On our last vacation day in Chicago, we walked over seven city miles. The last couple of miles were devoted to the world-famous Buckingham Fountain. Opened in 1927, the fountain is one of the largest in the world. Donya convinced me of its grandeur by comparing it to the Trevi in Rome, which we visited in December 2018.
Buckingham Fountain is a Chicago Landmark in the center of Grant Park, and between Queen’s Landing and Congress Parkway. Dedicated in 1927, it is one of the largest fountains in the world. Built in a rococo wedding cake style and inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles, it is designed to allegorically represent nearby Lake Michigan. It operates from May to mid-October, with regular water shows and evening color-light shows. During the winter, the fountain is decorated with festival lights.
I kept looking for the fountain’s spray on the horizon as we traversed the globe’s gentle curve in search of one last city landmark. There was no spray. When we, at last, came upon the famed fount, I saw the reason. There was no water in it. Buckingham was bone-dry, a waterless fountain looking like a relic from another age, like yesterday’s wonder and today’s wonder-why-it-is-there-at-all. I did not allow that in this city on the plains where the wind blows as bitter as a gambler’s widow and the winter temperatures plumb to zero and then some, there would be an offseason for the fountain. Typically, it operates from Mid-April to Mid-October.
It was barely March and we were SOL.
Of course, everyone who has visited the fountain since it was turned off in 2019 has suffered the same fate, regardless of the date they visited. The city has kept the faucet off because of COVID. Buckingham is barren.
We had walked hard and planned for days to put our eyes on the fountain featured in the opening credits of Married with Children and seen in various movie and TV series scenes across the years. When we found it dry, we were not content to just walk away. Instead, we elected to sit awhile on one of the benches at the edge of the expansive hand-laid brick terrace surrounding the fountain…and contemplate in silence.
I never saw a sadder inanimate object. This massive work of art and architecture was missing more than water. It was missing its soul. This fountain was designed to inspire life, laughter, and joy. We saw it lifeless, humorless, sad. Without its water, it is a relic – a glimpse of glories past and passed away. But send water coursing through its pipes and over its walls and it becomes living art – a place for momentary exile from the cares of the busy, hard, cold world just beyond its influence.
Buckingham Fountain on that particular gray-skied day reminded me of imagery etched into my youthful brain from some long-ago sermon about the prophet Ezekiel in that valley of sun-dried bones. It brought to mind lifeless Lazarus and his mourning sisters.
Water is life. A waterless fountain is a wasteland. So is a godless life. Missing its point. It may be everything but what it is meant to be. When a person misses the central point of their existence, everything is nothing.
Oh, to be a fountain of joy and blessing!