Top 10 Best Nature Spots and Parks in Chicago

nature, Thoughts, Travel

Originally posted by AG Digital Media Magazine. Written by Kimberly Anne

Michigan Avenue, mobsters, and more – There are many things for which Chicago is famous. However, the natural world is not considered one of them. Maybe I can change your mind! Some people may be unaware of the abundance of natural areas that are accessible within the city.  

Maybe some aren’t keen on the fact that there are more than 500 parks within the city limits alone. But the next time you are driving down the Kennedy Expressway in a fit of monstrous fury and about to flip off some jerk in a Jeep; try channeling that energy and finding inner peace at one of these 10 sites for a wilderness escape instead! 

Trust me, I know how terrible road rage can be in the city. Luckily, there are so many beautiful places that we can go and see to experience a nice and quiet moment away from the dreaded rush hour traffic. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Best Nature Spots in Chicago. 

  1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 
  2. The 606 
  3. The Emerald Necklace
  4. Lincoln Park 
  5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 
  6. Maggie Daley Park 
  7. The Garden of the Phoenix
  8. North Park Village Nature Center 
  9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
  10. Humboldt Park  

1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 

The first on the list is my favorite because this was my go-to as a teen! The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary serves as a stopover for several hundred different species of birds!

You will have the opportunity to see these birds as they travel through the area throughout the year. This majestic sanctuary home to wildlife, birds, and butterflies is a spot that you won’t want to miss. 

This portion of Montrose Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere. Montrose Bird Sanctuary is home to a dune habitat as well. This is one of the best sites in the city for trail trekking. 

Therefore, you will also experience breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan. And in addition to that, there’s a really great beach bar nearby. 

2. The 606 

What is The 606? The 606 is an old train track turned nature trail. The path, once forgotten – then nature took over. In the space between the train tracks, new vegetation and flowers sprouted, and animals settled back into their former homes. The narrative of the 606 picks up shortly after the devastating Great Chicago Fire.

As a part of its efforts to restore the city, the Chicago City Council authorized the Chicago & Pacific Railroad to lay tracks down the center of Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 North) on Chicago’s Northwest side. 

Almost a century ago, a railroad line offered service to a small manufacturing sector on the northwest side of the city. Trains passed overhead until the 1980s when activity dropped to a trickle. After that, they stopped.

By the middle of the 1990s, the rerouting of the few trains that still used the corridor and the entire cessation of freight operations had both taken place.

Above, the ancient rail line was recovered by nature, while below, the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square predominantly turned to residential use.

It was only a question of time before the neighboring communities found out about the location once more.

And in the early 2000s, people went up there informally and constructed an impromptu nature walk. They found a natural habitat with unrivaled views of the city.

3. The Emerald Necklace (Yes, the Boulevards!) 

It is quite well known that Chicago is home to epic parks including Grant Park and Millennium Park. Chicago is also home to an unprecedented network of eight parks. The Emerland Necklace area in Chicago is connected by a 26-mile boulevard system. 

Between the years 1869 and 1890, the city’s park system—also known as the Emerald Necklace—was built. The Emerald Necklace in Chicago continues to be regarded as a pioneering example of urban park architecture in the United States.

Large parks and green boulevards that presented naturalistic and formal landscapes provided residents with a place to get away from the rough edges of the city without actually leaving it. 

This allowed residents to find solace in the urban environment without having to leave the city. Within the boulevards, you will find plenty of streets and parks lined with trees. 

Starting at Logan Square, head south through a number of the city’s most beautiful parks, including Washington, Humboldt, Douglas, Garfield, and Jackson Parks.

After that, you should slap anyone who says Chicago isn’t a lovely city. It’s just not true.

4. Lincoln Park 

Let’s just start by featuring what kind of nature-y things you will find in, near, and around Lincoln Park in Chicago. By the way, these are all free of charge. 

  1. The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo 
  2. Alfred Lily Caldwell Pool 
  3. Lincoln Park Conservatory (Right next to the zoo!) 
  4. Lincoln Park Zoo (Yes – it’s really free to get in still) 
  5. Oz Park (Oz yes, like The Wizard of Oz!) 
  6. Northpond Natural Area 
  7. Lincoln Park (the ACTUAL park) 

The world-famous Lincoln Park Zoo is located in Lincoln Park, which is also home to the renowned Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago History Museum, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

Don’t forget the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, the North Pond Nature Sanctuary, and North Avenue Beach. Of course, there are also the important statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. 

My favorite has to be Oz Park though. It’s really great for kids! In the 1890s, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Lyman Frank Baum, who penned stories for children, resided in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

An annual Oz Festival was held at the park for the purpose of commemorating the former occupant of the park as well as paying homage to the groundbreaking book, film, and author who created The Wizard of Oz. Why are you still reading? Go and see the statues at Oz Park! 

5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 

The Garfield Park Conservatory is widely considered to be among the nation’s finest and most impressive examples of its kind.  I’m not an expert, but my guesstimate is that the Garfield Park Conservatory is around 30,000 plus square feet.

The amazing edifice known as the conservatory is often referred to as “landscape art under glass.” This one-of-a-kind massive indoor greenhouse is a place that houses hundreds of different plant species. 

There are eight rooms and the interior area is almost two acres in size. The conservatory may be explored in around one to two hours at a leisurely pace.

6. Maggie Daley Park 

The Chicago Park District is in charge of maintaining the 20 acres of land that makeup Maggie Daley Park. The Maggie Daley park is located in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

Scott Fishman Photography

It sits in the northeastern part of Grant Park, close to the water’s edge of Lake Michigan. Previously, however, it was once known as Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

This park is home to so many gardens, playgrounds, and epic spots that you will most likely not be able to see them all in one day! Here’s a list of what is there: 

The long-serving first lady of Chicago, Maggie Daley was passionate about enhancing children’s lives. She was working to give the entire population of the city access to vibrant cultural life.

Gallery 37, a summer arts program for teenagers, was co-founded by Maggie Daley.

Likewise, After School Matters was founded. This is a nonprofit offering Chicago kids cutting-edge programs. Subjects include the humanities, communications, sciences, sports, and technology.

It is currently the biggest after-school program of its sort for teenagers in the country. So, it kind of makes sense that Maggie Daley Park is so incredibly massive (it matches her heart!). 

7. The Garden of the Phoenix 

On March 31, 1893, the United States of America and Japan collaborated to establish the Garden of the Phoenix as a symbol of their friendship. The garden also is symbolic of a permanent venue where tourists might learn about and experience the culture of Japan.

The area has endured the ups and downs of the relationship over the past 120 years, and it is today considered one of the most prominent spots in America that serve as a symbol of the relationship between the United States and Japan.

One of the most significant and intricate historic landscapes in Chicago and the whole of the country is Jackson Park which is home to The Garden of the Phoenix. This is also the location of the 1893 World’s Fair. 

One of the most beautiful features of the garden is when the cherry trees are in full bloom in the spring.

These trees have also been planted outside the garden, and during the latter half of April or the first week of May, you can typically see them in full bloom. They are close to the Columbia Basin in Jackson Park.

The traditional Japanese practice of appreciating the aesthetic value of flowers is known as hanami.

During the springtime, the blossoming trees in Jackson Park reach their peak blooming phase, which typically lasts between six and ten days.

Visit the park at this time of year to have your very own hanami experience; the timing couldn’t be better.

8. North Park Village Nature Center 

The 155-acre North Park Village location, which is located on the northwest side of Chicago, is where the Nature Center and the 46-acre nature preserve are situated.

Pathways can be found throughout and they can take you through savannas, prairies, wetlands, and forests. There is a discovery room, an interactive exhibit area, and a table with natural objects within the North Park Village Nature Center. 

These are the highlights of the Nature Center. In addition to the Nature Center and the preserve, guests have the opportunity to explore Walking Stick Woods, a wooded area that spans 12 acres and features Nature Play-themed pathways and nodes. 

9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park

A fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, pathways, an athletic field, a running track, and a hill that gives dramatic views may all be found in this dynamic park. Palmisano Park was previously a quarry called Stearns Quarry. It is located on the southwest side of Chicago, in the middle of the Bridgeport neighborhood.

It has been everything from coral reefs to a quarry to a landfill to a park over the course of its history, therefore its story is one of progression.

It should not come as a surprise that each incarnation had a significant part in the creation of the next.

The park is traversed by over 1.7 miles of routes, some of which are recycled lumber boardwalks, others are concrete walks, yet others are crushed stone running paths, and still, others are metal grating walkways.

Along the quarry wall, down to the pond, and through the terracing wetlands, these pathways provide access to a variety of different environments and activities.

In addition to the breathtaking views of the city that can be seen from the mound, the scenic overlooks provide dramatic views of the pond and the marshes.

10. Humboldt Park 

The 197-acre park has a lot to offer tourists, even if swimming isn’t their thing. There are playgrounds, natural areas, walking and biking routes, and community gardens. There is even “Little Cubs Field,” a miniature recreation of Wrigley Field.

If you want to spend the day at the water’s edge, you don’t have to restrict yourself to the lakefront of Chicago. Instead, you can go to the lagoon in Humboldt Park, which has its very own inland beach.

During the warmer months, the grassy areas surrounding this well-known neighborhood park are filled with people having picnics, using grills, and purchasing food from vendors.

The Puerto Rican Festival and the Latin Jazz Festival of Chicago are two more annual events that take place in Humboldt Park.

And if you’re lucky you just might see a crocodile in the lagoon. Just kidding. But that was a thing once. But please, don’t put your pet croc in the lagoon. It gets way cold here in the winter! 

Have you been to any of these amazing nature spots in Chicago? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Warmth

Poetry, Thoughts
I think there is a certain degree of warmth that comes with the feeling and emotions of bitterness and betrayal. Warmth. It has the capability to encapsulate the heart and soul with the feeling of release once you let go. The heat fills your stone-cold innermost being that was frozen due to the betrayal, due to the knowledge that a person just simply meant much more to you than you did to them. That is where the warmth comes from. The heat that rises in your body and seeps through every single cell once you feel the sense of relief that NOW - now that you know their true thoughts, you are set free and can reciprocate the same nonchalant not giving a single f--- attitude. Warmth. In a way, you might become so warm inside that you'll sweat. You'll become hot like fire blazing its way across lands and astray. Stay hydrated, and remember - some people are only meant for seasons, some of which are more prone to such fire. Nothing lasts forever. Does it? 

Words Are Magic

Poetry, Short Stories
The young boy came home filled with frustration. His mother asked him what was wrong, and by the squint of his eyes and fire on his face, he started to tell her how his schoolfellows are the ultimate disgrace.

They speak a language that he cannot understand. They speak words foreign, not from Oxford or Webster. Not a thesaurus in sight, swimming in a desolate word desert. And then he goes on to say...  

“It’s the worst mistake. They fill the air with insults and spite through words from a place that no child should ever face. Yes, it is true..they've stumbled upon a cursed lexicon called urbandictionary.com.”

The mother’s sweet little boy, radiating with rage, looked at her so sad and she said…

“Fear not my son, I have the perfect page! 

Fortunate for you that your mom studies words, now you will carry this knowledge and confuse the whole herd!”

Proudly she presented and exclaimed, “Here my boy, have a book blanketed with magic. Study these Shakespearean insults and let them have it!”

“The teachers will never understand, and you can tell those kids off with alluring words that come from another land.”

“Remember”, she spoke, “to tell them out loud -  that it's impossible to wager for wits when they walk around weaponless.” 

With a final chant, the mother told the boy, 

“Words are magic my little son, speak those words and POOF, they'll be gone!” 

Swimming in the Deep End

Poetry
When I was little my parents made sure I would learn how to swim. 

They figured that since we 
lived next to Lake Michigan 
that if I didn't learn to swim, 
it'd be wrong. 

It would be just wrong to 
live next to a Great Lake 
and not learn 
how to manage 
the waves. 

So when I was four I was put in swimming lessons. 
Here I'd be able to learn. 

I'd get a feel for the water 
and the way your eyes burn 
when you've been exposed 
to the chlorine. 
Yes, I think I had goggles
but you know what I mean. 

Feeling the flow of the water wasn't really scary. They strapped me into those floaties so 
I'd always be carried. 

Eventually you learn to let those floaties go. 

After time the deep end becomes the real prize. 
You know, when you first learn to swim you start with just a toe?
You dip it in the cool water
and then 

s l o w l y 


you put in a little more and keep going until 
your feet finally touch the floor 
of the swimming pool. 

It can take some time to get to the deep end. Some people love to just dive in. 
Not me.
I had to work my way up. 
Finally, when I did it 
I felt like the ultimate winner - 
like I was a real Olympic swimmer. 

I'd need a gold medal to showcase my mettle and to display to the world 
how I made it to the deep end 
and I'd be unforgettable! 
Little me, tiny little me -  
can you imagine? 

With all of the lessons I was more than prepared for Lake Michigan. 
I was prepared for the salty oceans, the streams, rivers and the little ponds. 
There was not a single body 
of water that I'd not dive upon. 

Head first as I
submerge 
myself into the wells of the world 
where maybe
just maybe 
I'd learn
something new about myself and everybody else. 

In the process of it all, it seems like it was so long ago 
that I really learned 
what it meant to 
go off the deep end. 

The deep end endeavor 
is all too heavy 
for any regular swimmer 
to comprehend. 

You'd need pristine training, and 
even then - 
you might not fit in. 
Sorry to be blunt, not everyone is meant for the deep end. 
I was just a lucky one. You might think of it as chosen. 

By experiencing the deep end, 
I learned not to depend. 

F r e e z i n g.

Ice cold waves resemble the ways 
of old and familiar former companions 
who shapeshifted into shadows and
who all became so shallow. 

S W I M. 

The waves, broken 
and choppy, 
they'll push you around 
and pull you down. 

Ride them. 

They will always try to drown, but there's a secret. 
Listen. 

In the deep end you can never feel the bottom. 
That may be part of the problem; 
In the deep end do you have 
the ability to feel? 
Or comprehend what is even real 
if you never hit the bottom? 

Once you've been in the deep end for a while, you despise all things shallow. 

When they say I've gone off the deep end, just know that it's true. I was built for this; no, trained for this. Not everyone can handle the deep end blues. 

Not everyone can swim. 
Not everyone can handle 
the weight of the waves.
Can you? 

Sophie’s Advocate: A Short Story for the Ages

Fiction Writing, Short Stories

This is a short story that was written sometime at the beginning of 2022. This is my first self-published fictional short story. It features elements of contemporary and political issues regarding women and teenage pregnancy. Take of it what you will. How the story ends is entirely up to you.

A strand of black hair fell in front of Sophie’s face as she sat in the bathroom silently crying. She was already running late for school. As she cried in the bathroom in complete stillness, her little sister Sasha knocked on the door.

Sophie knew she needed to get out of the bathroom and quickly dried her tears. Her mom shouted from the hallway and told her to open up because Sasha had to brush her teeth. It was 7:13 am on a crisp fall morning in Boston. Sophie opened the door and let Sasha in. Sophie picked up her little sister and embraced her with a huge hug. Her thoughts were running 1000 miles per minute as she set Sasha back down.

She coaxed Sasha over to the sink to help her brush her teeth. “Soapy?” little Sasha asks, “What’s that?”, as she pointed to the tiny pink pregnancy test on the counter. 

 Soapy was Sophie’s nickname since Sasha learned how to talk. She could never pronounce “Sophie”, so as a toddler she resorted to Soapy. Ever since then, it stuck. It’s like when Sophie was little and her mother laughed when she called chocolate milk “cawlet milk”. Sophie quickly snatched the test up and put it in the back pocket of her blue jeans.

 “It’s nothing, Sasha. Here, put some toothpaste on your brush.”

Sophie squeezed the toothpaste onto her sister’s toothbrush and made a fart noise. Sasha burst into laughter and Sophie smiled at her, satisfied that she distracted Sasha from the pregnancy test. Sophie turned on the water and rushed out of the bathroom. She told her mom she was leaving for school, grabbed her backpack, and ran out the door.  

Sophie ran down the gray, cold cement steps of the red brick two-flat condo. The smell of fall leaves on the ground swirled into Sophie’s nose. The thought of her dad crossed her mind. She wondered what he would think of her being pregnant if he was still around and didn’t abandon her, her mom, and Sasha. Slinging her blue backpack over her shoulder she ran toward the bus stop. She looked behind her and saw that the bus was nearby and catching up quickly. In unison, she and the bus raced to the bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue, side by side.

Catching her breath as the doors swung open violently, she got on the bus, waved her bus card, and plopped down onto a seat near the back of the bus. As she sat down, the pregnancy test in the back pocket of her jeans pushed itself into her as a reminder that it was still there. Her heart pounded and beads of sweat dripped down her neck.  She thought of what she would tell Russ.

Worried about how it might affect their relationship, Sophie realized how much she loved him. Sophie loved Russ more than anything. They had been together for three years. She envisioned holding a newborn and the idea of giving birth at the age of 17. As her thoughts scrambled, an elderly man got on the bus and sat in the handicapped seat. He pulled out a newspaper from his inside coat pocket and a bag of cocaine from the other. Sophie was amused at the sight and laughed quietly to herself waiting for the bus driver to notice. The man dipped a penny into his bag and held it to his nose. His clothes were raggedy and she could smell him from across the bus.

The bus sped over a pothole and the old man hollered, “Come on, man! Don’t you know how to fucking drive? Damn these potholes!”

The bus driver had surely upset him now for making him spill. “I’m not sure who you’re getting loud with. Yell at me again, and you can walk the rest of the way.”

The old man got up from his seat and he slipped the tiny bag into his pocket. Hobbling over to the bus driver he started banging on the dashboard.

“That’s it! You’re off!”, the bus driver yelled.

He stopped the bus and stood up appearing much taller than the old man.

“This is bullshit! It’s freezing out there this morning!”, the old man yelled and cursed the bus driver’s name all the way off the bus and down the cold pavement. This caused Sophie to arrive at school even later. 

Sophie continued to daydream about lunchtime because she knew she’d see Russ in the cafeteria. She slouched at her desk and stared out the window, unable to focus. Chewing gum helped her with her anxiety, but it was not allowed. Her English teacher always made sure to give Sophie a hard time about it. Sophie chewed away relentlessly. She suddenly felt the heat of a million eyes staring at her. The entire class was silent.

“Sophie?!” her teacher exclaimed.

Her head snapped right into the direction of Ms. McCauley.

“Huh?”, said Sophie. “You’re chewing gum again. You know it isn’t allowed,” Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie’s eyes squinted and her brows pushed together in the middle of her forehead as if they were trying to touch each other.

Sophie yelled back, “UGH! I’m not hurting anyone.”

 Sophie, you can go to the office and claim your detention slip, Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie got out of her seat, scooting her chair back so loud that it screeched on the floor. She purposely wanted to disrupt the class for disrupting her daydreams.

Slamming the old wooden door on her way out she heard Ms. McCauley’s voice echoing down the hall.

“Shakespeare’s plays can be divided up into different categories: Comedies, histories, and tragedies.” Sophie heard the words; Comedies, histories, and tragedies. If my life were a play it must be a tragedy, she thought to herself. 

She sat in the office waiting to schedule her detention while still chewing her gum when she saw Mr. Tuffin, the school social worker. Peering through the glass window of the main office door she spotted him instantly. His hair was silver and white making him look as cold as ice, which Sophie always thought was ironic considering he was the opposite.

His blue plaid button-down shirt was part of an unwritten dress code that all the staff his age also wore. Mr. Tuffin used his hands when he talked. His ring finger had a gold band and his hands looked as wrinkled as laundry that hadn’t been folded for days. He was talking to the sophomore science teacher. Mr. Tuffin was the only person who truly was able to see the good in Sophie. They met when she went to peer-mediation for a fight she got into with another girl on the first day of freshman year. He spotted her sitting in the office.

Ending the conversation with his colleague he came into the office where Sophie was sitting.

“By the looks of it, you’re not excited to be here, huh? What happened?” he asked her. 

“I was chewing gum”, she said, as a giant bubble formed on her lips and popped carelessly.

“A classic Sophie Seskas move! Nice,” he exclaimed. He was always cheerful and tried to find humor in everything.

“You know the rules,” he said. “Yeah, yeah. And you know more” she hinted.

“Soph, you’re a good kid. You shouldn’t be in trouble so often. I know things have been rough since your dad left, but you’re smarter than that.” he told her. 

She looked at him like a puppy looks at its owner after having an accident in the house. She knew he was right. Mr. Tuffin said she was just a diamond in the rough. Chewing gum was the least of her worries now. She didn’t care about detention or her dad. She wanted to speak to the Dean and head to lunch so she could see Russ. Besides that, she really could use a cigarette, or maybe a joint.

After getting her detention slip from the Dean to bring home to her mom to sign, she finally got to the cafeteria. Russ was standing near a corner of the lunchroom with a group of friends. Dressed in hoodies and sweatpants of all colors of the rainbow they resembled a living canvas of spilled paint. She managed to get Russ alone. 

 He was much taller than her, and his eyes were the color of dark chocolate. His hair was long and brown and flowed naturally like a river. His olive skin was opposite to hers, and she liked that about him.

“Sophie, relax,” he assured her. “Russ! How can I?” she said with tears in her eyes. She looked around at the other kids in the cafeteria. The smell of burgers made her want to throw up. She hoped nobody would notice her crying.

“This is serious,” she said.

“Maybe it’s a false positive,” he assured her. 

“Maybe that’s a false hope.” She mimicked him.

“What are we going to do?” she asked. Russ was shocked by the news and could tell that Sophie was more than upset.

In a reassuring tone, he told her, “We will figure it out together. Meet me by the tree after class.”

The tree was their spot. It was where they always hung out after school. A giant oak stood tall on the lawn near the track and football fields. She anticipated the last bell’s ring more anxious than a child on Christmas morning.

 After school, they smoked under the tree.

“Did you tell anyone, Russ?” Sophie asked him as the smoke blew out of her mouth.

“No… Well, I told Johnnie,” his voice cracked. Her eyes widened.

“You shouldn’t have told anyone yet! Damn it”, she kicked the tree.

“Everyone will find out sooner or later anyway if we decide to keep it” Russ told her. They stayed near the tree for hours as they contemplated what to do. They stayed near the tree until the stars came out despite the cold winds of autumn.

 Sophie strolled home after dark. Her mom waited up for her.

“Anything you want to tell me?” her mother asked quietly so as to not wake Sasha.

Sophie closed the door softly behind her. Her mother, Maria, gave her the look of death with green eyes that pierced her like the sting of a bullet. Her mother looked just like her, only older, wiser, and a little more stout. Maria knew that Sophie was acting out due to her dad leaving them. She tried to go easy on Sophie when she could, but Sophie’s behavior was impossible to manage at times. Maria missed the days when Sophie was still innocent and ignorant of the evil and heartbreak of the world. 

“Mrs. Bernardi called tonight,” Maria announced. Sophie’s heartbeat thundered in her chest. She knew Johnnie told his mom. Johnnie Bernardi was the biggest snitch and unfortunately, best friends with Russ.

“Asshole” Sophie mumbled under her breath, “Hell, of course, she did!”

The next day Maria and Russ’s mom, Angelica, spoke on the phone and decided that Sophie would get an abortion.

“They are simply too young. This can’t happen,” said Mrs. Angelica Jones.

Russ’s mom also wasn’t fond of Sophie. Sophie felt confused, alone, and unsure of what to think or do. What would happen to her if she had an abortion? She wondered if it would kill her. Would it damage her insides? How could she go through with it? There was a baby inside of her. It was her and Russ’s baby. There was no way she could go through with it. Maria and Angelica scheduled Sophie’s appointment as soon as they found out.

On the morning of the procedure, she didn’t bother to style her hair or put on makeup. It’s not like she had any reason to be glamorous. She was nervous and shaking the entire car ride to the clinic. When she and her mom pulled up there was a large group of people standing outside on the sidewalk just near the entrance. They dressed in bright orange vests and were carrying large signs; the enormous signs that you only see at a protest. The signs had blood-red paint which Sophie thought was used as symbolism.

Crosses were painted on the signboards, and the group chanted about how abortion is murder. God will give you hope. God will give you strength. Don’t kill your baby. It’s an innocent child. They shouted. They weren’t new to what they were doing. They must have rehearsed more than a cheer squad getting ready for finals.

“MURDERER!” they screamed at her.

They spewed hatred and verses from their bibles as she went into the clinic, not even 18 years old, with her very embarrassed mother by her side. Sophie and her mother said nothing. The air was filled with such a strong silence that it consumed them entirely.

 Sophie had a decision to make. She considered the words of the women outside, even though they seemed like religious nut freaks. She thought of Russ and his dark chocolate eyes and his olive skin. She wondered how the baby would look. She felt it inside of her. Sophie was not ready to part. She thought of what the baby’s nose would be like. Would it be wide or upturned? Would the baby be a boy? A girl? Sophie wondered. 

 “Sophie.”

Her mother called her to the desk where she was filling out paperwork.

“You need to sign this. You need to consent to the procedure.” 

 She couldn’t look her mother in the eye. She took the pen. As she lifted the pen, she imagined running out of the clinic and the protestors cheering her on. They would shout for her. Those protesters would celebrate for her. They’d celebrate as if Sophie had just crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The applause was so loud now in Sophie’s mind. Her hand trembled as she held the pen. She reminded herself of who she was and how much she’d endured in her life so far.

Sophie realized that this decision was solely up to her; and was one only she could make. The only one who could truly advocate for her in this world was herself. 

If you were Sophie – what would you do? This story was written with the intention of sharing a fictional point of view of a direct inside look at millions of stories just like these. While fictional, this story has many truthful elements that take place not just in the USA but across the world.

Teenage pregnancy and abortion will forever be debatable and controversial issues that people may in fact never agree on. What I hope readers take from this story is the fact that we all make our own choices. While the choices we make might not be agreeable to some – it is best to remember that the choices we make must be ones that benefit our own lives regardless of what other people may think. Life is short and pretty wild. Be careful, stay safe, and be smart.

The Best Female Painters of All Time – Top 10

art, Thoughts

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

– Helen Frankenthaler

Whether the brush stroke is wet-into-wet, feathering – or the art incorporates polka dots and mosaic elements; women painters have long been creating masterpieces. Some of the best female painters may not have been recognized initially because people didn’t see value in their work or simply couldn’t stand the competition, however, their vision, talent, and voice couldn’t remain in the shadows forever. The best female painters in the world have made their mark and this list will highlight 10 of the finest that you should know about!

  • Frida Kahlo
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Mary Stevenson Cassatt
  • Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 
  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Hilma af Klint
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Artemisi Gentileschi
  • Helen Frankenthaler
  • Laura Wheeler Waring
  1. Frida Kahlo  

Beauty and pain never looked so divine and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo harmonized the two so beautifully. She primarily used oil on copper to create deliberate and striking self-portraits and still lifes.

Frida Kahlo knew physical pain and emotional turmoil, which she used to fuel her artistic fire. Born July 6, 1907, in Coyoacán, Mexico. Frida produced roughly 200 small paintings that merge elements of fantasy, folklore, realism, symbolism, and surrealism to depict not only hauntingly sensual originals but relate fierce personal narratives as well. 

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often

alone; because I am the person I know best.”

-Frida Kahlo

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone because I am the person I know best,” she once said

Frida’s muralist husband Diego Rivera was instrumental in helping her hone the techniques she used in her paintings, which featured vibrant colors- reds and yellows- rooted in her rich Mexican tradition. 

She died in July 1954, after which her reputation soared. In 2000, her 1929 self-portrait, Portrait of a Lady in White, was sold at auction for over $5 million, further cementing her status as one of the best women painters in the world, 

2. Georgia O’Keeffe 

Among the greatest female painters is the mother of American modernism and the queen of abstract art Georgia O’Keeffe. Born in November of 1887, O’Keeffe made significant contributions to modern art.

Throughout her career she experimented with abstract art, focusing on composition colors, brush strokes, and shapes. 

However, she remained true to her love for nature, painting desert landscapes and flowers to exude the feeling it evoked in her.

Georgia ÕKeeffe Art in New Mexico | Museums & Tours | New Mexico True

“I had to create an equivalent for

what I felt about what I was looking at –

not copy it.”

– Georgia O’ Keeffe

Over time and through the influential ideas of American painter Arthur Wesley Dow, who advocated simplifying forms, Georgia O’Keeffe developed her style, fusing abstraction with realism. She continued painting up until her death at 98 years old.

3. Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary is one of the best female painters of all time and is considered the only American impressionist painter to have exhibited her work with the impressionists in Paris.

Her depictions of family life, particularly the bonds between mothers and children set her apart from other painters. 

Mother and Child in Boat, 1908 (oil on canvas), Cassatt, Mary Stevenson (1844-1926)

Formal training didn’t appeal to Mary and she primarily educated herself and was influenced by the works of influential painters Edouard Manet and Gustave Courbet, and Diego Velázquez.

She also had a close working relationship with Edgar Degas who became her mentor and whose pastel work she admired. After coming across some of Degas’ pastels in a shop window, it made an impression on her.

“It changed my life! I saw art then as I wanted to see it.” 

Mary showcased her first Impressionist work in the U.S, the 1878 painting, In the Loge, a depiction of her modern woman.

In the Metropolitan Museum is the Havemeyer Collection; to which Mary was an invaluable contributor. She died in 1926.

4. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 

Eighteenth-century turbulence in Paris, France, and obstacles to women’s advancement did not deter the self-taught, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun from pursuing her art, which has landed her in the top 10 women painters category. 

Élisabeth was accepted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1783, becoming the fourth female member with the help of Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait with her Daughter, Julie, 1789, oil on canvas, (Musée du Louvre).

Her painting, Peace Restoring Abundance helped contribute to her recognition. She was the queen’s official artist and painted more than two dozen portraits of her. Élisabeth is known for her sympathetic portraits of the aristocracy.

Élisabeth fled during the French Revolution, but commissions from European nobility and royalty for portraits kept coming. Of the war and its impact on her art, she said, “But I could now paint no longer; my broken spirit, bruised with so many horrors, shut itself entirely to my art.

I could now paint no longer; my broken spirit, bruised with so many horrors, shut itself entirely to my art.

– Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

It’s believed that Elizabeth produced some 600+ paintings throughout her lifetime. She died in Paris in 1842.

5. Yayoi Kusama

One cannot talk about the greatest female artists without mentioning the Japanese painter, Yayoi Kusama, who is affectionately called ‘the princess of polka dots. 

Yayoi recalls how as a little girl she experienced a hallucination that was freakish and frightening. Pictures this: talking polka dot flowers that were everywhere. This hallucination left her feeling what she described as ‘self-obliterating’. These dots became a prominent feature in her paintings. 

Yayoi recalls how as a little girl she experienced a hallucination that was freakish and frightening- of talking polka dot flowers that were everywhere. The hallucination left her feeling what she described as ‘self-obliterating’.

Yayoi Kusama | Biography, Art, Infinity Mirrored Room, Pumpkin, & Facts | Britannica

‘Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.”

Although her mom destroyed her canvas in an attempt to discourage her, she continued with her art and eventually left Japan and made it to New York, where in 1959, her art was on display in various exhibits. Yayoi voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo in 1977, where she is a resident to this day.

6. Hilma af Klint 

The Swedish painter Hilma af Klint is a part of an elite group of females who are the best women painters in the world. The abstract painter began producing radical abstract paintings in 1906, that were vibrant, colorful, and out of this world.

Born in Stockholm in 1862, Hilma was a medium that was involved in spiritualism and Theosophy (any of a number of philosophies maintaining that a knowledge of God may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations, especially the movement founded in 1875 as the Theosophical Society by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907).

Her abstract paintings can be described as occult-inspired and magical-looking.

She was called a crazy witch and between 1906-1915, she produced 193 paintings known as the Paintings for the Temple. Hilma explained that the pieces were painted “through” her with divine “force” saying, 

“I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” 

– Hilma af Klint
Group IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 1 (1915) by Hilma af Klint | The Guggenheim Museum

“I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” 

Before her death in 1944, she instructed her heir to keep her abstract paintings from public viewing until 20 years after her passing.

Her work was first seen in public in the 1986 Los Angeles show The Spiritual in Art. Hilma only received widespread recognition as a pioneering abstract painter when the Guggenheim Museum hosted a major survey of her work from October 2018 to April 2019 titled “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future.” 

7. Artemisia Gentileschi 

Artemisia Gentileschi is in this top 10 women painters category because she is a pioneering Italian painter whose paintings reflect historical-art innovation.

Some speculate that her traumatic past -surviving rapeperhaps fueled her inspiring works of art and have characterized her paintings as autobiographical. Her paintings are also dramatic with a level of sensitivity in how color is handled and the female form is depicted.

She’s arguably the best female painter of the 17th century, with paintings that reflect the stories of women, including ambition, motherhood, and passion.

She paints herself as a woman completely in charge.

Self-Portrait as a Lute Player by Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, is an oil on canvas from 1616-18 with dimensions 77.5 × 71.8 cm. The painting is housed in the Wadsworth Atheneum collection in Connecticut, USA.

“As long as I live, I will have control of my being.” 

– Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisa is the first to portray sexual predation in “Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art.

She was a champion of the oppressed woman and her dramatic Baroque paintings reflected that position. Artemisia admired Caravaggio and her art was heavily influenced by him and she became recognized for her realism and use of chiaroscuro. The exact date of her death remains a mystery.

8. Louise Bourgeois 

Born in Paris in 1911, Louise Bourgeois was not formally linked to a particular artistic movement, but exhibited her work with the abstract expressionists of her time, like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.

The themes in her paintings were dramatic and sensitive, such as anger, jealousy, abandonment loneliness, sexuality, and unconsciousness. This modern contemporary figure is one of the greatest female artists whose work often reflected her own experiences or was inspired by her memories and was emotionally charged.

“My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” 

– Louise Bourgeois

Louise has stated, “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” She had her first solo exhibition of paintings in New York in 1945 at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery. Louise was more than just a painter and also became known for her large-scale sculptures. She died at the age of 98 in 2010.

9. Helen Frankenthaler 

Helen Frankenthaler has long been recognized as one of the best women painters in the world and a great American painter of the twentieth century. This American abstract painter is widely credited for being instrumental in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting.

She developed the soak-stain technique (thin washes of pigment that soak into the fibers of the untreated canvas), which expanded how abstract painting could be presented.

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

– Helen Frankenthaler

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

Born in 1928, Helen’s professional exhibition career kicked off in 1950 with her painting, Beach (1950) in the exhibition titled Fifteen Unknowns: Selected by Artists of the Kootz Gallery. A year later, she had her first solo exhibition in New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Helen’s true inspiration came not only from her contemporaries but from the “old masters” as well. She died in December 2011 at age 83 after an illustrious career, cementing herself as one of the best female painters of all time.

10. Laura Wheeler Waring

Among the best female painters is Connecticut-born African American artist Laura Wheeler Waring. Born in May of 1887, she was displayed in the USA’s first exhibition of African American Art in 1927.

Laura Wheeler Waring is renowned for her portraits of prominent African Americans made during the Harlem Renaissance and her beautiful landscape paintings.

She studied the works of master painters like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet, which influenced her style achieved through vibrant and realistic techniques, with an emphasis on light, vivid colors, and atmosphere.

While she studied romanticism and impressionism, she leaned towards realism. Some of the portraiture subjects included Mary White Ovington, W.E.B. DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson. She was also an art educator for over 30 years. She died in 1948.

Laura Wheeler Waring, “The Study of a Student” (ca. 1940s) | PAFA

These 10 greatest female artists have left their mark on the art world and should be celebrated for their achievements.

This is just a small number of female painters, which hopefully piques your interest to explore more women painters and artists in general. Happy discovery!

Product of Consumerism – Freeverse Poem

Poetry
 
I’m just a product 
In a department store. 
Waiting on a shelf 
To be used like a whore. 

And when they are done they 
Turn their backs 
On the shelf once again.  

They consume me 'til they’re done. 
'Til they have no use for me anymore. 

It never matters that I cared. 
It never matters how long I was there. 
It never matters the time we spent. 
It only matters what they spent. 

They want a return. 
They want a refund. 

They want the newest model, the next best thing. 

Except, now -
I’m vintage. 

They don’t make ‘em like me anymore. 

The new models are not as efficient. 

They say the new models are cheaply made - 
or that they’re all the same. 

They break down easily and they don’t work. 
They’d never have a warranty. 

Maybe the consumers should have thought of that before. 
Maybe the consumers should have recognized my value. 

I’m a product with nothing left to prove. 

They made their choice, they are the 
Ones who choose. 

I don’t have an option and really -
I never did. 

Donate me NOW to some “less fortunate” person - 
Maybe they will bid! 

Maybe they will cherish me, 
And keep me safe. 

They’ll look at me and say: 

“This one’s a keeper.” 

“A real collector’s item - she’s rare - she’s got old school features.”

Unique - I’d be. 
Complete - I’d be. 

Finally - I’d be 

Loved.  

© KIMBERLY ANNE INC. 2022

A Glimpse of Nature and Paganism in Medieval Poetry

Thoughts

Recently, I found myself wandering around the pages of one of my textbooks. I stumbled upon the poem, The Wanderer.

The Wanderer is a beautiful and ancient poem that details the themes of grief, acceptance, and struggle. Indecisiveness, lament, nature, and paganism also make a strong appearance in the poem. The poets of the Middle Ages were skilled at writing and creating poems and verses that were impactful without having to overshare details or overuse words. This technique is found in The Wanderer, making it a perfect piece of medieval literature to examine and analyze. The version of the poem that I specifically refer to in this article is from the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Tenth edition.

The Wanderer in the Exeter Book manuscript

    The Wanderer falls into the genre of elegy and is expressed by lament. These literary devices were common in Germanic-inspired Anglo-Saxon poems. “The lament of The Wanderer is an excellent example of the elegiac mood..” (Greenblatt, 2018). Readers of this poem are able to recognize lament and elegiac tones throughout The Wanderer, and also in other epic poems, such as Beowulf (Greenblatt, 2018).  

    After analyzing The Wanderer it was exciting to see many elements of mythology, paganism, nature, and religion all combined. Throughout the poem, the tone remains somber and reminiscent. As “the wanderer” recalls memories; nature, elegy, and paganism are found throughout. What is striking is the similarity of this poem to the concept of Ragnarok found in Norse Mythology. This is a personal theory of mine after the examination of the poem and of Norse myth. The connection to Ragnarok seems evident as Ragnarok was said to have been the end of days for men and the gods. The connection between The Wanderer, Ragnarok, and nature and paganism are intertwined tightly within the poem’s verses. The Wanderer describes elements of death, mentions nature, and appears to be struggling overall with the concept of death, as well as the concept of leaving his pagan ways behind him which is a symbol of elegy. Lament and elegy within The Wanderer include the death of family, friends, traditions, humankind, and personal beliefs. 

    Based on personal analysis there appears to be a direct link between The Wanderer and the Germanic god Odin. Though there are several examples, line 80 of The Wanderer shows the connection well: 

“Battle took some, bore them away; a bird carried on above the high waves; the gray wolf took another, divided him with death; dreary spirited an eorl buried in an earthen pit. “Mankind’s Creator laid waste this middle-earth..” (Lines 80-85) 

“Odin the Wanderer” (1886) by Georg von Rosen

The mention of battle resembles Odin, due to Odin depicted as god of war. Associated with ravens and Valkyries; the bird carrying the spirits on high waves could be a symbol for the ravens or Valkyries which Odin is deeply connected with. Mention of “the gray wolf”, as personal theory, is symbolic of Fenrir, who is one of the direct causes of Ragnarok in Norse myth. The gray wolf taking “another” represents death. As Larrington mentions in her Poetic Edda translation, Fenrir is who takes Odin down. Another tale of Norse myth is The Binding of Fenrir which is a widely popular story that explains why and how Fenrir contributes to Ragnarok or the end of the world. 

Prior to Ragnarok taking place, the Norse myths say that a great winter would take place and would last for several years (Fimbulwinter/Fimbulvetr). The last bit of The Wanderer, specifically in lines 95-115, mention the darkness, the cold, and the winter that is symbolic of an end of ways and days, such as Ragnarok. The world serpent in Nordic myth also plays a key role in Ragnarok and line 97 of The Wanderer poem references only walls being left that have serpents on them. This is a foreshadowing of Ragnarok thus demonstrating heavily pagan viewpoints in The Wanderer. By the end of line 115, paganism has vanished, a new world or kingdom is born, and “middle earth” is no longer mentioned. The Wanderer appears to have let go of his traditions, and has accepted the “Father in Heaven” who has a “fortress for all”. 

Portion of The Ragnarök Frieze (Freyr, Gullinbursti, Skadi) by Herman Ernst Freund Germanic Mythology

Odin is present in this poem as well as Christ. Mention of Germanic customs, traditions, gods, and nature are therefore common themes in The Wanderer. Odin himself was a wanderer. Several stanzas found in the Wanderer highly reflect viewpoints in The Havamal, also called “The Sayings of the High One”, or “The Words of Odin”. (See lines 65-72 of The Wanderer). The resemblance to Larrington’s translation of The Havamal is nearly identical thus reflecting the paganism and nature found in The Wanderer. What is truly fascinating regarding that is The Wanderer poem pre-dates the Eddas and Havamal by several hundred years.

Stanza 6 and 7 in Carolyne Larrington’s Havamal translation directly relate to Lines 65-72 of The Wanderer. 

“About his intelligence, no man should be boastful,/rather cautious of mind;/when a wise and silent man comes to a homestead/blame seldom befalls the wary;/ for no more dependable friend can a man ever get/than a store of common sense” (Sayings of the High One, Stanza 6, Larrington, 2014). 

“The careful guest, who comes to a meal,/keeps silent, with hearing finely attuned;’ he listens with his ears, / and looks about with his eyes; / so every wise man spies out what’s ahead (Sayings of the High One, Stanza 7, Larrington, 2014). 

Identifying similarities in The Wanderer can be done by examining lines 62-72. 

“… So this middle-earth / from day to day dwindles and fails; /, therefore, no one is wise without his share of winters / in the world’s kingdom. / A wise man must be patient, / not too hot of heart nor hasty of speech, / not reluctant to fight nor too reckless, / not too timid nor too glad, not too greedy, and never eager to commit until he can be sure. / A man should hold back his boast until / that time has come when he truly knows / to direct his heart on the right path” (Greenblatt, 2018). 

The resemblances stood out instantly based on new examination and previous analyses of each text. The ideas mentioned in each ancient poem reflect Germanic pagan viewpoints which did often include nature. 

The little bit of this poem has so many symbols and devices that one could write a book on how paganism and nature around without. The examples above are only from a small analysis and prior readings that led to the connection of the sources used. For people in the middle ages, life was hard for plenty of reasons. It is important to not overlook the conflicting feelings of religion among the ancient people, as well as the importance of nature and old sayings full of wisdom.  

References: 

Greenblatt, Stephen, et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. TENTH ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 2018. 

Larrington, Carolyne. The Poetic Edda Translated by Carolyne Larrington. Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Blog That I Recommend for More Reading:

The Norse Mythology Blog – The Wanderer (Seigfried 2016)

Harmless

Poetry
Don't you know? Silly girl!
You probably caused this!
He's harmless.

You're the reason why he acts that way...
Maybe you pushed him
Over the edge.

Oh, you don't know him?
Then maybe it's how you were dressed
instead.
Or the way you painted your lips
red.

Surely, you are at fault!
You're the monster, silly girl, remember?
He is harmless.

If they are all harmless then make me
harmless too.

When we defend ourselves
let us be harmless too!

"Free from harm. Not capable of injury."

What is injury?! What is injury?! Can it be
a philosophical buzz word?

Yes, if you ask me!

How does one define injury?

We all know what it means
but to each of us it means
something
different !

Every abuser was harmless.
Every serial killer was harmless.
Every rapist was harmless.
Every theif, every liar every cheater -
Every murderer was once harmless!

We are all harmless until we are not!
Now there's food for thought.

I hope you shove it down
your throat and choke!

It's all harmless. . .

© KIMBERLYANNEINC 2022

Fury

Poetry
          Fury.
    She is fury.
Fury like the waves
    Of the Michigan Lake
         On a stormy day.

She sees them.

       Sitting on a window’s ledge
            Atop a high rise, she is
                       Hanging
                     H a n g i n g

Letting the wind feel her
                    And free her
As she lets the smoke rise
Out of her lips and let it kiss
                   The Sky
               With Passion.

She sends her whispers into the galaxy
Where the darkest purple clouds live
                           And black waves
                      Crash
                       And
                      Shake

                     No - it is not a dream.
               It is a very real scene.
A memory of her youth; so pristine.