally Chicagoland map, about the way it’s […]

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Field & Street

I exit the el at Clark and Lake, buy 19 dollars and 20 cents worth of stamps at the postal branch inside the James R. Thompson Center, and step outside onto the pink granite sidewalk lining La Salle Street. I’ve come here on a nature pilgrimage. Precisely 161 years and one month ago, on October […]

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Field & Street

A nice magazine with New Age tendencies once asked me to write a calendar of ideas on how to enjoy each month of the year in Chicago’s bioregion. I started with May, the month the issue was to come out. “Watch the warblers at Montrose Harbor,” I gushed. “See the phlox and wild false indigo […]

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Field & Street

Last weekend my friend Kevin bagged going to see a late movie with a group of us because he’d promised a woman he’d arrive at her apartment at 10:30 to spend the night. Not for amorous pursuits, he insisted, but because she was terrified of being alone at night. He explained that she’d just moved […]

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Field & Street

For the 12 years I’ve known her my friend Edie Farwell has been an enthusiastic proponent of a type of oven powered by sunlight. She’s on the board of Solar Cookers International, an organization that’s been promoting the use of homemade solar ovens as a way to save fuel, reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, and […]