Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Chicago Botanic Garden Reflections

Chicago Botanic Garden, Dec. 24, 2020

     Christmas Eve was a good time to go to the Botanic Garden.
     Well, honestly, any time is a good time to go to the Botanic Garden. Mid-February. Late July. You name it.
     I mean extra good. Temperature nudging 50. Most people at home, busy ... oh, don't know, wassailing, whatever it is people who celebrate Christmas do. I have no idea, having never observed the holiday in any fashion, other than playing "O Holy Night" once on Christmas Eve. 
    Okay, Laura Vitez did invite me over her house in Berea about 1980. So I can report with authority that there is decorating a tree, and hot buttered rum on the stove, followed by caroling around the neighborhood. Quite fun. No wonder people like it.
     Anyway, so we're heading out the door Friday, and for some reason Edie noticed a light switch in what she still touchingly calls "The Toy Room" even though there are no longer any toys nor boys to play with them. As part of making out 115-year-old house a little livable now that we're not shelling out two tuitions, we had an electrician put in new light switches, even in places like the basement that never had them (we pulled a string on a light at the top of the stairs and then, when the string broke, twisted the bulb in and out. For about a decade).
     Anyway, she pointed out that this, too was a dimmer switch, demonstrating it.
     "It doesn't dim much," she observed, "But it does dim some."
     We froze. Have you stopped in your tracks, with a sudden sense of tingling possibility, like noticing a folded bill on the ground? Or a lepidopterist, seeing a colorful flash of wing on a honeysuckle bush? No? Well, good thing you're not married to me, because I did and my wife, being the mirror image of the pair, did too.
     "Dim sum?" one of us said. 
     Now punning is a low form of humor, that has been recognized as such for well over 250 years ("He that would pun would pick a pocket," Alexander Pope wrote). But those are intentional puns. An accidental pun, well, a rare and beautiful thing.    
     And something new. Now we would be challenged, when discussing dimmer switches, or passing them, or even out-of-the-blue, to invoke the dim sum pun.
     Otherwise, the puns are like well-worn pebbles, something to be caressed in passing. Normally, I take the lead in this department. Particularly on our walks at the Botanic Garden. Remember, we're already together, in the same house, pretty much 24 hours a day. On top of being together most of the past, ah, 38 years. So it's not like there's a lot to fill the other in about. Not much news. So occasionally I'll fill a silence by floating some lame wordplay, or a readily understood threadbare reference, not quite puns. Though on this day my wife, perhaps inspired by her dim some triumph, took the lead.
     "Should we go all the way to that bridge...?" she said, pointing out a span—the bridges at the Botanic garden are all unique and lovely in their own way, sinuous or straight, holding all sorts of vistas.
     I finished the thought, "...or is that a bridge too far?"
     Not funny, the usual sense of the word. But oddly satisfying. She was quoting, by the way, unknowingly, something Lt General Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning, a commander of British airborne forces in World War II, said when asked by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery if the 1st Airborne Division could take the bridge across the Rhine at the Dutch town of Arnhem.
    They were planning Operation Market Garden, the September, 1944 attempt to flank the German defenses in the Netherlands by racing across a series of bridges and crossing the Rhine into Germany.
     “I think we might be going a bridge too far,” Browning observed. (He was right. The Germans happened to have a Panzer division there, and the British and American paratroopers, the largest airborne operation ever, had their asses handed to them. Operation Market Garden is generally considered a failure, though it did overrun the German V2 bases, and that was a relief to battered Londoners). 
     Though the phrase was doubtless planted in our consciousness by the 1974 best-seller by Cornelius Ryan, "A Bridge Too Far," or the later star-studded movie.
      Later, she suggested we take a spin through the Rose Garden, even though there are of course no roses this time of year.
     "Okay," I said, "But that isn't a binding commitment."
     I'll let you figure out what I'm referring to.


  1. never promised a rose garden?

  2. Christmas Day was also a good time to visit the Botanic Garden, crowd-wise, with the bonus of it being a sunny day. The winter sun on the bare trees made for some lovely views, and the reflections that your fine photos highlight were excellent. We ventured over to the new area that you referred to in your last BG post. Swell now, and will only get more interesting, of course. Such a clever use of a limited, not-obviously-utilizable space. I was admiring the lovely benches that you mentioned when I noticed some cracks in the wood of one of the slats. Almost took a picture to send you, but decided that would be a bit much! The bonus was seeing either a red-headed or red-bellied woodpecker in McDonald Woods. Ace birder, I'm not, but the red head seemed appropriate for Christmas...

  3. Even in the winter, images of the Botanic Gardens are lovely. And they are so lush and beautiful in the other seasons, as well. They were pretty nice when I frequented the place in the Eighties, but they appear to have thrived in the ensuing years. Several decades of growth and blooming will do that.

  4. My takeaway is the adorable relationship you have with your wife. It shines through again and again in your posts.

  5. Wandering around my new neighborhood yesterday, walking across from where they're building the Obama center. circled the lagoon and what did I find ? But the entrance to a Chinese garden.

    Nowhere near as nice as the one at the botanic gardens, but when it comes upon you like that as a complete surprise. It's wonderful.

    Also saw a sculpture public art by none other than Yoko Ono something to do with being a sister city to Osaka. Japan brought it here. A beautiful take on the lotus flower. No Snoopy and a blender here.

    Like so many things I've discovered out south who knew?

    1. Sorry to be a prick, but a version of that garden has been there since the World's Columbian Exposition. Enhanced in the '30s and several other times. Some people knew! Be sure to check out the area in the Spring for the cherry blossoms, FME. The park district planted 160 cherry trees around the basin behind the MSI, starting in 2013. Wonderful to see, but the blossoms only peak for a short time.

    2. as you know jakash , I am not sorry . that you are nor that I am.
      a transplanted life long north sider there are many things I didn't know about the south side of chicago and many I still dont. I must of missed the world Colombian exposition! lol

    3. I guess as a transplanted Buckeye, I've sought out interesting things in the metro area, perhaps more than a local who might take things for granted. Though I've lived on the north side for decades, I don't have the inborn disdain for the south side that many seem to (which is not to suggest that you do), and have done a fair amount of roaming there. How about Palmisano Park -- have you been there? Another delightful spot. And you'd have loved the Columbian Exposition, as I did! ;)

      Just want to note that I replied to your gracious holiday greetings on the Dec. 23 post, in case you didn't see that.

    4. Thinking about making another trip to Chicago next spring or summer, and just learned that in 2022 it will cost an out-of-state couple (like us) $60 to enter the Botanic Gardens and park there, or twice as much as it does now (free admission, but $30 per car). That seems a bit pricey to me, even somewhat steep. By comparison, the average National Monument or National Park fee is $10 per person or $20 per vehicle.

      Oh, there will be free days, of course, but apparently no more senior discounts. And most of the free days will be in the warmer months, and during all of June. Great. I can forsee getting there before dawn, on a weekday morning in May or June. Then watching the sunrise, while waiting hours until the gates open, in much the same fashion we get vaccinated now.

      Some locals are pissed. One said she'll stick to the parks, and another said he'll just stay home and hang out in his backyard weed patch. Do they need the extra revenue for any new projects, or to pay for expansion? Naaah. Looks like a plain and simple money grab--they're doing it because they can.

    5. Just an idea, Grizz, but you could join the Holden Arboretum in Cleveland for $80, go there and to the Cleveland Botanical Garden throughout the year and be admitted to the Chicago Botanic Garden (and hundreds of other places nationwide) for free through the Reciprocal Admissions Program...

    6. Sorry for the long delay...just saw this....and yes, that IS a possibility. One little catch, though. The Holden Arboretum is east of Cleveland, out in Lake County, and not in the city. It's in Kirtland, OH, which is roughly thirty miles from where I live. But our Botanical Garden is less than thirty minutes away, on the other side of town. So it might be worthwhile to pay the eighty bucks for all three venues. Thanks for the heads-up.

    7. UPDATE: We joined up last Saturday. Our visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden is scheduled for Friday, June 17th. I hope and pray it is not 100 degrees again.

    8. Congratulations. I guarantee you that you will not regret it.


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