Monday, April 7, 2008

The Bliss of Solitude

Saturday morning we were able to grab an hour to spend some time at the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden before it closed the next day. While by this point a lot of the flowers were past their peak, the beauty of these plants still surrounded me. Part of my hope of going on the last weekend of the show was that some of the crowds that have been present when I’d been there before might be gone. It was true that we didn’t have to wait to get into the conservatory. Our scheduled time just barely gave us the chance to walk from the gates to the conservatory before it was our turn to go in. Nevertheless, inside the place was still packed with people. We elected not to go with a docent, hoping to escape some of the bunching up around the orchids in this way. Instead what we found were that it was hard to spend any time enjoying the individual plants because people were so busy pushing cameras and camera phones up next to the plants to take pictures. Especially when we got to the seasonal exhibition gallery, which I always look forward to approaching since it has my favorite orchids -- blue vanda coerulea that come from southeast Asia-- I found it very frustrating.

I wanted to be able to sit in silence to drink in the beauty, since in many years these orchids have been for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth, dancing on my inward eye, making gray or dismal days brighter. But Saturday, I found myself feeling as I did while trying to experience the beauty and power of the Pieta last December. There were so many flashes going off, so many cameras blocking the view, and so many people jostling against each other to get their pictures that not only was it impossible for me to stand quietly and absorb the beauty, but I doubted if many people were really seeing, much less experiencing, the wonder of these fragile, exotic plants.