Today is my last full day here in Chicago. I've had a great time seeing the city for a week but all things reach a next step. Tomorrow morning I'll leave for the beautiful Chicago Union Station to begin the journey for 23 hours. Now it is coffee in the room and a day around uptown and maybe a walk to the lake again. The lake seems like some super power to me at times. It feels bigger than big, with more moods and playfulness and sometimes even somber and angry when the wind whips the waves up. Today though the sky breaks with some clouds and I sit considering writing up this relationship I have had with lakes. West Lake in Hanoi was so photographed by me. I captured it in all the times and was always amazed at its beauty.
If someone were to ask me, but no one has, what is the thing that captures the essence of Hanoi. There is the food, the people, the feeling of just being there, the magical nature of Vietnam sometimes where I can just spend my mornings with coffee or a Banh Mi or whatever. A lot of the times in Hanoi were spent with basic things but often I would also meet Vietnamese friends. We would eat and drink and laugh. Talk and joke and tease each other. In my home, T lived there with me. A very nice and candid young Vietnamese man with such great English skills. J also lived there and had lived in the US for years. Being social with them was so easy. J would translate menus as we ate and tell me about the food. T would want street food and cold Saigon beers or I would take him to Mystic Cafe for some food.
Then there is Lake Michigan. This lake is yet another thing but I have felt it captures the essence of this city. Most of the city borders the lake and there is a playground of beaches, boating, kayaking, and picnics and beer at the lake. Every day I have walked to the lake it is so busy.
People and pets, bbq and picnics. Restaurants and pubs bordering the lake. It gives you the feeling people love to eat and drink here and the lake is some willing companion.
both lakes are spirit guides
I think West Lake was a guide in Hanoi. It was this place young and old Vietnamese would gather at sundown by Tran Quoc Pagoda and watch. Often I would find myself there too. Perhaps at a bench or getting a cheap ice cream cone or walking to the other lake right by West Lake. Truc Bach Lake offered other views and I never felt it was a package deal. I once thought I would live in that district happily. It is the rare thing I see Hanoi does have. The neighborhood feel. A neighborhood in Vietnam offers all the comforts and needs. Stores, food, supplies, people to meet. I found in Tay Ho district and my neighborhood it took longer than when I lived in Ba Dinh.
Then there's this lake and I feel it is also a guide and people seek out the lake for spiritual, physical, and emotional reasons. It offers the peace and solitude when one wants or the friends getting together for the day out playing.
I feel fortunate to have seen both lakes. Spent some time at each. Found and lost myself in their mystical and magical currents. Sunsets in Hanoi and children running and yelling "Xin Chao" at me. Here people nodding and welcoming me to their lake.
So spirit guides they are and they can help us when low, or raise us higher. Most of all a lake can be an anchor to us and remind us just how important the scenes are that greet us.
Thanks Chicago! You anchored me but also set me free.
Tomorrow my goodbye post to this city and my beginnings on the last Amtrak journeys across states. Another route never done. That train and that sleeper will show me another spirit guide I am sure.