Wreathed lion at the Chicago Art Institute
On Tuesday my long-time friend Cathy and I each took a train to Chicago and met at the Art Institute. We toured the new impressionist galleries, then caught a cab to the Hancock Center where we feasted our eyes on stupendous view of downtown and the lake shore, and had a good lunch too. Then we headed back to Macy's to ogle the Christmas windows and visit the department store's sparkling tree. A kind waiter took our photo together. As I hiked up Madison Street toward my train back to Wisconsin, an eggnog latte in hand, the weather mild, thousands of tiny lights spangling winter trees, I felt about as happy as possible.
That led me to consider what it was about the day that had such a positive and energizing effect, and what it might suggest for approaching 2009. What elements combined to act as a tonic to mind and body?
1. Change of scenery:
While I don't ever see myself wanting to live in a large urban area, visiting one is a wonderful change. Busy traffic, crowds of people, shopping, the lake, galleries are all very different from my quiet life in a small city.
I know that getting moving is important, even in winter when taking a walk often means at best being very cold and at worst means chancing a nasty fall. I do spend time on the treadmill of my local athletic club, but it cannot compare to getting outside and having things to see, hear, and even smell. I was lucky Tuesday because the mild weather meant clear sidewalks, and if I was wary of taxicabs, little chance of injury.
There are dozens of museums and galleries in Chicago, more than I'll ever see. But even spending an hour at the Art Institute recharges my batteries. My friend has a membership, so we waltzed in past lines of visitors and headed to some old favorites. I was excited because I had recently watched the old movie Lust for Life about Van Gogh, and had read a fictionalized account Gauguin's life, The Moon and Sixpence. Seeing so many paintings, both familiar and new, by the two artists was a treat.
I'm retired, so I don't see my teaching friends every day. My parents and mother and father-in-law are gone. I have no children. So much of the time it's just my husband and me. While we're good friends, it is wonderful to spend time with other people as well. What a gift it is to have friends with whom we can always feel comfortable and welcome, who know our faults and eccentricities and still accept us!
5. Music and books
The train trip to Chicago is two hours each way. While the views from the train are congenial, they are also very familiar. I take along old New Yorker magazines and catch up on the features and short stories missed before, then I leave the magazines on the train for others to read. This time I also brought along my iPod, with some saved up podcasts and lots of good music. The time flew by, and the annoyance of people having loud cell phone conversations simply disappeared.
Change of scene, art, friends, exercise, music and books are all things I want to incorporate into the upcoming months. They help keep me healthy in body and spirit, and recharge me when Midwestern cold and gloom wear me down.
Happy new year to all who visit here. May your year bring you health and happiness.