“The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant” refers to the Minnesota River Valley around Le Sueur. Though 60 miles further south, a statue of the Jolly Green Giant was created in Blue Earth in 1978. I’ve been through Blue Earth many, many times, but thanks to my project, it was the first time I checked out the giant. The 55-foot tall, fiberglass statue welcomes visitors from I-90 in a town where Green Giant corn and peas are still canned every summer.
Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in a way unmatched by other cities. For 50 years, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers have turned the Chicago River a breathtaking green for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration. Forty pounds of vegetable dye are tipped into the river on a Saturday morning. When the dye hits the surface of the water, it appears bright orange, but as it dissolves, the river transforms into an electrifying green as the crowd erupts into cheers.
So electrifying (and so green!), I haven’t missed the event in seven years. And for the past five years, my friend Lisa has hosted brunch from her condo in Marina City, a corn-cob shaped high rise along the river. This year’s celebration was the busiest and most spectacular one with nearly 80 degree weather. Slainté, I say, to my friends near and far!
Since I moved to Minneapolis last August, I’d been to Chicago twice last September for Notre Dame football weekends, but this was my first trip back in six months. Let me tell you: It’s weird being a visitor in a city where you once lived. For more than four years, I called Elmhurst, Illinois home. I’d never taken any photos of the neighborhood because there was “always tomorrow,” so I spent my morning here on a photo walk. Elmhurst was close to my old office and while it assuredly was not a popular place to live among single, late twentysomethings, I loved that town:
- the Jewel grocery store literally next door for last-minute ingredients or a beer & wine run.
- the Metra train station 4 blocks away which could reliably take me to the city in 30 minutes for weeknight dinners or weekend fun.
- Fleet Feet specialty running store next door, where I could roll out of bed at 6:45am with plenty of time for a spoonful of Nutella and stretching before 7am Saturday runs.
- Ace Hardware, my dry cleaner and White Hen Pantry (now 7-Eleven) just outside my back stairwell
- My doctor’s office across the parking lot, and my optometrist four blocks north.
- The funky Effigy salon that cut my fancy textured hairdo, which I didn’t understand but was noted by my female friends. The business also included an art gallery, wine bar and ice cream shop. (Where else do you find that?!)
- The 8-screen York movie theatre, one block away
- My favorite Chicagoland pizza, Roberto’s (though I do love Giordano’s stuffed pizza)
- Elmhurst Public Library, ranked among the Top 5 public libraries nationwide in its category. (Nothing says nerd quite like visiting your old suburban library in the first hour after arriving in Chicago, but I digress.)
- And a diverse mix of 30-40 shops and restaurants in an 6 block radius.
This winter has been unlike any other winter I can remember. I was braced for a bone chilling bout this year after living at a lower latitude the past six years. Instead, it’s been a pleasant surprise. Today’s image is from a photowalk last spring at McDonald’s (HQ campus not your local restaurant). It felt like spring this morning, and hostas were on my mind. I was tempted to shout out “Hosta” la Vista, winter. But I know better.
Stepping under the canopy of palm fronds, I quickly traded the crisp cold for humid air and growing things. The $2 suggested donation was a fair exchange for a 20 minute escape within the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. (If you’re in Chicago, another one worth visiting is the Garfield Park Conservatory.)
I noted the textures and colors of mid-morning light, as leaves swept past my arms and palm branches brushed my hair. I weaved around the source of things found in my spice rack like black pepper vines, cinnamon bark and allspice, as well as banana plants and barren fig trees. Then, I caught the spidery-looking stems and nine-lobed leaves of a papaya tree, and that’s how today’s photos came to be.
Today I was thinking about Epiphany Sunday during my photo walk. (Side note: Traditionally in Christianity, the Epiphany falls on the 6th of January, though it’s celebrated in my church the first Sunday following January 1.) I wanted to shoot something green, but finding that unlikely, I headed to the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
I circled the basilica hoping to frame a unique photo, but the sky was a boring winter blue. And, then I found it. A green shingled roof on the property. Bingo.
As I thought about my newly taken photo during Mass tonight, I recalled a new translation of the Catholic Mass which reads: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
While probably not a theologically correct correlation, I wondered to myself, “Who else would I invite under my roof?” and metaphorically speaking, doesn’t all humanity live under the same roof with intertwining lives? The priest shared a message of caring for one another because we’re all in this world together.
I thought about how each of our ideas, words, emotions and actions has a rippling effect on others, in ways that are visible and invisible. I thought about the gifts of the Magi on this Epiphany Sunday—the gold, frankincense and myrrh—and how each person has their own unique gifts to share. Have you recognized your gifts? And, do you let them ripple with family, with friends, with colleagues, even strangers?
Twelve hours later, a seemingly simple, green gabled photo means more. It’s a symbolic invitation for me (and perhaps others) to share your roof, your heart, your gifts and your best self.