The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Mitchell Park Conservatory

Saturday, January 30th, 2010 in Wisconsin
Mitchell Park Conservatory

January is getting to me. I made it through most of the month without complaining about the weather, but I can take it no more. I am finally and officially sick of winter. It’s cold, its grey, and I’ve had enough.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I lived in a place that had some decent scenery. But around here, all you get are piles of gritty cruddy snow at every turn. Instead of spending the day lamenting Chicago’s drab winter, I grabbed my camera and set off in search of warmth and color. I ended up at Mitchell Park Conservatory in Milwaukee. Otherwise known as The Domes—at least that’s what we used to call it when we were kids.

If you look very closely, you’ll see a clear plastic coat hanger dangling from the tree branches. I didn’t notice this when I took the photo, nor did I notice it for a long time afterwards.

There are three domes at Mitchell Park Conservatory—an arid dome, a tropical dome, and an exhibition dome. I started in the tropical dome. It was humid, warm, and it smelled like damp bark and moss. For fifteen minutes I just sat on a bench and soaked my senses in the tropical air. I listened to the soft gurgle of water as it trickled over rocks and into a pond at the center of the dome. I breathed in slowly and bathed my sinuses in the lovely, damp atmosphere. Eventually, I managed to pry myself from the bench. I wandered lazily around the dome snapping photos. My lense kept fogging-up, consequently many of the photos turned out hazy and out of focus. But I didn’t care. Taking pictures was just an excuse to linger in the warmth.

The second dome I visited was the arid dome. It was bright but the air was crisp, almost cold. It reminded me that deserts are dry, not necessarily hot. I could have done with the heat. But then, it must cost a lot of money (and greenhouse gasses) to heat a big glass dome in Milwaukee in January. No point in churning out the extra heat if the plants don’t mind a chill in the air.

The third dome was the exhibition dome. It was chock full of azeleas, coleus, and cyclamen. Pink and purple in every direction. In the center of the dome, there was a model train display. Little engines dragged long lengths of little boxcars. They chirped along the tracks. Kids scrambled from one spot to the next following the trains around the dome. It was lively and springlike. I felt much better and thought maybe I could face the one remaining day of January. And after that, there’s only the short month of February to get through. And then the frigid shock of March sets in. Come to think of it, I might have to move or to visit a few more greenhouses to get me through Chicago’s remaining winter season.

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