Gazing on Chicago’s hopeful shores, I mourn

Amid recollections of all that we have endured most recently, in Chicago and beyond, I inhale the breath of a new season.

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The Chicago skyline, March 2021.

Amid recollections of all that we have endured most recently, and also generationally, in Chicago and beyond, I mourn, John Fountain writes.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Budding trees in various hues of green flicker in the wind that carries the warm breath of spring as tranquil waves ripple across this lake no longer iced and trimmed with white-frost tipped shores.

A young brown-haired man with a buzz cut and toting a stroller in one arm saunters with a young woman who cradles a child while clicking a smiling selfie, the skyline serving as a picturesque backdrop. The sunshine penetrates a cloud-filled sky, kissing everything and everyone below.

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It shines upon beds of emerald grass that sprout with stubborn dandelions. Upon the seagulls who flap above the glistening lake and a gaggle of floating geese. On two cops who linger outside their cruiser near the Adler Planetarium apparently on lunch break — worthy of a snapshot against the blue lake in this moment in which one season approaches on the heels of another.

And yet, I mourn.

Amid these hopeful shores. Amid forecasts of brighter days. Amid the return of tulips and daffodils to my own yard, and awakening nowadays to songbirds outside my window and the rustle and bustle of squirrels. I am relieved. And yet, I mourn.

Amid the hope and promise of brighter tomorrows after a season filled with countless midnights and storms in which everyone could not be saved. Amid the appearance finally of the sun — and a rainbow — like so many of us, I still mourn.

Cyclists are in abundance today, rolling through this lakefront thoroughfare. Today three dudes on blue Divvy bikes chat while pedaling. Three little girls giggle and frolic on a grassy knoll. A couple wearing shades lean their bikes against a fat tree momentarily, then decide to walk them down and to sit on the concrete embankment to face the city.

A city that no longer resembles Carl Sandburg’s “hog butcher for the world.” Nor Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable’s marshy, smelly Chicago.

From a distance, she beams gloriously, the spires of Willis Tower tickling the sky. Chicago — the beautiful. Chicago — signature metropolis. Glistening Gotham.

Chicago — that breathes and also bleeds. Chicago — the bereaved.

Streets where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was stoned. City where Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were fatally shot by cops. Where Richard J. Daley’s orders to “shoot to kill” still linger like fine dust on a windowsill.

Chicago — backdrop of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where police beat protestors with clubs and fists. City of the Chicago Seven, where a judge ordered Bobby Seale bound and gagged in court, and shackled to his seat.

Chicago so surreal… Still. City so pretty. But if looks could kill…

City where I have also borne witness to the murder of so many people Black like me, slain by people Black like me. Chicago — where the toll of last week’s slaying of a 7-year-old girl in a McDonald’s drive-through with her father, in a gangland-style shooting, in broad daylight, makes this city’s light to shine so much more dimly.

And I mourn.

Even as a light finally shines at the end of this tumultuous pandemic tunnel in which we have lost family and friends to COVID-19. Even amid rising vaccinations and a guilty verdict in the Chauvin-Floyd case, which has preserved, at least for now, my glimmer of hope for justice and equality for all.

Amid recollections of all that we have endured most recently, and also generationally, in Chicago and beyond, I mourn. I suspect that so many of us are caught between an inescapable sense of mourning and the winds finally of an impending, refreshing new day.

From my seat, peering across this city’s shores, I inhale the breath of a new season. And yet, I mourn.

Email John Fountain at

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