Narratives & Histories

Personal Narrative (Soil Sample 1) – MIAMI WOODS


I went to Jewel to get a quart-sized bag.

I went to Michaels to get two jars for the shake tests.

I went to Hobby Lobby to get a garden trowel.

I went to Miami Woods Forest Preserve near the Library.


I set out to find a spot secluded and far enough inland so I could gather an accurate sample. I chose a spot that dipped near the river. The sun was low in the sky. Runners and bikers went by occasionally but I was hidden in my little cove.

I started digging and immediately encountered roots. Then I put my ruler into the dirt to make sure I was collecting enough of the sample. Then I collected a water sample.

I found a pink discarded Wetland Boundary flag and laid it over the top of the hole before I left. I headed back to the car and began editing photos on my phone when three deer came up to my car. I took a couple videos of them before driving off and heading home.


History (Soil Sample 1)


Cyclists and walkers using the paved North Branch Trail for exercise and easy strolls are probably most familiar with 113-acre Miami Woods for its alternating wooded and sunny stretches, and for the large trail overpass spanning Oakton Street. Botanists and birders, who take things a little more slowly, know Miami Woods for its wildflowers and warblers, thriving now after decades of habitat restoration.


Enjoying Miami Woods

The paved North Branch Trail—enjoyed for everything from biking, hiking, in-line skating, on-leash dog walking and cross-country skiing—extends about 1.5 miles through Miami Woods, from the Oakton Street overpass in the south to Dempster Street in the north. Picnickers use groves near the parking lots, which access the North Branch Trail.

Detailed signs along the parking area tell Miami Woods’ remarkable restoration story. Restored woodlands and prairies extend for many acres on both sides of the North Branch Trail.


Nature at Miami Woods

Restoration work in the prairies along the North Branch of the Chicago River began in the late 1970s. At that time, volunteers found more than 160 native plant species and supplemented them with seed gathered from nearby prairie remnants. Now, visitors to Miami Woods have 35 years of volunteer efforts and seed from those remnants to thank for the beautiful wildflower displays.


The Chicago River winds and bends haphazardly along the floodplain, riffling in stretches beneath small bluffs topped by bur, white and Hill’s oak. Birds such as field and savannah sparrows, common yellowthroats, eastern kingbirds and many species of migratory warblers find food and rest by the water and in the prairie above. Great St. John’s wort, bergamot, rattlesnake-master, coneflowers, and blazing stars delight visitors with bursts of color during summer and fall.


Personal Narrative (Soil Sample 2) –


On my way home from school with Meredith I went and got the sample near my old high school. It’s silly. I could’ve gotten it a few days ago before the weather decided to snow again in April. We collected the sample together using the garden trowel and an oversized-gallon bag Meredith had then we left the hole exposed. 


History (Soil Sample 2) –


Chippewa Woods is a portion of the Indian Boundary Division, a subsection of the Cook County Forest Preserves, which is itself a mighty greenbelt encompassing 27 lakes, ponds, quarries, reservoirs and sloughs.




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Ogilvie transportation center was founded and built in 1911, which was made to replace the Wells Street station on the opposite side of the river. Frost Grang designed the building with influence from the Renaissance Revival. When the station was initially built it had nurses, baths, dressing rooms, and a doctors office. It was truly meant to be a place of transportation that could aid in any issue to arise during travel.

Digging for this dirt felt to be quite sketchy. I decided to dig at night around 9:50 PM before boarding my 10:40 PM train home. I also wanted to avoid the traffic of rush hour. The specific spot I chose to dig was from a planted tree in the courtyard of the station. I chose this instead of finding a spot where the rails touched the ground in the city because I pass by this set of trees everyday during my commute. So it is an appropriate representation of the journey I take everyday to SAIC. I became interested in the points that I pass by on a daily basis that I often, if not always pay no attention to. This soil has become a truly personal and emotional subject for me. The soil I chose to observe and source is all centered on my way of movement, and my commute. Having a Palestinian background the importance of soil, and land is immense, and the idea of taking soil from where I begin, and end my journey each day, to me connects to the displacement, and movement of the Palestinian people from their homes. The experience of digging soil has become a highly reflective venture for me, and an important process I wish to continue.


Soil is a marker, and a notation of space, and location. Digging soil from these places became in a way our way of making a mark on the city and quantifying experiences in Chicago. Taking the soil from places of experience becomes a way to preserve that history and those personal experiences. The soil in Chicago, and surrounding the city is diverse and full of history. It is this process of collection that has allowed for further exploration of separate histories of soil, and its location.

airport writing 4airport writing 2Writing Midway and O'Hare

O’Hare Coordinates: 41.977287, -87.904679 Toxicity: Mostly clay. Seems non-toxic, the only debris being some small rocks and a few wood chips. Time: Approximately 1:45 Midway: Coordinates: 41.784015, -87.740360 Toxicity : Fair amount of clay, but still crumbles. Seems non-toxic with only some small nearby trash on the side of the road. Time: Approximately 12:30