Bahai News - Quiet, please Escaping life's everyday noise can be sound idea

Quiet, please Escaping life's everyday noise can be sound idea

The city is feeling too crowded-unending traffic jams, the construction sea of new high rises, endless waves of festivalgoers attending outdoor celebrations every weekend. Whew!

Does it ever feel like there's nowhere to go to slow down and get away from all the urban stress and noise? Believe it or not, there are places in and around the city where you can get away from it all places that offer quiet time just to think, reflect, rejuvenate and relax. Wonderful places to enjoy a little bit of quiet time.

Several branches of The Chicago Public Library have Reading Gardens-little outdoor annexes that are great places to enjoy the fresh air while reading a book, magazine or just relaxing. Library branches that have Reading Gardens are: Galewood-Mont Clare Branch, 6969 W. Grand, (312-746-5032); Logan Square Branch, 3255 W. Altgeld, (312-746-5259); North Austin Branch, 5724 W. North, (312-746-4233); Portage-Cragin Branch, 5108 W. Belmont, (312-744-0152); Uptown Branch, 929 W. Buena, (312-744-8400); Douglass Branch, 3353 W. 13th, (312-747-3725); Hall Branch, 4801 S. Michigan, (312-747-2541); Mount Greenwood Branch, 11010 S. Kedzie, (312-747-2805); Thurgood Marshall Branch, 7506 S. Racine, (312-747-5927); Wrightwood-Ashburn Branch, 8530 S. Kedzie, (312-747-2969) and Canaryville Branch, 642 W. 43rd St. (312-747-0644).

Libraries always offer quiet respites, and the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State, 773-542-7279), is the crown jewel of the Chicago Public Library system. And with its listening/viewing center and six music practice rooms, the soul can be soothed by either playing your own musical instrument or by listening to a CD from the library's extensive music collection.

"Gardens are a place to go to really allow the mind to be at ease and think," says Beth Drews, co-director of marketing for the Chicago Botanic Gardens, (1000 Lake Cook, Glencoe, 847-835-5440). "They are places of renewal and restoration." The Botanic Gardens' newest garden, Spider Island, features winding pathways that make you feel as though you have left urban life behind.

"This little area takes a while to get to and by the time you get there you feel like you've gone miles. But, this is not in terms of true distance, but in terms of how far you feel that you've escaped from the outside world," says Drews.

A garden with a little less celebrity, but in existence since 1920, is the Shakespeare Garden in Evanston (2222 N. Sheridan). Housed on Northwestern University's campus, this formal English garden was created to honor the Bard. Because this garden is not too well-known and can't be seen from Sheridan Road, it can be seen as a secret garden-the ultimate oasis. Although the university owns the land, the garden has always been tended to by the Garden Club of Evanston. It includes the original Hawthorn hedges planted in 1920 as well as roses and other flowers that would have been found during the Shakespearean era.

The Shakespeare Garden is located just beyond Northwestern's Howe Chapel and garden. There is a walkway on the east side of the chapel that leads to an arbor of shrubs, which opens unto the garden.

"It is so nice to see people use the garden to relax, stop, and take a minute to enjoy their surroundings," says Beth Schroeder, a member of the Evanston Garden Club for more than 30 years.

"Often when I go to tend the garden, I see a man who has been coming to the garden for years. He lives on the South Side, takes public transportation to get to the garden, but still comes once-a- week to sit, read and get away."

Among the tennis courts, running and biking paths and beaches, the Chicago Parks Department also offers several perfect places to find some quiet and solitude.

Off the Montrose exit of Lake Shore Drive is the newly renovated Peace Garden. The garden features a waterfall that pools to a little pond at the bottom and is surrounded by stone benches. The Peace Garden is a few steps down from the lakefront path and the drive to give the visitor a bit more solitude.

Many of the larger parks offer smaller more intimate areas. Within Grant Park is the Cancer Survivor's Garden: A Celebration of Life (located near Lake Shore Drive between Randolph and Monroe). The mission of the garden is to celebrate life and give hope. The garden features five garden "rooms" connected by walkways, and was specifically designed to give the visitor an opportunity to reflect on survival, and contemplate healing and understanding.

Grant Park also houses Spirit of Music Garden (Michigan and Balbo). The garden begins with the Spirit of Music statue that offers visitors the chance to sit at its base and read. The statue is also known to cast a long shadow over the garden offering shady spots in the grass to relax and take a moment from the hectic downtown scene.

Jackson Park (6401 S. Stony Island) contains the prairie-like Bob- o-link Meadow, which is very secluded and truly makes you feel like "you're in the middle of nowhere" while still in the heart of Chicago. The meadow, surrounded by trees, is located across the lagoon from the Osaka Garden, a Japanese stroll garden nestled on the north end of the park. The origins of Osaka Garden date back more than 100 years, and with its natural settings and harmonious beauty it is a natural spot for some quiet time.

For more structured reflection and meditation settings, there is the Baha'I House of Worship, (Sheridan Road and Linden Ave., Wilmette, 847-853-2300). Since it opened in 1953, the Baha'I House is a destination for people of all faiths to come for prayer and meditation.

"People come here because they seek quiet serenity and the search for what quiet brings," says Loreli McClure, public information officer for the Baha'I House. The Baha'I house is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Sept. 30, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 1 through April 30, 2002.

By their very nature, religious institutions offer quiet places to think and reflect. But in addition to the formal chapels, many also have outdoor quiet areas.

The Garth at Fourth Presbyterian Church (Michigan and Delaware, across the street from the John Hancock building) is an enclosed space surrounded by the church's buildings, where people come to enjoy one of the few green spaces on the Mag Mile. People are welcome to sit on the grass and enjoy the sounds that come from the fountain situated in the center of the courtyard.

Next to the entrance of the Cathedral of St. James (at Wabash and Huron) is a gate that opens in to a simple garden with two benches that may be used for prayer or reflection. At the back of the cathedral there is a labyrinth-an open space with a pattern in the cement. Traditionally, the labyrinth, which symbolizes our journey on earth, was followed while in prayer; today it is often used as an opportunity to contemplate while walking in a rhythmic pattern.

The Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan, 312-443-3600) has both a garden and gallery that are perfect for finding quiet time to think and restore the creative juices.

The Ando Gallery, the final gallery encountered by visitors in a walk through of the museum's East Asian Art collection, was designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando to display the museum's collection of Japanese folding screen paintings in a contemplative space.

In addition, the North Garden (North Stanley McCormick Memorial Court) is designed as a shady, calm, enclosed space with sculptures by Alexander Calder and Henry Moore. This spot serves as a locale for meditative and creative thinking, even though it is just a few steps from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue.

The museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and holidays. Suggested admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students, seniors and children. Admission is free on Tuesdays.

©Copyright 2001, Chicago Sun Times

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