The city has calm for those who seek

When you think of a city, especially such an incredibly large city as Chicago, different words come to mind and calm isn’t usually one of them. In fact calm city seems somewhat of an oxymoron, there’s always traffic to deal with, so many people, things to see and do at all hours. But it is there, it’s just that sometimes it’s hidden in the neighbourhoods, green parks or even just down those small side streets that you might not usually notice.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by busy streets and crowded high-rise buildings, especially if those are something that you’re not used to. But you eventually learn to carve out your own little calm within all of that, and really I feel as though I’m at the point now where things are so much simpler to me than they would be if I lived in the country or the suburbs.

We don’t have a car, relying on our feet to take us where we need to go. I often relish the opportunity to walk through our tree-lined streets, especially when we have good weather and even if I’m just doing something as mundane as fetching groceries.

We take things slowly, leaving enough time for Mikey to pause and examine flowers peeking through railings, to pick up small twigs and branches fallen from trees, to chat to other children when we pass them or ask to pet dogs that we might meet on our journey. For me to occasionally window shop at the pretty boutiques and antique stores that line the bigger streets. Perhaps we don’t get a whole lot done in a single day because of the long walks and the constant pauses, but that is fine because we’re intentionally taking it slowly instead of rushing from one thing to the next.

I love it because it’s something I thought that I would miss when we were getting ready to leave Germany, before we knew where we were going to be living. I thought everything was going to be big and loud. It sometimes still is, but that’s ok too because there’s inspiration of all kinds around every corner.

We may not have a backyard, perhaps one day we will. It’s something I have become used to by now, after over 4 years of apartment living (both in Germany and here in Chicago). But our outside space is the large parks and playgrounds nearby, even our small porch or the sidewalk outside of our building.

If I want to sit outside at a coffee shop and write, I can just walk outside my building and down the street. There’s an old fashioned ice cream parlor too, so we can take Mikey out for ice cream on those hot summer nights, or go to see a film at our little neighbourhood cinema.

When I go to different places and take Mikey to different things I don’t feel as though I’m rushing to a destination, the journey is a part of the process. We can walk to the park and hang out for a couple of hours before packing up to walk to his dance class a little further up the street, sometimes we might spend a little time at the library on our way home, or race one another on the sidewalks.

How do you carve out your little spaces of calm where you live? Could you imagine doing it anywhere else?


  1. This is how I imagine living in the city. We lived in Chicago for a year and a half when we first moved here (I’m from KS, my husband is from Chicago, we met when he was in the Army & I was in college, lived in KS for the first years of marriage) on the south side which was not near as walkable as the north side. I wanted to stay in the city but my husband wanted to move to the suburbs and he felt more strongly about it than I did, so we moved.

    It took us a while but we have finally found the perfect spot for us. We are in walking /biking distance of the kids’ schools (elementary & next year, jr. high! eek!), the library, the grocery store, 2 Metra stations, restaurants, parks, etc. We walk/bike as much as we can, and since most in the suburbs drive, we have the sidewalks all to ourselves. It has taken some getting used to – adding in the additional time for walking/biking, but we’ve gained all the things you mentioned. Slower pace of life, appreciation of nature, neighbors, our immediate surroundings.
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    • That sounds great, which suburb are you in? We’ve talked about whether we want to move to the suburbs at some point in our lives (ie when we’re stable, and husband has finished school) but honestly the American suburbs freak me out a little, I love city living. I think the only reason that *might* convince us to move from the neighbourhood we’re in now is the schools, as far as I can tell there’s only one highschool here. I haven’t driven in years, so I always want somewhere with good walkability… it’s pretty high up on my list when we apartment hunt.

      My husband is actually from this neighbourhood too, we ended up in an apartment across the street from the one my MIL grew up in, without even realising it until we told her our address, which is so strange yet cool at the same time.

  2. These are gorgeous. I would buy the first. Thanks for sharing your experiences. This is how I imagine our lives will be in London. No yard and most likely no playground within walking distance but you get to make the city your playground so it works out well.

    Also I find calm nowhere. Im pretty much an over caffeinated spaz : )
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    • It takes 3 cups of coffee minimum to get me to “normal” in the morning so I know how that is. When the city is your playground though there’s just so much opportunity. Even for nature stuff, which is unexpected, you should see Mikey’s twig collection just from neighbourhood sidewalks. He tells me they’re his Harry Potter wands.

      Calm is all state of mind. I so know it’s tough when the kids are smaller, how do they have so much energy? All the time. It gets better, then it gets harder again then it gets better, but that’s something for another blog post.

      Walking distance for us is anything within 2 miles, so I guess we have a fair amount within that. It was nice when we lived in Germany there were like 3 playgrounds basically right outside our apartment and out city was nestled within hills and a forest… but I’ve come to realise how spoiled we were by that 🙂 just being able to walk along a couple of city streets then up a hill into the forest…

  3. Vóvó

    I loved reading your post and I love you too.

  4. RC

    I live in Lincoln Square and must say that you have captured the quiet beauty of this neighborhood. Not having a car either, my wife and I take the train and walk everywhere. It makes me realize how little of the world I saw when I drove. Thanks

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