"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"
Marcel Proust

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Love of Lamps

Wabash Avenue
When I was in Chicago last spring, little did I know that I would start a love affair. It was a love affair of street lamps.  Each street from State, Erie, Wabash, and Michigan Avenue had their own style of illumination. 

Michigan Avenue

So romantic, the candlelight of the city; tapers that stand tall and formal, whose single flames line the walkways, and ornate candelabras that adorn the table of the city where lovers can feast their eyes upon one another under the moonlight. Tall, dark (the post, that is), and handsome for me comes in the lamp posts of downtown Chicago.
Erie Street
Along Erie street the gold accents gave such a royal flair to the coal black coat underneath. Or perhaps it’s just the naturalist in me that loves the golden leaves swirling around the post from the Windy City’s breath. 

The lamp posts along Wabash have the same Y pattern, but without the gold bling. Their simple strength lines the streets like tailored waiters, poised steadily with platters balanced above their shoulders.

 On Michigan Avenue, round globes circled the lamp like pearls.
Michigan Avenue

Chicago just recently spent $25 million to renovate the lamp posts, in the mile stretch between Wacker Drive and Congress Parkway, back to their 1926 style. Architects Anderson, Graham, Probst, and White designed the original lamp posts whose Y frame represented the confluence of the north and south branches of the Chicago River.

Cool Crest Miniature Golf in St. Joseph, MO
Along Wabash in front of Chicago Public Library
In Chicago, my attraction to the lamp posts was like, dare I say it?—a moth to a flame. But it was just the beginning of my infatuation. Smitten by street lamps, I started snapping shots of bulbs on poles as I drove across the country on a family trip, in strangers’ front lawns, and even at the miniature golf establishment where my daughter had her 2nd grade field trip. While other good parents were snapping pictures of their child making memories with their classmates, I had my lens pointed at the interesting gothic lamp post that illuminated the ticket counter near the parking lot. It was a combination of the bulbs of Michigan Avenue and the Gothic background of the Chicago Public Library from Wabash.
Blend of Michigan/Wabash at Cool Crest

Nakuru, Kenya
As my insanity was mounting, my co-author fanned the flames of interest by sending me pictures of lamp posts from around the world. Ted’s travels illuminated my vision with even more interesting street light sculpture. In Kenya he found one of the most artistic street lights I’d ever seen. 

They were flamingo-shaped street light fixtures in Nakuru. Nakuru is famous for the millions of flamingos that congregate on the lake in Nakuru National Park. 

Flamingo in Nakuru

Back in Louisiana and Indiana we found more of the “Y” design street lamps.
Shreveport, LA
Evansville, IN

A book on decorative street lamps would be very interesting to me—and no shortage of models out there. Sitting back here at home, typing away on my keyboard, I look out the window and see my street’s own antique lamps lined up along the lane.  Street lamps make me think in black and white, of big cities and small down towns, of old postcards, of fedora hats and fishnet stockings, of Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and of short-stature simplicity and strength. 

Downtown Atlanta, IL
Lamp post on the lane
 But looking out my window I remember now that they also remind me of home—the nights I’ve watched a soft snowfall glow orange in the simple lamp light or watched colorful autumn leaves swirl around its base. It is the candle outside my window—the beacon that inspires dreams of traveling and that brings comfort when I come back home.