Scenes from the Arboretum

My favorite place to be these days is the Morton Arboretum.  I remember going here, on occasion, as a child.  And I remember being underwhelmed.  I didn't quite understand what was so exciting about trees.  I ended up at the Arboretum again in high school, on a field trip.  It was a creative field trip - we received handmade journals at the beginning of the day, as well as Polaroid cameras to use, and our mission was simply to observe nature and see what it inspired in us.  It was cold and rainy - a difficult day for walking around outside and taking pictures, but my friends and I relished every moment.  I still have that journal, with a dim, gray picture of some tree branches that I thought were pretty, and a poem or two.  I still have the watercolor painting of autumn leaves that I did during a workshop later in that day.  In high school, I desperately wanted to be a next-generation transcendentalist, so the Arboretum certainly helped fuel my love of nature and my interest in seeking inspiration from it.

Now that we live so close to the Arboretum, I spend much time there.  We had the foresight to become members, so that we can come and go at will.  When Matt wasn't working, we would go there on Fridays (my day off), either to bike the hilly roads or to walk paths, keeping an eye out for herons and ducks and fishers and other interesting wildlife amidst the flowers and trees.  Matt's working now, so I find myself wandering the Arboretum alone on Fridays, taking time to soak in the quiet as I listen to my footsteps along the paths and keep my camera close at hand.

Two weeks ago, I set out on my solitary journey to the Arboretum, and happened upon Crab Apple Lake - a lake that I had never visited before.  It seemed quiet, dark, and boring at first, but I sat down anyway, looking out at the water and at the tall weeds and flowers that lined the bank.  As I watched these plants, I started to notice a flurry of activity - bees of all varieties and butterflies, buzzing about, carrying pollen from one bud to another.  As I got closer, I noticed that even tiny ants were getting in on the action!

The approach

Learning to share

Double trouble

Matt's parents visited us this weekend from New Jersey, and we were excited to take them over to the Arboretum for an evening walk.  We wound our way to Crab Apple Lake, which unfortunately was full of mosquitoes but few other interesting sights, and then wandered back to Meadow Lake, just as sunset faded into twilight.  We found a flowering bush that was home to a whole host of shiny, green beetles.  We watched the water turn a dull pink as it reflected the sky.  We circled the entire lake, as the surprisingly cool breeze seemed to hint that, even in the midst of these hot August days, autumn is on its way.

White in the shadows

Matt and his mother, taking in Meadow Lake

Twilight through the flowers

So this is my paradise these days; my Eden, of sorts. A place where I'm learning how to slow down and look beyond the surface of the world. A place where I can take my amateur pictures and feel proud of them, even if they are terrible, because they remind me of all of the little details that I can see in the world, if only I take the time to look for them.

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