Light Show Quandary


DSC_1022.jpgAfter years of good intentions and failed plans, we finally arrived at “Gardens Aglow”, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s holiday light extravaganza. Bundled up against the biting cold, we entered the gardens, and bought cups of hot chocolate–more for hand warmth than for anything else. We opted not to use the map and followed the winding paths randomly, enjoying the variety of lights, the play of shadows, and the snowy scene.

The colors spilled out over the snow and a full moon shone overhead. Strands of brilliant blues, greens and purples twined around tree trunks. Glowing balls of gold, red and orange blossomed here and there. White bulbs outlined small outbuildings, and wee fairy houses were tucked hither and yon. Sparkling lights dripped off high branches in a continuous cascade and trail lights illuminated the ornamental grasses and dried flower heads. It was pretty spectacular.

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As we wandered and “oohed” and “aahed” over the scenery, we wondered about all that was involved in creating this event. How many people did it take to do string the lights? How long did it take? And the ultimate questions: How much is the electric bill? How much energy does it take to power this display each night? Along with those questions came this niggling concern: Although this was creative and beautiful, wasn’t it fundamentally wasteful?


I’d read that there were over 650,000 lights in the gardens, and I could believe it. The “show” runs nightly from mid-November until New Year’s Eve. That’s a lot of power used to light up some garden lights!  When there’s so much need in the world, is this show squandering resources? If so, by paying to attend, was I condoning that waste?

On the other hand, there are also definite positives to this light extravaganza. The event was family-oriented and fun. People of all ages were walking, laughing and spending quality time outside together. I’m sure there’s also a huge benefit to the local economy.  Finally, isn’t it important to create and appreciate beauty?

So, how do you balance it all? There are such huge discrepancies in our country and in our world. Don’t I have a responsibility to consider these things and then to act (or not act) accordingly? On the other hand, I also want to live a rich, fulfilling life and take advantage of opportunities to see and do different things. I’m aware that’s a privilege that I have that many others don’t, but does denying my opportunity help anyone? But isn’t that what people say all the time to justify doing what they want to do? I’ve been stewing over this for a few weeks and I hesitated to share today, because my thoughts keep spinning in circles, shifting and changing. Sometimes I wonder– Am I just looking way too deeply into all of this? Yet, it does disturb me. I’m in a quandary, struggling to figure it out. Does anyone have some clarity to offer?

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12 thoughts on “Light Show Quandary

  1. It sounds like a perfectly legitimate quandry…one that those of us who are experiencing some consciousness raising are also having about similar issues. It certainly looks lovely and I’d even like to visit the holiday gardens myself. But maybe they could cut back on the amount of time they do it, or maybe they can’t because so many people attend. These are discussions everyone needs to be having before we can reach any kind of consensus on agreeable solutions. Thanks for the lovely photos, for sharing your angst with us and for being a caring citizen. Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Barbara. I really am unsure what the answer is. I just see so much casual waste around me–and I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well. Still struggling to figure it out, but maybe it’s about that process as much as anything.


  2. I float in and out of questioning if something is excessive or festive during the holidays. When I walk through craft stores, I see the value in knitting a warm scarf, but I scoff at plastic decorations.
    I researched our local electricity company, and they are offering to trade new LED lights to customers who bring old incandescent lights to the light displays at our zoos and gardens. It’s a tiny step, but a good one.
    Thanks for encouraging more thinking about our environment!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, these photos are magnificent visuals that have brought me to a reflective place tonight. My response is noted below as a #haikuforhope that you will find rest and peace with your quandary.
    glistening night
    lights shimmer and sparkle-
    quandary explored
    ©CV, 2018

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Carol–you’ve moved me with your responsive haiku and also taught me how to spell quandary correctly! (she says with a red face!) I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, as I did have a lot of fun trying to capture the lights in different ways.


  4. Angelina says:

    I love your fabulous photos! How does one manage their way through all the excesses of the season? There’s not only the lights, but the food and drink and buying and going and doing that’s all completely unnecessary and has nothing to do with the meaning of Christmas anyway. We don’t need half of the Christmas stuff we have. Our neighbors have an entire yard full of blow up Christmas figures, looking kischey and using energy. Where does it stop? The only conclusion I’ve been able to reach is that the excess must stop with each of us individually. We have to choose not to consume! We have to choose to be still and quiet in the midst of all the chaos that is going on around us. It isn’t easy and I’m still trying to figure a way to do it. but, that to me seems the only way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.I agree that we must each act individually. I’m just not always sure exactly what I should or should not be doing! Like everything else, I guess it’s a process or a journey.


  5. margaretsmn says:

    I have this same quandary over the waste of Mardi Gras. One of the reasons New Orleans floods so much is that there are tons of beads in the sewer systems. It seems we worry over plastic straws and plastic bags, but let go tons and tons of plastic beads. It really doesn’t make sense, does it?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tutormentor1 says:

    Thank you for sharing your photos and your thoughts. I started my own Holiday letter with this statement “It’s the Holiday Season and I hope you and your family will enjoy all of the blessings that this season brings to many, but not all people in America”

    You’re thinking about this problem and sharing it in this blog article. Maybe some of that was inspired by the holiday light show in this garden. Maybe that will inspire many others to reflect on the blessings they have and the challenges that face millions of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      It is hard to reconcile the discrepancies, isn’t it? I suppose putting our thoughts out there in one form or another is an important part of the process. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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