Planning the Engagement

A Secret Excursion - Friday, April 25, 2008

Leaving Chicago

Audrey was going to spend Friday night at her friend's house, so I knew today was my chance. After lunch I walked down to Walgreens and got some batteries for my camera, then hopped on a bus to Olgive where I boarded a Metra train.



I tried to read a bit for my classes, but I ended up dozing off. Do I look sleepy?


Thankfully I woke up a few minutes before my stop, Braeside.





The walk along the road was pretty hot. I walked for about ten minutes until a sign greeted my eyes: "Chicago Botanical Gardens" At last!

The visitor center was cool and welcoming. I poked my head into the cafe, which was equally relaxing, overlooking a few weeping willows and a pond. Double sliding glass doors gently swung open automatically as I walked through the doorway to the garden, revealing a bridge that led to the Crescent, a sort of intersection to the rest of the gardens. I turned to my left and saw the Heritage Garden; what an amazing first sight. It was very open, and lots of flowers were in bloom among the circular fountain. I turned right and walked through the Esplanade. On the other side of the Espalanade, lots of little fountains shot up a foot or two in the air like soldiers standing at attention. I paused slightly to look into the water, amazed at the presence of so many fountains. I walked under the trellis toward the Fruit & Vegetable Garden.

Fruit & Vegetable Garden

The Fruit and Vegetable Garden was on an island in the corner of the Botanical Gardens. As I crossed the bridge to get to the island, I could see that this island was really unique! The architecture was simple but intriguing. Since Audrey loves architecture, I know she will love this place.




I wondered how may flowers would be in bloom this early in the year, but I saw plenty of color here. This particular bed of bright flowers lined the entrance to the Fruit & Vegetable garden.


On the shoreline of the Fruit & Vegetable Garden, I looked out over the lake. A large fountain sits in the middle of the lake, and the wind carries its spray out to Bird Island to water the flowers there. Bird Island is inaccessible to patrons; there's not even a land bridge. I assume the Garden staff must use a boat in order to tend the flowers on that island.



On the way out of the Fruit and Vegetable Garden, I stopped to take some pictures of the Aquatic Garden's bridgeworks. They remind me of something out of Myst. I didn't have time to stop and go down to them, as there were several other gardens I wanted to see, but hopefully when I take Audrey next week we can go walk down there.

Circle Garden

I walked past the Bulb Garden and Landscape Garden and reached the Circle Garden. The Circle Garden is pretty small, but it is cozy and full of blooming flowers. It has a fountain in the middle of a square of shrubs, with small bench areas hidden on either side of the main fountain.



As I had yet to even sit down, I decided to rest on one of the benches and collect my thoughts. I opened my notebook, jotted down my impressions of each garden so far, and reviewed the map to see what Gardens I wanted to visit next. The sound of this little fountain was relaxing.



The sky was beginning to darken as I looked up and saw the clouds overhead. Realizing that I had not yet seen half the spots I wanted to see, I prayed that God would hold back the rain as I hurried onward.

Spider Island

Before I went further, I wanted to check out the little island adjecent to the Circle Garden. A nearby sign informed me this was "Spider Island", and I can see how it got its name: the island is small and creepy. Now *this* certainly reminded me of Myst. I didn't walk onto the island, but afterwards I read in a guidebook that there is a little bench area. Maybe next time I'll check this out.


I climbed down a short hill in order to get the panorama shot of the island, and as I looked at the shoreline at my feet I saw two large fish relaxing just below the surface of the water. As I got closer to the shoreline for a picture, the two fish startled and swam away.




Enabling Garden

At first I was a little leery of the name... "enabling" garden? But it was actually neat! This garden is the most "hands-on" of all of the gardens; each plant within the garden is designed to be touched and felt. There are signs with "gardening tips" scattered throughout, instructing visitors on the "how-to's" of gardening.



My favorite part of the Enabling Garden was the cool fountains! They were like little walls of water, thin and smooth like glass, but soft to my fingers.



The Sensory Garden was another garden I had to skip this time around; but as I walked past it I just had to stop and shoot this picture of these bluebells.




I leaned over the stone railing as I saw the bridge to Sunset Island in the distance.  This would be the place!






Nancy Race Educational Greenhouse

On my way to the English Walled Garden, I went past the Regenstein Center. I looked to my left and saw a glass door with loads of tall tropical plants inside, though from here I can only see the bases. Can I go in? Well, the door does say "Welcome"...



I saw that some of the plants in this greenhouse are from Japan. This reminded me of Aud's upcoming trip to the Philippines this summer. While it made me sad to think of missing her over the summer, I'm excited that she'll get to experience ministry overseas.

I also saw these beautiful orchids that reminded me of her, since I know they are one of her favorite flowers.

English Walled Garden

The English Garden was really unique. High brick walls and tall shrubs enclose the garden to give some privacy. The totally different style of this garden made me feel I had stepped into England itself.



There are lots of nooks and crannies to rest and enjoy the serenity.





I was able to look out the circular window and see the rest of the Gardens. The view reminded me a lot of Alice and Wonderland as Alice looks through the keyhole into the garden. I couldn't help feeling that I would run into a Griffin or a Red Queen... particularly when I saw this checkered pattern of shrubs. 



This iron fountain is fashioned into the shape of a fawn's face, and it reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia.





Although the English Walled Garden was probably my favorite of all the gardens so far, I was still in search of Sunset Island. I saw that there was heavy construction going on inside the Dwarf Conifer garden so it was completely fenced off. I was happy to see that Sunset Island was still open.


Waterfall Garden

On my way to the Watefall Garden, I had to stop and take a picture of the wonderful view of this island. This particular island has no name and there are no bridges to it, so I assume it is unused for now.

The Waterfall Garden had a 45-foot waterfall that trickled down among the shrubs and stones.

The waterfall empties into the lake that surrounds the Japanese Garden.





The pictures don't show it, but this garden was probably the most popular. I had not seen many people at all this afternoon, but there were at least three families hanging out around the falls.

The waterfall reminded me a bit of the various falls in Shennandoah National Park back home in Virginia.





Sunset Island

I finally reached Sunset Island. As I crossed the bridge, I turned around and saw the pathway that leads up the hill where I want to propose.




The sign at the base of the path describes the intent of the path's designer: The curves of the pathway are intended to conceal the destination, so that the visitors can barely see around the next bend as they ascend the rock stairs.




 Here I am, at the top! The path ends in a circle of stone walls about a foot or two high, with a single tree planted in the inside of the ring. Through the trees, one can look out over a large part of the entire gardens. I've attempted a panorama shot to give an idea of what the ring looks like.




On the other side of Sunset island, an amazing Carillon rings every hour... I'll need to keep that in mind to tell Aud. Unfortunately my camera batteries died as I was trying to take a picture of the Carillon. I'll be sure to get a picture of it next week.

Back to the Pavilion

I made my way over the other bridge, past the Water Gardens which weren't blooming yet. The rain came down and my little umbrella shielded me as much as possible. I hurried back to the McGinley Pavilion and sat down in one of the metal wicker chairs. I'd been walking all afternoon in order to take in as much of the gardens as possible, and now the rain on the tent's canvas roof was politely telling me to rest my feet. I took off my shoes and read for a while, the echoes of rain on the tent roof above me and around the outside.



Japanese Garden

When the rain subsided after about an hour, the sky continued to darken and I knew daylight was waning. I really wanted to get a look at the Japanese Garden before I left, so I quickly treked down to it, umbrella at the ready. I had barely made it to the bridge when the skies began to flash over and over with lightening, and I thought it best to head home.


Here I am, smiling at the rain's brief reprieve :)


Heading Home

On my way out, I got one last picture of the fountain in the middle of the lake. The light at the base of the fountain gave the water a bright orange glow. It reminded me of a fire or volcano shooting out of the water.

On the walk back, the rain poured. the bottoms of my pants' legs were soaked. The weather was bad, but I was in high spirits at the thought of returning with Audrey next week. I trudged onward, and when I had almost reached the train tracks, I heard a faint *clang clang clang*. A train was coming! They only come every hour, so if I missed it I'd have to wait an hour more for the next one to come. I shut my umbrella and ran as fast as I could. I arrived at the tracks just as the train was pulling up. I quickly jumped on and fell down into an open seat with a mixture of tiredness and happiness. Here's a picture of my relief to be on the train and out of the weather.


Back in Chicago

The train pulled into Chicago about an hour later. I enjoyed getting out of the city and seeing new things, but I must say I was relieved to see the good ol' Sears Tower again. I stopped in McDonalds for dinner, hopped on the L, and rode back to Moody.