31 August 2018

June 2018 ILLINOIS Chicago 4 - Bahá'í House of Worship

From the Botanical Garden we drove south to the Bahá'í House of Worship in the city of Wilmette. I did not know much about this religious persuasion, but had been curious about it (as I am of all religions). I was happy to add this information to my mind's data bank.

While the others were in the powder room, I struck up a conversation with the door attendant. He was not bent on converting me or anything like that, but he was a chatty guy with lots of knowledge and answers to my questions.

He led me toward some displays with info about the group. The photo above came from one of the posters. It is an aerial view of the temple, pools, and gardens. Lake Michigan is in the background.

The Bahá'í faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions. It was founded in Persia (now Iran) in 1863 by Baha''u'llah. Their world center is located in Acre, Israel, with sacred gardens in Haifa, Israel. This structure is the major North American House of Worship and there are seven more major Houses throughout the world.
With over five million followers, the premise of the faith is that we all belong to one human race, regardless of nationality, ethnic background, or gender. Also, that an era of peace promised by God is within reach. So simply said, unity and equality for all. Sounds wonderful, in my opinion.

Followers believe that throughout history God has revealed Himself through a series of Divine Messengers stretching back in order from Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, The Bâb, and finally to Bahá'u'lláh (the Promised One of this era). Well, there is way more to it than that, but I won't elaborate. It is an interesting concept though.

In the U.S., there are about 155,000 Bahá'ís living in every state, but mostly California, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, Texas, and also over 100 American Indian reservations. There is no clergy and church affairs are administered by elected councils at all levels.

Louis Bourgeois is the architect of this particular temple. This spectacular structure is the oldest and largest Bahá'í Temple in the world. Its cornerstone was laid in 1912 and the building was finally dedicated in 1953. This unique building is on the U.S. Register of Historic Places.

Each of the eight temples around the world has its own personality but all are nine-sided with a central majestic dome in the middle. The overall style of the one here does not incorporate eastern or western traits, but transcends any specific culture. It is very ornamental with much symbolism.

Here is a test panel from the 1920's to learn if the material would withstand the harsh Chicago weather. After much experimentation, panels were made by casting concrete with a combination of quartz crystal and white cement to make a lacy but durable affect.

Hundreds of precisely sized panels were hung over the building's steel superstructure. Here are photos of the intricate detail work.

Top of the dome.

Many windows circle around the building to bring in natural light.
Towers are designed with symbols of all the major religions.
More details.

Inside the temple, a circular pattern of 1,192 red velvety chairs stood out against the white walls. The central dome rose up 135 feet. Maybe two dozen folks were scattered, quietly reflecting on their thoughts and prayers today. It was requested not to take photos of the interior and I honored that request.

The surrounding gardens are also considered one sacred space with the temple and a place for meditation, reflection, and prayer. You are welcome to walk on the grass among nine individually secluded pools and fountains.

As we headed back to the car, I saw a young man who seemed to be helping a couple with directions. I asked if music was used in their prayer meetings. He said, "No." Oh, that was a disappointment to me. I think music and singing can be peaceful and healing.

The last surprise was that "only Bahá'ís may make donations." Voluntary contributions are a spiritual privilege restricted to members of this faith. So no money box waiting by the entrance.

When I got home and told my mom where I had visited, she said, "Oh, I visited there when I was a youngster." She was surprised it was still there. Well, she is going to be 90 this year, so that seems like bygone days to her, I imagine.

I am not a traditionally religious person, but do consider myself spiritual. I liked the concepts here, but not enough to join ranks.

More info on the history and religion:

To see all the eight Temples:

24 August 2018

June 2018 ILLINOIS Chicago 3 - Corpse Flower?

We had never heard of a Corpse Flower until our recent trip on June 27. We were introduced to "Alice" at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It seems many Titan Arums have been given nicknames by their greenhouse keepers. (https://www.chicagobotanic.org/titan/about). Since then we came across three more examples of the species. Still haven't seen one actually blooming yet.

What an interesting plant! Amorphophallus titanium is its scientific name (or titan arum, for short). Per Wikipedia, it is comprised of a central spike called a spadix that is surrounded by a purple frilly, modified leaf called a spathe.

This poster diagrams parts of the plant.

This plant blooms every 7-10 years on average and only for 24 to 36 hours. When blooming, it emits a foul smelling stench of an odor, like the rotting flesh of a carcass. It's color and "fragrance" are what attracts pollinators--flies beetles, things what would normally be seen on dead and rotting corpses. Some say if you stand to the side, the odor is not bad, but standing in the "sweet spot," it's horrible.

It is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. An inflorescence is a floral structure composed of many smaller individual flowers working as one.

Another example of an inflorescence is an anthurium seen here (pix from the Hawaii Tropical Botanical website). The tiny flowers are actually on the white / yellow area surrounded by a red spathe.

On Alice, the tiny male and female flowers are at the base of the stalk surrounded by the big purple spathe. This next photo is not Alice, but an example from the Wikipedia entry about the uncovered flowers of the plant.

The bloom of this species is usually between 6 and 8 feet tall. The record is 10 feet. The plant also produces the largest leaf in the world reaching 15-20 feet high. The leaf has a tall stalk with leaflets at the top. This dies off before the plant blooms.

This plant species was first noted in the late 1800's and are found naturally in Indonesia, Java, and Sumatra. They are rarely cultivated and even more rare to actually bloom. They are endangered due to deforestation.

Chicago's Alice bloomed two days after our visit. Alice bloomed once before in 2015 in a greenhouse setting. This time she was displayed outdoors to study the difference between fresh air and a greenhouse situation. Her seeds were pollinated by scientists and eventually produced fruit--orange-red, olive-shaped berries. Some were replanted in Chicago and some given to other institutions.

Another 18-year old Corpse Flower bloomed for the first time on July 12, 2018 at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. The name of this beauty is Putricia (clever). Don't you love it! It was planted in 2000 as a seedling in a 4-½ inch pot. Today it is taller than 4-½ feet. See pre-bloom and bloom photos here: www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2018/07/rare_corpse_flower_in_full_blo.html.  Then click on the blue "39" circle. After photo 5, click "More" to see all 39 photos.

Also read about Corpse Flowers in the Ohio State University Biological Sciences Greenhouse in Columbus, Ohio. The school website says there were two titan arum that started blooming in July, but perished before bloom was complete. Not sure if that means the plant died or the bloom just failed. I wonder what a dead Corpse Flower carcass smells like!!

Here's another Corpse Flower blooming at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California on August 17, 2018. Its name is Stink. Saw this on a TV news show.
Less than two months ago, I had never heard of this plant. Now it seems they are blooming everywhere. The horror movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers comes to mind. Yikes!!!!

What an interesting plant, so I had to research further. There is a lot more than mentioned here. Google "titan arum" to find all kinds of info and photos on the topic. I even found a list of the rare blooming dates and places of this plant in Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_publicised_titan_arum_blooms_in_cultivation. I noticed that the Chicago bloom on June 27, 2018 was not listed. So now I have to figure out how to change Wiki to add this event.

21 August 2018

June 2018 ILLINOIS Chicago 2 - Green Gardens, Chicago Style

We woke up to a clear, but muggy day. The high temp was supposed to be 74, but felt warmer with the humidity. Breakfast was at a fun place called Jelly. We chowed down on omelets, biscuits and gravy, skillet scramble, Caprese breakfast sandwich, and wonderful toasted homemade bread.

Then off to the Chicago Botanic Garden, about a half hour drive east, almost to Lake Michigan. The name says "Garden," but it is really a combination of various styles of gardens. They are located on islands in North Lake and the surrounding area. It is a 385-acre living plant museum.
There are numerous walking paths, a bike trail, and several options for tram tours.

First we went to the children's area to check out the butterfly "zoo," but it was so crowded with kids running amok that we held back entering. We had all seen this type of display before, so no huge loss. There was also a children's growing garden, a learning center, and a man-made creek there. It was so hot that day that the kids were having a ball playing in the creek.

We passed through the Regenstein Learning Campus. There was a gallery with art, a reflection pool, and gorgeous orchid plants. In this facility they conduct classes in cooking, botanical arts, wellness, photography, garden design, and more. Paul Lange's large scale photographs hang in the background.

Next we came across the bonsai garden. There are as many as 60 living masterpieces of miniature trees and plants on display. Some are gifts from the Midwest Bonsai Society and from Japanese bonsai master Susumu Nakamura, including a Japanese white pine that has been trained for at least 100 years. Here are some examples.

The first is a Bald Cypress with triple trunk, estimated 40-50 years old.
A deciduous tree. Not sure of species, but estimated 50-60 years old.
A Limber Pine, estimated 600-1000 years old and in training since 1980. It was maybe three feet tall.
There were some bonsai-ers working on their projects. This one is a miniature azalea plant.
We continued on into the general gardens. There were lots of water features. 

Birds found this a wonderful place to hang out.
We saw finely manicured grounds and statuary.

Many gazebos and trellises scattered about. Lots of places for shade on our stroll. A huge rose garden surrounds this fountain.
One person recorded his vision of the fountain with paint and paper.
Further down the path, we came across this photo op...a young lady in her quinceañera dress. This celebrates the 15th birthday of a female with Latin family roots. A rose among the roses. How beautiful!
We had heard about the Corpse Plant, a featured plant almost ready to bloom. We kept our eye out for it and finally found it. More on that in the next blog entry.

It was a steamy hot day, so the next stop was the beer "garden" for a sit-down and cool drink.
From there we strolled past the Dwarf Conifer Garden.
On the way, were streams and water foss. Oops, I meant waterfalls!! Guess we're not in Iceland anymore.
Our last garden stop was the island of the Japanese Garden. It was not as colorful, but so serene and peaceful.
The final stop was the gift shop, of course. So much good stuff--books, plants, planters, garden tools, toys, clothes, food, etc., etc. Fun browsing, but no purchases today.

We only scratched the surface of the soil. Read more at: https://www.chicagobotanic.org

19 August 2018

June 2018 ILLINOIS Palatine 1 - North Chicago Suburbs

On June 26 we headed to Chicago (my home town) or actually to Palatine, a northwest suburb of Chi-town. Departure time was 9:40am. The temp was a pleasant 70 degrees with high clouds. Near the Indiana border we had a 10 minute deluge of rain and then it cleared for the rest of the day.

We made one stop along the way. We have been to Chicago many times and always suffered through the many toll booth stops. This time pal Tim suggested we get an I-Pass. So we stopped at the first rest stop (they call it an Oasis) driving into Illinois and checked into it.
The deposit for the transponder was $10, plus an initial $20 banked toward future tolls. The unit attaches to your windshield and can be stored away when you are not on the road. Bonuses are: you avoid toll lane waits, you pay only 50% of the normal toll fee, and it works on toll roads in 16 midwest and eastern states. We highly recommend it. Read all about it at https://www.illinoistollway.com

Outside of that, it was an uneventful 180 mile trip. We arrived to our destination at 12:30pm. That was to the home of long time and fab friends Tim and Nancy

We made friends with Bob again. He is a big baby purr cat, but can turn on you much like Bella does on occasion. Don't touch that belly.

We had a chatty catch-up and then headed to a late lunch at Artistic Cuisine. Their menu offers a combination Argentinian, Latin American, and Italian menu. We tried various wraps, soups, calamari-two-ways, pizza, and sandwiches. Everything was delish.

Are you drooling yet?

Tim gave us a little driving tour of the area and then back to their place. We chatted a bit more. Finally we felt beat so we headed toward our hotel for check-in.

There was a big snafu with our room, which took a while to work out. But we finally got our king size bed. They basically checked us in to another person's room under their name. Never had that happen before.
Our view was a lovely mini farm garden.

After all was settled, we grabbed our warm chocolate cookie at the desk and settled in. Good night's sleep in our comfy bed and spacious room.