The official user's manual for sunshine

On the Exquisite Quality of Sunshine: The Beauty of the Loop

Memoirs & Miscellany, User's Guide to Summer Add comments

It was an unseasonably warm January day nearly twenty years ago, not long after I first arrived in Chicago, that instilled in me an appreciation for the beauty of the Loop. The thermometer read fifty-eight degrees, and having languished mostly indoors since November of the previous year, the bright January sun at five in the afternoon on that unseasonably warm day was irresistibly attractive. I left my office and decided to walk the Loop for a while as snow became liquid raining down from the train tracks above. Specifically at Van Buren and Dearborn, beneath the tracks, I watched people bustle their way toward home in that crisp air as light bounced off the precipitation and played between the CTA struts and support columns tiger-striping my fellow Chicagoans in shadow. This was beguiling to me.

Just the way the sun kisses the Monadnock, the Fisher, the Manhattan and Old Colony buildings, the way shadows blink on and off as the Brown, Purple and Orange lines pull in and out of the Washington Library stop, reveal how utterly alive and gorgeous this part of the city is. After spending hours in an office, the dynamic embrace of the midday Loop can be intoxicating.

The summer sunlight, as opposed to those unexpectedly sunny winter afternoons, is more full. It has a buttery quality that envelops you and can lull you into a trance if you find yourself sitting still enough to enjoy it. It feels rich, carrying in it the dust of downtown traffic and the exhaust of fellow citizens. I always welcome its embrace. It is when I am squinting through this living light and watching it shine on the shoulders of people passing by that I feel most optimistic.

In a town renowned for its shitty weather, I find it appropriate that January taught me to love the angular light play of the Loop that I’ve now come to associate with summer walks downtown. Two decades into my time here and I still habitually stroll the area on warm days, watching people move through pockets of light and dark, watching those pockets themselves move across the city as night slowly approaches. (Damien James)

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