July 13-14, 2019, Wilmette-
I have made it a practice, when going back and forth across North America, to stop at least once at the Baha’i House of Worship, in this leafy North Shore suburb of Chicago. Often, it is only for two or three hours, before I’m off again, to whatever awaits. This time, though, I took an Airbnb room, near Wilmette’s Village Center, the better to meet with a trusted friend at her convenience.
The House of Worship is, rightfully, a point of pride for Wilmette’s residents, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. The town has a full complement of Christian denominations and an active Jewish temple, as well as several Muslims. My host, an Iranian-American, who is not a Baha’i, spoke well of our Faith and of the Temple.
My day started, in Wrigleyville, with my helping the most vibrant of the group of hostelers, whom I mentioned yesterday, to charge her phone. The Hostel’s breakfast master whipped up some incredible pancakes and waffles. Then came the navigation from the parking garage I used, to curbside near the hostel. A distance of two blocks required me to go around Cape Horn, figuratively speaking. At one point, I stopped, twice, at the same STOP sign, then inched forward, only to be chastised by a traffic control officer for not stopping a THIRD time. No ticket ensued, after his partner rolled her eyes at him and signaled me to turn. That’s Chicago traffic, though, and never anything personal. A police officer at another spot let me turn onto Sheffield, and I found the perfect spot for loading my car back up.
No freeway was necessary, going to Wilmette. U.S. 41 North gives one a nice slice of Chicago’s northwest side, at a leisurely pace, without a humongous amount of traffic, of a Saturday morning. A fine lunch at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, amongst an eclectic crowd, set a fine mood for the rest of the drive to my evening’s abode. The ambiance is as important to me as the food itself. Listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Sunshine of Your Love” was a bonus.
Above a Persian carpet shop sits a modest apartment. There, I took the spare room, and headed up to the House of Worship. My focus, after prayers and meditation, is always on the gardens, which surround the Temple, on each of its nine sides. I have shown these, in detail, in earlier posts. Here, though, is a small sample.
This is the North Shore Channel, which empties into Wilmette Harbor, between the House of Worship and Gillson Park, which has the village’s lovely beach.
I availed myself of two restaurants here in Wilmette: Ridgeview Grill, which I visited last summer, gave the same excellent fare and service on Saturday night; Walker Brothers Pancake House offered the finest of Sunday breakfasts. (Yes, San Diegans, your very own Richard Walker is a member of this family, and his superb Pancake House is a West Coast extension of the Wilmette establishment, which also has six other branches around Chicagoland’s North Shore.).Suffice it to say, I am getting spoiled by two days in a row of great pancakes.
With breakfast done, and 10 a.m. rolling around, I bid farewell to my host, J., and headed over to the House of Worship, to meet my friend. On the way, I encountered a crew fixing a broken water main, so prayers were offered for that situation as well. The Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette (1953) was the second such Temple ever built, the first being in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (1908). (It was confiscated by the Soviets, in the 1920’s, then was destroyed by an earthquake. The property remains vacant, under Turkmenistan government control.) There are now seven other Baha’i Houses of Worship – one for each continuously-inhabited continent, plus one in Samoa and one in Panama. National and Regional Baha’i Temples are being built, in several places around the globe. Each House of Worship is open to all, regardless of Faith.
Wilmette, this time, felt a lot more like home. The ripples of love and acceptance are radiating outward from this truly divine edifice.