Last week I visited Botanica Gardens. It’s my favorite local destination here in Wichita and I’ve been many times. In fact, think I’m on my third annual membership. The best time of year to visit is Spring. Right now, in fact, as the tulips are currently in bloom and breathtaking.
If you visit, I recommend getting a membership. It’s not that much, and if you don’t, the whole time you’ll be thinking, "I paid $7 for this?!" But if you do, each time you’ll smile and say, "Each visit makes this cheaper." And it does, mathematically.
I like to stroll around, then find a cozy place to sit and read my Bible or another book. Unfortunately, what their benches gain in rustic ambience they lose in ergonomic comfort.
Speaking of simple pursuits, observing people at Botanica can also be instructive.
One quickly spots those who are out to "conquer" the gardens. Which is not hard to achieve, it’s not a large place. A determined soul can march out every winding path within 10 minutes. But the Gardens aren’t meant to be conquered, they’re meant to be savored. I notice these type of people usually talk loud.
Then there are those who take a zillion pictures of everything with their cameras. I believe they are attempting to capture the beauty inside their SD cards – packaging the "present" so they can relive it later. Yet in the stressful process of attempting to nab that elusively perfect shot, they (perhaps) achieve the exact opposite of what the Gardens provide: serenity.
I’ve been to Botanica several times when wedding bells were tolling. Once I even recognized who was getting married! Which brings me to the most prevalent class of Botanica visitors: lovebirds strolling the Gardens hand in hand…. they don’t talk loud, and I ignore them.
Then there are the volunteers. And the older folks. Often the same. Though the latter are also oft found reclining in white plastic chairs, contentedly swapping tales long forgotten.
I have a favorite spot at Botanica. The other night I spent time there, leaning up against a tree in the shade, absorbing the bright pastels of blooming flora, hearing the song of a happily chirping bird above, and smelling the pungent aromas of budding plants mixed with cedar mulch.
Soaking in the scene, I idly wondered, "What makes something beautiful, intrinsically?"
My gaze fell on a bed of blossoming tulips, the top of their pink leaves tinged with flecks of gold, and was struck at their delicacy. Was there something to that….? is beauty somehow tied to delicateness?
Then my eyes shifted to the silent brook, it’s glass-like surface symmetrically reflecting the stately oaks above. What about that? Is beauty also tied to symmetry? The flowers were symmetrical too.
Abruptly, a small insect dropped into the stream with impudence, causing ripples to fan out, distorting the image. Then a whisper of a breeze arrived, causing a miniature cats-paw to etch itself across the water; also gently mussing my hair.
All semblance of trees in the stream were now gone. Ahh, the reflection was delicate too. Even a small waterbug or gentle wind could break its spell. Beauty must somehow be tied to delicacy - then I pause, what about the Rocky Mountains? Aren’t they beautiful? I ponder this and decide the Rockies aren’t beautiful, they’re majestic. That, or my theory is bunk. So much for soliloquy.
Seeing the tulips made me think beauty must also be tied to uniqueness, because no tulip was exactly alike. Similar to sunsets. I saw a brilliant one in Florida several weeks ago from Mallory Square, a waterfront area on the tip of the Keys. In their own way, sunsets are delicate, voicing brilliance but a few moments before continuing their never-ending travel Westward.
Now, it must be pointed out just because something is delicate, symmetrical, and unique doesn’t make it beautiful, per se. My set of teeth retainers have those three qualities, but aren’t much to write poetry on. Nevertheless, something beautiful will probably have at least those.
Perhaps the starry-eyed lovebirds I see strolling about provide another example. Each couple represents the beautiful side to relationships we all desire: a harmony of two souls. Each couple is unique, yet each guy-girl match is held by a thin thread of mutual attraction that must be symmetrically balanced.
Anyways, I think the power of Serenity is that it can refresh a soul.
And if you made it through all this, I hope it refreshed you too, sort of as if you were there in the Gardens as well. That was my goal.