Monday, March 2, 2009

Down time #1: On the beach and under the dome

My schedule has various built-in peaks and valleys, and the last few weeks have been all peak: catchup from two weeks out of town, busy time at the day job, nightly four-hour rehearsals for a rather elaborate performance I am part of, news that my 88-year-old father's health has taken another turn for the worse, news that a beloved artist friend I've known for at least 15 years just passed away. So this weekend I really needed some serious down time--a concept I've never been entirely comfortable with. Saturday was built around sleep and low-key socializing, but Sunday I vowed to spend by myself, entirely on my own terms.

Up until recently, I would automatically have spent such times in a book or music store, at a movie or a concert, or in a gallery. I still love all those places and events, mind you, but lately I find myself wanting to go for a walk or a drive now and then--to surround myself with living things that don't speak or bite. (An artist friend whose day job is working for a community garden organization mentioned in our last conversation that he secretly prefers the company of plants to people, and I totally understand what he means.) When I got a membership to the Botanical Gardens here last year, I vowed to go there as often as possible, especially in the winter, so that's where I headed for the second time in a month.

As luck would have it, confusing signage and construction made me miss my exit, but no matter: I'd already been toying with a Plan B--heading a few miles farther down the road to Woodlawn Beach. I'd been there in the fall for the first time in a couple of decades to shoot video for another performance project, when its new(ish) nature center and boardwalk had looked intriguing. I've always been fond of beaches in off-peak seasons (down time of a different sort), so it was a treat to see Lake Erie in all its bleak wintertime severity, even though both the buildings and the boardwalk were closed.

In a few months, this shore will be filled once more (pending funding, as always) with people sunbathing and kids splashing around in the waves, but on the first day of March there were just a handful of fellow travelers (more than I expected, though) and these wind turbines, which have become a local icon in the last couple of years, bearing silent witness:

Even the trees are sparse this time of year, of course, which helped these brilliant red seedheads stand out amidst the bare branches:

Lest you think I was off in the middle of nowhere, this image pretty much puts Woodlawn in its proper context:

Mind you, it was just over 20 degrees out there, so I decided to continue on to the Gardens for their incomparable mix of rainforest humidity, arid desert air, and other forms of midwinter heat. The annual two-day Orchid Show (partial inspiration for my trip) was in its final hours, meaning the parking lot was full and the already cramped space inside was packed:

Here are a few obligatory shots of the featured attractions. (If you're looking for actual orchid info, click here.)

As it turns out, my travels for the day were hardly over yet, so stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of "Down time," coming soon to a blog near you.

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