After 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.
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?