"I hate to criticize the Botanic Garden," I said to my wife as we strolled along its trails Sunday, "but the flowers are more ... subdued than usual."
A joke, or an attempt at a joke, high spirits being necessary for an hour's walk in temperatures in the upper 20s with a brisk wind. While there wasn't much in the way of colorful blooms, it was compensated by an utter lack of people in the more far flung regions.
"Hell," as Jean-Paul Sartre writes in No Exit, "is other people."
My wife observed that it was the first time we went through the entire Japanese gardens without encountering a soul. The Japanese gardens, a pair of islands connected with quaint bridges, are particularly beautiful this time of year, filled with evergreens like the Jack Pine above, and with subtle decorations like stone Japanese lanterns, whose gently spreading tops are designed to hold snow.
Sometimes the effect was impressive, such as the Baha'i Temple. Sometimes, well, not so much. I was not charmed by the Marina Towers constructed of shelf fungi, and said so, prompting my wife to praise the corncobs, or, I suppose, mushroom cobs, I suspect out of the notion that someone took the time to construct it and their feelings must be considered.
There was one part of the display we both agreed upon. A model of the Bean or, if you're an employee of the Chicago Tribune, "Cloud Gate," that had been rendered from what seemed like a gourd painted silver, only one that lacked the necessary bean-like smoothness but had a slight cleft that made it resemble something else entirely.
"It's a tush!" my wife exclaimed, and before I could agree, a British father and his kids came by, and he said aloud, to no one in particular.
"It's a bottom!"
Nothing wrong with that, and it did add a certain adult, Rabelaisian flair to the otherwise sedate, charming and child-friendly holiday tableau. My wife suggested that perhaps it might be best to place a single Hershey's Kiss directly below the Bean/butt. "Or a some mini Tootsie Rolls!" I suggested.
"Ewww," she laughed, and we pushed onward. Something to bear in mind for next year, the holiday season now being officially over, with nearly six weeks of winter until a brief respite arrives in the form of Valentine's Day.