In his coffee table book, My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago, Mike MacDonald, photographer and author, explores one of his greatest passions, the natural world all around Chicagoland. Mike shows every habitat in its full glory and through all seasons, delving deep in to the woods and highlighting the beauty of the oak savannah, or rising before dawn to set up for sunrise in the tallgrass prairie. His patience and persistence put him right in the path of gorgeous scenes that late sleepers and the lazy never imagine. Turtle tracks, foggy prairies, dew covered flowers, frost covered leaves, misty landscapes silhouetted with deer, sun drenched dunes, icy wetlands and above all, the abundance of natural flowers and grasses. It is hard to resist the visual allure, let alone the nomenclature of our native plants like bottle gentians, marsh blazing star, wild quinine, purple and yellow coneflower, Dutchman’s breeches and toothwart. With forewards by documentarian/newsman Bill Kurtis and Stephen Packard, the founder of the Chicago area Audubon Society, the book also defines the regional ecosystem and ongoing conservation efforts quite clearly.
Mike’s breathtaking photography would be stunning enough, but combined with the comprehensive map at the front of this tome which reveals the locations of dozens of featured locations on the north and south sides, from the lesser known Shoe Factory Road Prairie in the north to Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in the south, it is also a practical tool for the urban explorer. Mike’s overarching theme is this: Nature is everywhere, Chicago! Open your eyes!
Another charming feature to this book is Mike’s willingness to employ the nuances of prose and poetry to provide both historical background and convey the subtle joys of nature. As someone who once spent many volunteer summers getting my nature fix in the preserves (with my children and friends) battling invasive plant species, I appreciate the time Mike takes to describe the secret encroachment of the regions two most devastating invasive species, buckthorn and garlic mustard.
My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago is a coffee table must for every nature lover, hiker, birdwatcher, flower fetcher, and parent who wants their kids to see more than cityscapes. Its inspiration lies not just in the simple beauty of thorough explorations, but also in the promise of solitude, wildlife, diversity, color and the allure of leaving the road construction behind and entering the big blue (and green) room.
Order My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago here.