When you live in a big city like Chicago, you have to take your connections to the world outside (outside of people and pavement, that is) as you can get them. There's a reason that people almost obsessively hang out by the lake in the summer; where else can you get a nearly-unobstructed view of anything here? Sometimes, after I've been somewhere with a lot less people and a lot more mountains, I wonder how I can live here. And then I remember: it's in the details.
The lake is good, and when I was at Northwestern (where the music building sits feet away from the water), the ability to watch the seasons reflected in the lake was one of the things that truly helped me through my day. But there are many other, less obvious things that I think get overlooked. Personally, I pay close attention to any "wild"life I can see (even pigeons are interesting to watch interact with each other) and I try to pay attention to plants and the weather. This is how I try to stay connected to the idea that, even though I live in a giant city, there are still things outside of that concept that exist beyond it. We might have impacted them dramatically (pigeons are a product of civilization, I imagine, and god knows what we may have already done to the weather), but they are ways for me to remember that there is still nature here, in some form or another.
The point of this all comes down to one wall of my tiny little studio apartment. There are many things wrong with my apartment: repeated plumbing issues, the inevitable stuffiness (and, grossly, smelliness) that comes from a person and two cats living in such a small space with no open windows, the overactive radiator. But this wall is my absolute favorite part of living here. My west-facing wall is almost entirely made up of windows. I can see the sky, and part of the building next to me, but there are no windows facing towards me that are close enough to bother with. I feel free to wander around in my underwear with the blinds up without worrying overly that anybody can see me. I'm also on the fifth floor, which cuts out any real noise connection to outside (especially in the winter when the windows are generally closed, but even in the summer I can't tell if its raining from up here).
The upshot of all of this is that I can see the sky at basically all times. I wake up early because that's when the sun rises and the sky begins to lighten up. I can tell from bed what the cloud cover is like, whether it's sunny, whether it might be snowing. At night, the sky can be pink, yellow, orange, dark. During the day it can be light grey, dark grey, deep blue, light blue. I can see snowflakes drifting by. I have times of day that I like because of the quality of light. I've never had this kind of friendly connection to the sky before, and I love it. I wouldn't shut my blinds for anything.