Dreams of Marble and Granite

Bonnie Swearingen - Photo Credit: Jet Magazine

Bonnie Swearingen – Photo Credit: Jet Magazine

LAKE MACBRIDE— Right on schedule, thunder and lightning began to build around midnight as I crossed the lakes on Mehaffey Bridge Road. The county funded reconstruction of this road, and in a week or so, the direct route to the warehouse won’t be available until the roadwork is completed. The thunderstorm moved in after retiring to bed, and I followed the sound and light until I fell asleep.

I spent some time in the garden yesterday, although not much. The ground was too wet for planting radishes— the next outdoor vegetable. The lettuce and arugula have not sprouted yet, and I drove the fence posts into the mud-like soil, inspected the garlic, chives and oregano, and went back inside. The chives are big enough to split, which I will do when the soil dries.

Indoors, my basil, arugula and lettuce “bombs,” have sprouted, and the trays of seedlings need watering. The tomatoes are showing the third and fourth leaves, and soon will be sturdier than their current spindly presence. Planting my own tomato seedlings, and growing them to this stage is new ground, and it looks promising.

Either waking, or dreaming— maybe somewhere between— the Standard Oil Building in Chicago was on my mind this morning. I viewed it being constructed while in college, and worked there for the oil company. The bad decision to clad the exterior of the building with 43,000 slabs of Carrara marble was being rectified while I was there, replacing it with Mount Airy white granite. It was a big project, and ongoing for my entire tenure working for the then ninth largest corporation. The company easily afforded the $80 million price tag for the project.

Some say it was Mrs. John E. Swearingen, who wanted the marble. The spouse of Standard Oil of Indiana’s chief executive officer, Bonnie Swearingen, was active in the Chicago art culture, and was photographed with Mayor Daley, a host of celebrities and art patrons, such pictures appearing regularly in the Chicago papers. She likened her husband to Napoleon saying, “Napoleon isn’t really dead. He’s alive and well and disguised as my husband.”

One can’t blame her for the problems— the marble was too thin, the effects of acid rain were too harsh— but the building itself seemed a tribute to ego, hers and her husband’s. The marble slabs started falling off during construction.

Working with our hands frees a mind to wander, and mine is wandering down a lane that includes much of my past life. I don’t know if it is my life passing before my eyes during a steady march to the grave, or if memory is loosed, distracting me from present work, and saying something else. Exactly what, is not clear, except for the persistence of dreams about marble and granite.

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