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Our Secret Garden

Have you ever discovered what for you is a magical place? A place that you feel drawn to, somewhere that you would love to spend time at each and every day? We had a place like that in Illinois. Before we moved here to California we lived about 40 miles north of Chicago. We had moved to the village of Lindenhurst in 1998. To be honest I hated it. I grew up in the city, and I loved it. I love Chicago for all the reasons most people do, the architecture, the great restaurants, and the amazing museums, but I also love the diversity of people, the grittiness, the Michigan Avenue crowds, and the sounds of the El train running overhead. Lindenhurst was boring to me, the only salvation was Milburn, a sprinkling of historically marked Victorian homes that were down the street from us. We had been living in Lindenhurst for a year or two and had often driven by a sign that said McDonald Woods Forest Preserve, about a half mile from our house. We hadn’t bothered to stop. Lindenhurst borders farm country, there were fields of high grasses, row upon row of beautiful tall trees, and fields of corn all around us. We couldn’t see from the road what was in the preserve, tall grasses blocked he view. I don’t remember what prompted us to finally go there, but when we went it was a revelation. We chose the path going left, a gentle, sloping road that curved around a bend. Fields of flowers on either side of us, Queen Anne’s Lace, Echinacea, Black-Eyed Susan, and so much more, as far as we could see. Towards the bend, graceful Oak and Pine trees offering shade in the summer heat. We rounded the bend to find a beautiful pond, framed by grasses and Pussy Willow.  We would eventually discover that on some days if we were lucky, Egrets would be standing at attention by the water’s edge. The pond on our right, and to our left? An open field, small bushes, grasses, and more flowers, and the sounds of nature rustling in the breeze. Birds, butterflies, and bees flying about enjoying the bounty of nature. We continued along the path, soon we found ourselves in a grove of tall trees, a noticeable drop in temperature as the trees offered shade, a sun dappled vista of green and silver leaves, and moss-covered fallen limbs. We came again to a clearing, where the path led to a small wooden bridge that spanned the far end of the pond, and to our left two beautiful swans floating just yards from where we stood. Here the pond is edged with Weeping Willows, and all around us, everywhere there is land, there are flowers. We continued our walk through yet another canopy of trees, and finally out again in the open fields of flowers where our path ended, rejoining the place where we began. All in all a little over a two-mile path. From that day on we walked in those woods often, revisiting McDonald Woods many, many times. We have returned there on our visits home, and never tire of seeing the beauty there. If the opportunity should present itself, and you find yourself in the Northeast corner of Illinois, drive north on Route 45 to Deep Lake Road, turn left, and drive about a mile up the road. It’s on your left. Our magical place, someplace I wish we could get to more often.

Tonight a painting in watercolor from McDonald Woods.


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