Louis Sullivan Visits the Century After Next (and Contributes to the Polka Dot Thursday Madness Theme)
In January of 1894, master architect Louis Sullivan sat looking out his office window at the sea of snowy white that gripped Chicago and echoed his broken, shivering heart. He could not fully grasp that his economic descent was already in progress, though some of his glorious jewel box banks would follow in the difficult years ahead when he was paid a mere pittance but he left behind brick hewed emeralds throughout the Midwest prairie that would long outlive him and restore his reputation as a genius.
The "Panic of 1893" the previous spring and summer had ended years of economic and construction boom of which Sullivan was the gleaming star. The dissolving of the stellar firm of Adler and Sullivan left him financially adrift. Unlike Mr. Adler, he lacked the business acumen to promote himself nor the audacity of his protegee Frank Lloyd Wright to so shamelessly extol his own genius.
Sullivan considered himself a poet, even if his medium was brick, steel and glass, sending soaring verses reaching to the heavens like hands grasping for insight and meaning. A poet like Sullivan had no interest in accounting and marketing but preferred to read and edit the works of his idol Walt Whitman to whom he wrote at least one gushing fan letter.
The master architect closes his eyes that mid-morning of 1894, summoning up his muses and guardians.
Within seconds he has left 19th Chicago and its snowy blast and has arrived in 2010, seated in the back garden of the Junkplex near the polka dot toad stools where he is received for tea by host Billy the Blunder Cat and the advisory board of Junk Thief Enterprises. "On behalf of the Junk Thief family, it is my pleasure to welcome you," Billy says, offering him a cup of Kalimpong Darjeeling tea.
"Why, Mr. Sullivan, you look a little distressed," one of the advisory board members notes. Though tiny and cute, the advisory board possess many amazing powers (as seen during this weekend's incident in Orange County), including the gift of insight and empathy.
Sullivan sighs, hanging his head. "Ah, it seems my life has become just a pursuit of money when all I care about is art and roses and beauty and poetry. I miss the summer roses of Chicago. It will be a good five months before I shall see them again. Even if I have enough money to eat, I am starving the beauty and nature."
Billy offers him a rose colored cup of tea and points to the sterling silver rose bush on the other side of the garden. "Come, come, Mr. Sullivan. We are hear to cheer you any time you need support. And remember beneath the snow, those rose bushes are taking deeper root as they rest and will make glorious blossoms soon."
Sullivan nods and then pulls out a letter he recently wrote to Walt Whitman. "Would you like to hear what I wrote?" he asks. "It speaks what dwells deep in my heart."
"Oh, yes, please do," say the advisory board and Billy.
Sullivan pulls the letter from his vest pocket and begins, explaining that his favorite poem in Leaves of Grass is "Sea-Drift", especially the section entitled "As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life"
"Dear Mr. Whitman," Sullivan reads. "I, too, 'have sweated through fog with linguists and contenders.' I, too, 'have pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair,' reaching for the basis of a virile and indigenous art. Thus I am enclosing a copy of my own poetic essay 'Inspiration,' because it is your opinion above all other opinions that I should most highly value. Signed, respectfully yours, Louis Henri Sullivan, Chicago, Illinois."
Sullivan puts down the letter, saying that more than any dean of architecture, he most admired Whitman whom he considered to be a fellow artist pursuing the same objectives but in a different field and was the distant soul mate he had forever pursued yet never met.
Unable to finish their cake, Billy and the advisory board dry their tears as they surround Sullivan in a warm embrace as all sing in unison:
Come said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet has yet chanted
Sing me the universal
All, all for immortality
Love like the light silent wrapping all.
Nature's amelioration blessing all.
The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine
Forms, objects, growth, humanity, to spiritual
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream.
And failing it life's lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream.