Burn it down

I tilted my head back and stared. The high ceiling was molded into deep squares, with a Soviet star in the center. I had never seen anything like it…Plaster molded with stalks of wheat and sickles–and in the middle of each square section a star. It looked like something out of a glamorous movie.
-The Russian American School of Tomorrow

I come from the land of log cabins and Quonset huts. Alaskan structures did not take the time to be pretty. They barely took time to be structures.

Log cabins and A-frame houses could be thrown up in a summer, and give just enough shelter to keep body and soul together. The niceties could be done later.

Except somehow later took a lot longer.

I was the babysitter for an A-frame house whose bedroom walls were sheets for years.

They may still be sheets.

That was a long time ago. I’ve been to cities since then–world-class cities with architecture that blew me away.

This week I went to Chicago. Standing at the window of a 16th story room I looked down at this city–the wide streets and the miles of skyscrapers. This city works.

It works. The systems fit together, the roads are big enough and the public transportation is good.

And the people work. This city sprung to life to work. It started with slaughtering animals to feed the nation, and just kept going. There are mighty unions that work, and everyone walks around with backpacks.

They asked me “How do you like Chicago?”

And when I start to rave about how beautiful and sensible this city is, they tell me “We had the good sense to burn it down. That way we could rebuild it right.”

In 1871 Chicago burned up, a fire famously started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. But it did burn. It was a big tragedy.

There have been a few times in my life when everything burned down. Not fire, but when everything I built up around me for sustenance and comfort scatters. In my mind I call them plagues.

And it’s a sad and scary time.
But it doesn’t stay that way.

Not if I keep moving. Keep working.

Like Chicago. They pulled their boots and on made plans and built it better than before. With room to breathe and drive and grow.

The fire, the destruction is not an end. It’s a chance to do it even better. So I’ll cry when I need to. But I will cry while laying bricks.

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