Last Thursday I took a PTO day off of work, a mental health day. I decided to go to the Dallas Arboretum in the morning and hang out for a while. We have a membership there, so I don’t have to pay for parking or admission, which is nice. Especially nice because I can go at my leisure and simply relax and walk around, not feel any pressure to get my money’s worth. For that, I can always come back another time.
The Chihuly Exhibit is still up, and will be until November. It is a beautiful as always – and now, since I have a familiarity with it, I am able to see some details and subtle facets that I missed the first time or two through. More than the Chihuly stuff, gorgeous as it is, I am appreciating the beauty of the Arboretum itself – its design and vegetation.
This trip, as always, I took a lot of photographs, which I will continue to force upon my helpless readers whenever I feel like it – or I can’t think of anything else to whine on about. So far, from this trip, here, here, and here, for example… with many more to come.
But other than snapping photographs I wanted to find some spot to sit down with my Kindle and read for a bit, simply soak up the peaceful beauty.
When I first arrived at opening, there weren’t too many folks there, but the crowd quickly grew. Now, there weren’t as many folks as there are on the weekends, not by a long shot, but they tended to cluster along the main paths, surround the more spectacular Chihuly stuff, and blabber on about this and that – generally messing with my chill.
No problema, I expected this. It is a public spot – a tourist attraction – with a very popular special exhibit going on until November… I did not expect to have the whole place to myself. I had already decided to seek out a couple of hidden places, somewhere that I could sit, undisturbed, read a little, and generally chill out.
A couple of parameters had to be established:
- Obviously, out of the main traffic areas.
- A nice bench to sit on.
- Shade (I am using the phrase “Chill Out” in the metaphoric sense – the heat is amazing and deadly)
- A nice view
The first hidden spot is one I already knew about – I had spotted it the first time I came to the Arboretum. The first stage of A Woman’s Garden is a fiendishly designed series of formal gardens and water features that have a lot of Chihuly’s most spectacular glass works. It draws a big crown, oohing and ahhing and holding their iPhones up to send images back home to Aunt Emma who didn’t want to visit Dallas in the summer.
What they miss are some clever, smaller bits of garden that jut off to the side, little isolated areas that really make the place special. One of these, sandwiched between the first fountain by the entrance to A Woman’s Garden and the Degolyer Mansion is called The Sunset Garden. It is a tiny path that goes up a bit of hill to a stone bench beneath a huge tree. As the name implies, the bench faces west and would be a great place to watch the solar orb sink beneath White Rock Lake. There is a little sign that directs you to the side garden – a sign that everybody, entranced with the colorful glass beyond, seems to miss.
When you clamber up to the stone bench you look down through a gap to a fountain and then past into another small garden – The Pecan Parterre Garden, with a beautiful little sculpture – Harriet Frishmuth’s “Playdays” (more on that bronze piece in a few days, I promise). It is a truly idyllic spot.
The only problem – as I discovered once I climbed up there and settled in – is that the stone bench is tilted out, ever so slightly, so it is not very comfortable. It’s like sitting in a church pew. I’m afraid that little detail makes the sunset garden a bit more useful to look at than to sit in for more than a few minutes.
Later on, though, I found another little hidden spot that didn’t have any disadvantages at all. I was strolling through the Jonsson Color Garden (the big open ovals where some large Chihuly glass rears up) and looking into the strip of woods that separates that area from the Texas Town (a children’s area with small historical displays) and noticed a wooden bench set deep within the trees. I walked around a bit and found the path back there.
It was perfect. It sits in deep shade from tall overhead trees and is screened from the main walking path by a clump of Crape Myrtles. Cool and quiet – most importantly, the wooden bench is very comfortable. A perfect spot to sit and read (I cranked through an entire novel) and contemplate the universe.
It was too comfortable – I stayed too long into the stifling heat of the afternoon. The rest of the day I was dizzy and confused… even more so than normal. Still, I think I’ll go back. It’s a nice place… and there has to be some more hidden spots that I haven’t found yet. Maybe one with some burbling water nearby.