I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
Growing up in New England, I have a strong fondness for tulips. I remember looking out my bedroom window each and every day in the spring when I was a little girl with anticipation while I watched the tulips below my bedroom window with my Mother. Watching and waiting. Watching and waiting. Watching and waiting for that exciting day when the tulip transcended from popping up from the cold spring ground to achieve a brilliant bloom sometime later. My Mother inspired joy and so did the flowers.
The fall reminds me of countless hours throughout my lifespan selecting and planting tulips in the yard. There was something about the deferred gratification of planting something in the fall that would bloom many months later in the spring that appealed to me. Looking for and finding the “perfect” tulip bulb in the garden center brings back such fond memories. Some years it was a parrot tulip. Some years it was a black tulip. Some years it was a bright and bold tulip color, yet other years it was a soft pastel color or two to blend harmoniously together. Thinking of those days puts a smile on my face and a song in my heart today as I remember sharing those beautiful days with my husband when life was a little simpler.
One of the things I love about tulips is how they grow, arching toward the light even after they have been cut and placed in a vase. Watching them stretch toward the goodness and warmth of the light always fascinated me, and if I close my eyes I can see them right now in my mind. A beautiful memory soothes the soul and provides peace somehow in a chaotic world of pandemic.
Life is good; look for a memory to make you smile today. Look for a way to stretch yourself toward the goodness and light just like the tulips if you can. Enjoy the magic; enjoy the moments. Enjoyall the moments.
There are many things that take my breath away and cause me to reflect upon how fortunate I am. Last night was one of those magical moments. My friend called me last night to tell me the bioluminescence in the river here in Florida was breathtaking and spontaneously invited my family to go on her boat to see it. She had just been on the river with her family and wanted to share the beauty that she had seen with us. I am blessed to have such a wonderful friend in my life. Some people go a whole lifetime without encountering such a loyal and true friend who is such an inspiring person in so many ways.
We arrived at my friend’s house at approximately 10:00 PM and jumped into her boat. Her husband, the Captain, was wonderful as he described the river landmarks and canal system while we sailed away. Shortly thereafter, we saw schooling fish that looked like torpedoes in the water as they followed along side the boat and in front of it.
I had seen the bioluminesense while kayaking at night here in Florida on two previous occasions but never while inside a powerboat. What a spectacular sight, especially on the wake of the boat while driving fast. It is a moment best remembered in one’s mind, as it never photosgraphs well.
Here in Florida, the bioluminescence “season” is usually from May to November usually after 9:00 PM on a dark night when the phase of the moon is darkest. Light is produced by living organisms, usually plankton, from chemical reactions during this time and shows up as a blue-green haze.
Life is full of magic moments; find yours today.
Life is good; carpe diem, friends…………
“…I see skies of blue and clouds of white The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
“Let’s get out of this town Drive out of the city away from the crowds….”
-“Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift
Last weekend, we traveled to Gainesville to get out of town broaden our horizons. We haven’t gone on long day trips because of the increasing Covid-19 numbers in Florida so we don’t want to stay in a hotel. However, armed with our masks, we thought this might be a good day trip with few people, as it was opening day at the museum. We had planned to go on a zip line in Micanopy at the Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park, but it rained immediately after we got out of the Natural History Museum.
The real draw for me to the museum was the Butterfly Rainforest at the Natural History Museum, which is right on the campus of the University of Florida and only about an hour and forty-five minutes from Orlando. This large screened in pavilion is home to many tropical (non-local) butterflies and their nectar plants.
I was surprised to hear that the pavillion contains no host plants, so the butterfly population is not self-sustaining and needs to be replenished.
I had been to other butterfly aviaries before and was a bit disappointed that there were not as many butterflies as I had anticipated, although this was the first day the aviary was open after closing for the pandemic.
It was well-maintained and beautiful with many colorful plants and flowers nestled among a waterfall and a winding path.
The Butterfly Rainforest admission is $14.00 for adults, $12.00 for seniors, college students and Florida adult residents. Children from three to seventeen are charged $7.oo for admission, but their fee is waved with proof of an “A” in science on their last report card.
After going through the butterfly aviary, we meandered through the museum admiring the many butterfly research stations, collections, and other exhibits.
I loved the Florida cave exhibit, which had a cave to walk through along with stations describing the geology of the cave in Florida. Many people don’t realize that Florida is home to a spectacular cave with impressive stalactites and stalagmites in Marianna, FL.
There is a large fossil collection here as well, and there are updated signs with photographs which beckon the visitor to read them, which is a little different than other museums I’ve visited whose signs haven’t been updated in many years. Here I learned that Florida was home to rhinoceroses around twenty-four million years ago, where the geography here resembled that of an African savanna. Fascinating.
Because we couldn’t do the zip line on our way home, we stopped at our favorite “Silver Springs” to stretch our legs, admire the blue waters, and get a little exercise. I just love this place and never tire of this little spot of “Old Florida”. This park has wild rhesus monkeys among the trees, but we have yet to encounter any during our visits there.
Life is good. Carpe diem, friends…………..enjoy today.
Somehow the lyrics to a pop song flashed in my head as I looked at the end table in my family room the other day:
“Am I out of my head? Am I out of my mind?….
…Don’t think that I can explain it What can I say, it’s complicated….”
-“Bad Things” by Camilla Cabello and Machine Gun Kelly
What started out as a simple way to pass the time during the “shelter at home” pandemic lock-down has turned crazy. Simply CRAZY! I looked at my daughter, “Teen Traveler,” while we were out on one of our day trips the other day and said with a laugh, “We are in WAY over our heads!” We traveled to a garden center an hour away to purchase some organic parsley to feed our caterpillars and laughed when we heard that they were fresh out of parsley because some woman bought TWENTY parsley plants shortly before our arrival. We laughed together the whole ride back to our house wondering WHO would buy TWENTY parsley plants.
Fast forward to us taking inventory while feeding our caterpillars later in the day, and we decided that soon WE will need twenty parley plants for our black swallowtail butterflies that are currently in the caterpillar stage. We didn’t PLAN for that many caterpillars. Honestly. It seems that whenever we went for a walk, we took a cup with a lid “just in CASE” we found any butterfly eggs or caterpillars. Then, it didn’t help that when we went to the garden center we saw some caterpillars on some of the plants, and we asked if we could take one (or two or three…)home to raise. It didn’t help that when we purchased parsley from the garden center, most times we found a few eggs or a few tiny caterpillars on the plant AFTER we got home, either.
I am on the clean and tidy side, so if you EVER told me I would have many, I mean MANY, caterpillars in my house I would have said no. Then again, when I was pregnant many years ago if you told me I would have everything I could possibly need, including the proverbial kitchen sink, in my diaper bag, I would have thought you were crazy, too! I have decided having the caterpillar eggs and tiny caterpillars inside my house is the best place to keep them, though. I tell myself that it’s okay (while I inhale and exhale deeply, I might add) because they are in a cup with a napkin over the top, secured with an elastic. There is a lid to the cup over that which has tiny air holes poked on it for air circulation. I am so good with the idea of a double barrier. Nothing goes into or out of that cup without my knowledge. The eggs, caterpillars, and plants don’t smell bad I tell myself as I inhale and exhale deeply. Has to be done, as keeping the caterpillars and eggs in a cup outside in this Florida heat is much like a sauna, and they would die. I read on-line that some crazy butterfly person lets the butterfly caterpillars roam freely inside her house and often finds the chrysalises attached to her drapes! I laughed when I told my daughter and husband at least I am NOT that person. At least not yet and hoping not ever!
Once the caterpillars get a little larger (after the first and second “instar” or stage, maybe after a week) my daughter and I move them outside in butterfly cages. At least that WAS the plan until we realized we needed more cages than we thought. It was an exercise in creativity, as we had to come up with something quickly that would help, as we likely won’t have as many caterpillars growing at one time in the future. We came up with using some clear plastic plant saucers we found at Walmart with a lingerie bag (with TINY holes), which we supported upright with a host plant (MORE parsley) and dowels. This seems to be working well for the time being.
The caterpillars don’t always excite me, as they can be a little creepy to be honest. Okay, sometimes they can be VERY creepy, but watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis to release into our yard is magical. The black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, however, is beautiful in my opinion.
Last week, I found a sulphur caterpillar on my walk around the neighborhood right next to my foot. I took him home, put him in a cage, and just this week he hatched into a beautiful sulphur butterfly. Amazing. Amazing AND humbling. Last night I saw another caterpillar on my walk but left it where it was instead of taking it home this time, thinking we have a lot going on right now. A LOT going on! I’ll be on the look out for another gulf frittilary caterpillar next time I go walking, though. Make no mistake; this is a bit of an obsession I think….at least for the time being…but I like to think of it as a “diversion” from the pandemic right now though.
It’s funny how everyone is different. Someone in the family suggested that we keep a notebook of our findings. Another person in the family suggested we simply keep a list of all the butterflies we raise but acknowledged that some people just like the whimsy of it all instead. I am sort of in the middle. I keep a note on the cup of caterpillars with the date the egg hatched, the date the caterpillar went into the chrysalis, and the date it emerged from the chrysalis simply so I can plan ahead for parsley……more and more parsley. In the meantime, though, I have decided that this Easter Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (the only one we have) might do well with a floral water tube in a mini habitat with a cutting of the wild black cherry we have growing in the yard. That also keeps him from climbing around at the bottom of his tray with his frass (excrement) between cage cleanings, too. This way, I don’t need to put the whole host plant into the habitat until he gets larger, and the food will last longer because the plant needs full sun but the caterpillars do better out of the sun but in a bright spot. Plants can get “leggy” under these conditions.
Life is good. Find something that excites you every day. Find a reason to get out of the house to go for a walk (with a little scavenger hunt to find butterfly eggs and caterpillars, maybe?). Seems as though we never leave the house without a little cup and a lid these days.
Today was one of those days. One of those days that happen every so often when you’re not quite on your game so to speak. One of those days where at least one thing isn’t going quite your way or at least the way you want. That’s how the earlier part of the day was going for me. Normally I look on the bright side with a glass that is “half full”, even if the proverbial glass is cracked, chipped, or leaking water so to speak. Today my glass was a little less than half full this morning.
I decided to take a walk after dinner to clear my head, which is something I normally don’t do until our Florida evening gets a little cooler after dark. Usually my husband comes with me, but tonight I decided to go alone because he was working on a project in the garage at the time I wanted to take a stroll. I decided to take a shorter route tonight, going on a street I normally never walk through. I glanced down at the sidewalk for a moment and couldn’t believe my eyes. A very large green and yellow caterpillar was right near my feet. This is the first butterfly caterpillar I have ever found, and it was a fantastic find.
The caterpillar was so close, in fact, that I almost stepped on it. I wasn’t sure what kind of caterpillar it was, but I decided to pick it up with a pond frond (some caterpillars sting) to take it home to put it in one of our butterfly habitats. I needed to research what kind of caterpillar it was, as butterfly caterpillars are usually very specific as to what plant they will eat in their caterpillar stage. My feeling was this green caterpillar with a yellow head might be one of the yellow “sulphur” butterflies that are common in these parts. I know that the sulphur caterpillar changes colors, depending on if it eats the green leaves of a cassia plant or the yellow flowers of the same plant. As luck would have it, I had very recently purchased a Bahama senna (cassia) plant because the next butterfly I want to raise was going to be a sulphur caterpillar, as I could release this butterfly into our yard if that is the one I raised next. I looked for several days over the past week for a retail supplier for either sulphur eggs or caterpillars but found none had any in stock currently.
Bahama senna is a native Florida shrub, which can be a host plant to the sulphur butterflies.
(photo courtesy of Shirley Denton, FNPS.org)
I offered the caterpillar some of my plant, and he didn’t eat it at all. When I saw him climbing on the sides of the habitat, we put in some twigs to the habitat, as I wondered if he was getting ready to form his chrysalis. I know that caterpillars don’t usually eat anything right before they begin their transformation to the next stage. We watched the caterpillar move about the habitat for a while and checked in on him about an hour and a half later. We were amazed to find he crawled up high onto one of the twigs and started exhibiting the “J” formation, where his body bends in the shape of the letter J just before he changes to a chrysalis.
I try to learn something new every day if I can, and tonight I read about the chrysalis formation in a bit more depth. I learned that some caterpillars change color right in their fifth instar (stage) before changing into a chrysalis. At the time I am writing this, the caterpillar has changed and is no longer green but more of a yellow or orange/tan color.
I learned that the point of attachment of the caterpillar to the place where the caterpillar makes his chrysalis is actually a point with many “hooks” if you magnified it enough to see (the cremaster). Also, I was shocked to learn that the chrysalis isn’t just the caterpillar wrapped up. Rather, certain hormones in the caterpillar kick some enzymes into gear at the right time, and the caterpillar actually “digests” itself with the exception of a few parts that function almost like “stem cells” , called imaginal cells, leaving behind a puddle of ooze. I guess that explains how I thought I “lost” a malachite caterpillar in a habitat recently just before I found it had changed into a chrysalis.
This remarkable mechanism that changes the caterpillar to a butterfly is fascinating, albeit a bit creepy. Okay, it really is pretty gruesome. Yet this process in which the caterpillar changes to a chrysalis is like all the parts to a well-rehearsed orchestra makes beautiful music, almost effortlessly because it is such a well-coordinated event.
So, finding my sulphur (I think it was a sulphur) caterpillar was a stroke of serendipity during this summer evening. Finding a butterfly like this on a day like today started could be coincidence. Could be fate. Could be Divine intervention. Could be good karma. One thing is for certain; it definitely is something that takes my breath away, and that’s always a good thing.
Life is good. Savor a moment of serendipity this summer if you are quiet enough to hear it calling you. Carpe diem, friends……………..
Today, like any other day, was a gift. Today was the first day I have ever seen a hummingbird, and it took my breath away. I have seen and heard about hummingbirds but have never given them a great deal of thought. Today, however, as I was tending my containers of plants in my backyard here in Florida, I looked up and briefly saw a green and blue hummingbird out of the corner of my eye hovering near my blue salvia, which I later learned has a high nectar content for hummingbirds. I planted it originally as a nectar plant for butterflies, never ever dreaming that I would see such a beautiful blue and green hummingbird as a bonus. I don’t know much about hummingbirds in Florida, but this one looked like it may have been a more tropical variety because of its coloring. It was even more colorful than the hummingbird pictured above. It graced my yard for mere minutes, and I never had the chance to grab my camera in time to take a picture unfortunately.
The hummingbird I saw was more like this one, but I don’t remember seeing the purple on its head.
This is a copy of a scrapbook page I saw on the internet using a quotation from Papyrus Cards and arranged by “Taxed4ever” in Canada…beautifully said and beautifully arranged……
After a little bit of research I found out that hummingbirds live only in the Americas. Watching the hummingbird in my yard for a brief moment, I was fascinated with its ability to fly forwards, backwards, and upside down. The thing that really took my breath away beyond its beautiful color was its ability to hover in mid-air so effortlessly, and this is what first caught my eye. Hummingbirds do not hum, but their name comes from the flapping sound their wings make when they flap it from fifty to two hundred beats per second. Amazing creatures. I found out also that most species can live from three to five years (some larger ones can live over a decade) , but most die in the first year. Another amazing thing about hummingbirds is their fast metabolism, and they need to eat every ten or fifteen minutes from dawn to dusk and might even eat approximately half their weight in food and eight times their weight in liquid during this time. In fact, they can visit between one thousand and two thousand flowers per day to meet this need.
You can encourage hummingbirds to visit your yard by planting salvias, bee balms, day lillies, and other flowers with long trumpet-type shapes along with a humming bird feeder, which contains a sugar water mixture that you can make yourself or purchase at a local garden center. If you get a hummingbird feeder, make sure it has an “ant trap” at the top of it (or you can purchase an ant trap accessory on Amazon), as the sugar will attract lots of ants, and ants can contaminate the feeder and bring disease. Make sure you wash the humming bird feeder every few days, as the sugar water can host different types of bacteria, but it is recommended to empty and wash the feeder with vinegar and not bleach. One other tip is to avoid the inverted bottle type of hummingbird feeder, as I have heard these can leak. If you have more than one feeder, it is recommended to keep them ten to twenty feet apart, as hummingbirds are very territorial creatures.
If you want more information about hummingbirds, you can “Google” them or find information here at the Hummingbird Society website:
In Mexico, legend has it that “the hummingbird is the symbol of strength in life’s struggle to elevate consciousness— to follow your dreams” (from NationalGeographic.com), which is somehow appropriate and relevant today during the Covid-29 pandemic.
Life is good. May you “open your eyes to the wonders of the world today” and “embrace all that life has to offer” in order to “celebrate the joy of every day.”