I imagine that land can dream, and the swampy prairie that was here had a prophesy dream about Chicago as a dark flash of stones and steel that would segregate the soil from the sun. The wolves and buffalo went away, the prairie went almost silent for a few beats of history. This city appears in history instantaneously, as a disruption. A measure later and the broken bones of ecology have set. The prairie lurches back in empty lots and along the railroad tracks.
People don’t dream about the prairie the way they used to, but they still do. I daydream about it and I’m rooting for it in Chicago.
Specifically I dream incessantly about breeding and releasing local native fauna into the wilds of the city. To begin with, the Ruffed Grouse. This is a large majestic prairie bird, historically resident to the neighborhood: it should be able to rough it out in some nook in the city (I have seen pheasants in Detroit). I conceive of breeding them in the basement on a massive scale and releasing them everywhere. (Perhaps there is some kind of Ruffed Grouse bird box that could be built and distributed in empty lots and parks?)
Also I fantasize about breeding the teensy weensy Four-toed Salamander, which I guess I would probably do in the bathtub. When I have my way, these little lungless guys will be crawling all over Chicago. No, there is not much clean wild water in Chicago. I’d spread salamanders on Woody Island, Humboldt Park Lagoon, Northly Island, maybe up north on the Chicago River. Perhaps furnish a section of a park as a salamander fresh water fountain refuge, with all their favorite mosses (both Philadelphia and New York have resident salamander populations).
I am loving the local reptiles– they’re so benign. I would like it if there were a problematic amount of Smooth Green Snakes in Chicago — like clogging up the curbs. While we’re at it, let’s get some American Glass Snakes in the house, too.
Before we part, let’s tip our hat to the mighty burbot, a feisty fish, the only freshwater member of the cod family. This fish can live almost 1,000 feet beneath the surface of Lake Michigan. The burbot: for the ultimate “meanwhile” perspective– as in, “Meanwhile nearby out to sea 1000 feet down the burbot were stirring.” Remember the burbot.