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.
“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 my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, and I set out to journey towards South Florida to release the malachite butterflies we have been raising from caterpillars for several weeks now. Since this species lives in South Florida, we knew we had to do the right thing when we purchased the caterpillars and get them into the South Florida vicinity to release them. Since the lifespan of the butterfly is usually only two to four weeks, we knew we shouldn’t keep them very long after their metamorphosis into a butterfly.
We drove two counties away and released them near an orange grove, as they feed on rotting fruit and flower nectar, and we wanted to ensure they had plenty to eat. We had a bit of a certain indescribable sense of sadness when we were driving to let them go into the wild.
My daughter said she was sorry to see them go. I explained to her that the butterflies are like many beautiful people we encounter during our lives. People come into our lives, and people go from our lives when we change schools, jobs, cities, etc…Life changes. Life changes a lot. The people that we are fond of don’t always stay around forever. Sometimes even death separates us, but we are somehow in some way, or in many ways, touched by their presence when we had them in our lives. I told my daughter that we can learn a lot about life from raising our butterflies.
Like the butterflies that change forms from egg to several different types of caterpillars (instars) before assuming their final form, we, too, go through many changes and stages in our own lives. Sometimes we are not our most beautiful until we’ve gone through different stages within ourselves.
People come and go in our lives, like the butterflies we raise, and we enjoy them while they are here. We try think about their release date, as we can enjoy the moments with them while we have them. All the moments.
Sometimes the caterpillar hatchlings don’t make it to adulthood, despite our best efforts. Life is sometimes hard at times, but beautiful nonetheless.
You have to work hard to find a place to blend in and settle, finding what you need, before you can become a chrysalis. Working hard helps. These caterpillars certainly were VERY busy.
Sometimes we need rest, like a butterfly chrysalis, before we emerge as our best.
Sometimes we want to stay holding on the warm hand that protects us before we find the strength to move on to do what we know we ultimately have to do. Staying on that warm hand for a while is good for a while, but then we have to find our own way as we become adults and move on to college, etc..
Although the butterfly’s life is short, it always leaves behind something beautiful after it dies. The butterfly lives on, like us, in the generations that follow.
We need to be very patient. Good things often take time.
My daughter held the butterflies in her hand in the butterfly cage during the whole ride to our release site. She was so gentle with them that it was such a tender moment whenever I glanced her way. When the engine to the car stopped, she asked if she could release them in the car before we released them into the wild. She thought it would be fun if they flew around the inside of the car for a while. We let them out of the cage in the car, but they didn’t fly around for some reason. I’m thinking that the car air conditioner was a possible reason, as the butterflies really like the temperature to be above eighty degrees before they fly.
My daughter gently lifted the butterflies onto her hand again when it was time to release them outside. She waited until they both flew away, having the peace of mind that they were well, and she somehow added something back into the circle of life. She was relieved that she didn’t damage their wings or legs when she touched them, too. I knew she didn’t, but she was concerned.
On the way home, we found a beach with few people on it and enjoyed some time together in the warm blue waters, laughing together and finding some shells.
“You tucked me in, turned out the lights Kept me safe and sound at night Little girls depend on things like that
Brushed my teeth and combed my hair had to drive me everywhere You were always there when I looked back…
…And when I couldn’t sleep at night Scared things wouldn’t turn out right You would hold my hand and sing to me
Caterpillar in the tree How you wonder who you’ll be Can’t go far but you can always dream Wish you may and wish you might Don’t you worry hold in tight I promise you there will come a day Butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away Flap your wings now you can’t stay Take those dreams and make them all come true
Butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away We’ve been waiting for this day All along and knowing just what to do Butterfly, butterfly, butterfly, butterfly fly away…”
It has been said that you “get what you pay for.” Today we traveled to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida which is about two and a half hours away from where we live. I had wanted to go to visit there for sometime now, so we decided that today was the day. Butterfly World is the first butterfly house in the United States and the largest in the world. Right here in Florida. Right here in our state. This place is extremely well-kept and has been in operation for over thirty years on over three acres of butterfly aviaries. The website says that Butterfly World is “one man’s hobby gone wild”. How could we go wrong visiting one man’s obsession? Evidently as the story goes, the proprietor, Ronald Boender, was an electrical engineer with an interest in butterflies since he was young. He started raising them in small numbers in his home yard after retiring and originally opened a commercial butterfly company in 1984. Butterfly World was opened in 1988 and serves as a beautiful butterfly attraction as well as a research facility. The admission is rather pricey at $32.50 for adults and seniors, $22.50 for children from age 3-11 (children under 2 are free). Currently, there is an internet special of 50% off until June 8 for all those who mention it at the ticket counter. They also offer AAA discounts of 15% and a military discount of 25% the rest of the year. For an extra dollar, we received a butterfly guide, which described the varieties of butterflies we might encounter there, along with some butterfly education. This was worth the extra dollar in my opinion.
When we first walked into Butterfly World, we encountered a research room, which had an audio explaining a bit about the butterfly life cycle.
Walking into the first butterfly aviary, we were greeted by three beautiful blue Morpho butterflies, which are among my favorite kinds of butterflies. Their beautiful color and large size takes my breath away.
There were butterflies EVERYWHERE we looked, flying around us, near us, and in front of us. Lots and lots of butterflies in a well taken care of and well-managed butterfly house.
I loved the butterfly education on the wall plaques and in our purchased butterfly guide.
“Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. ” – Henry David Thoreau
We were so very fortunate to have butterflies land on us, including the beautiful blue Morpho butterfly (shown here on my husband’s back with his wings folded up). The bottom of most butterfly wings is not nearly as colorful as the top of their wings.
The blue Morpho butterfly had always been my favorite butterfly, but now I’m not sure. The large Australian Cairns Birdwing Butterfly took my breath away, as it looks like someone colored him with a whole box of crayons on both the top of its wings as well as the bottom of the wings where butterflies are not usually so colorful. Of course, though, the male is more colorful than the female, a common trait in the animal kingdom. This butterfly is one of the largest Australian butterflies, measuring about five to six inches across from wing to wing.
In addition to the butterfly aviaries, Butterfly World has a garden center with butterfly host plants for sale, a lorikeet habitat, and an insect museum which featured some fascinating insects such as scorpions, trantulas, large centipedes, and cock roaches. There is also a beautiful butterfly museum as well.
Most visitors spend about two to three hours at Butterfly World, and we were no exception. Just watching the dance of the zebra longtail butterflies (pictured in previous photos as the black and whitish yellow striped butterflies) or the multitude of butterflies fly to and fro was a fascinating experience. If I lived closer, I would definitely purchase an annual pass (for $70.00). Our ticket included complimentary cold bottles of water, which we appreciated on this hot day, and there is normally a snack bar in operation. Unfortunately the snack bar (with ice cream novelties) was closed at the time of our visit because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Upon perusing the gift shop, I saw this sign:
Life IS beautiful. Life is good. Carpe diem, friends…………..
As you may recall, I purchased some Painted Lady caterpillars a while back as a diversion during the state “safer at home” orders during the pandemic. The caterpillars arrived along with their “muck in a cup” (or pre-made food).
After about ten to twelve days, the caterpillars crawled to the top of the cup in which they arrived and started to form the tell-tale sign that they were about to form pupae. The tell-tale sign that signals the beginning of this stage is seen when the caterpillars begin to look like the letter J, as they prepare to bundle up to make a case which is attached to the cup lid by a silk pad they have fabricated. After about twenty-four hours of hanging upside down, the caterpillar skin splits off and exposes a case or pupa.
Seven to ten days later, the painted lady breaks free from its pupa and metamorphisis has been completed. During this stage, the adult structures are formed, and finally the pupa has now turned into a butterfly that needs to dry his wings before he can fly.
Wings dry and harden after about twenty-four hours, and the butterfly continues his life for about two weeks during which the butterfly can travel up to one hundred miles a day at thirty miles per hour. The butterflies can mate around five to seven days after emerging from the cocoon, and the female can lay as many as approximately five hundred eggs in their short life time. Eggs are singly laid on a host plant, such as thistle, mallows, hollyhock, legumes, and others. Once the butterfly reaches the adult stage, their diet includes many nectar plants, such as blazing star, cosmos, New England aster, Joe-pye weed, Mexican sunflower, purple coneflower, and zinnias. They will visit other nectar plants, though, including red clover and milkweed, too.
In our home, when we woke up one morning to find that the first one of our pupae had hatched into a butterfly, there was a great deal of red exudate on the side of the net cage. This exudate is not blood, as many people think, but is meconium, which is waste products of their metamorphic activity.
Shortly after, a second butterfly emerged before we knew it, about a half hour later. We decided to watch the remaining pupae and actually had the good fortune of actually seeing a butterfly emerge from its pupa stage. It was a magic moment, watching life literally unfold before our eyes.
After giving the painted ladies some orange slices and sugar water on a cotton ball on dish in their cage, we decided to let them go free. It was yet another magic moment for us, as my daughter reached inside their cage, and the each butterfly crawled onto her hand in order to be released.
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” -E.B. White
If you are interested in raising butterflies, I would recommend you order a kit with pre-mixed painted lady food to start (“the muck in a cup”). Now that we’ve gotten the butterfly “bug”, we plan to raise butterflies from eggs to caterpillars, then caterpillars to pupae, then pupae to adult butterflies. Each type of butterfly needs a certain host plant to lay eggs upon, but there are often many nectar plants that they will eat from as adults.
Three valuable sources of information and supplies can be found at:
We have been busy gathering a few host plants and many nectar plants for containers around our yard and likely will try malachite butterfly eggs next.
” And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Life is good; find something new in some hidden spot that excites you. Carpe diem, friends………
In my search for finding exciting things to keep myself busy during our continued self-isolation during this Covid pandemic, I remembered how much I enjoyed watching painted lady caterpillars change into butterflies when my daughter was little. We did this a few times in our home and then released the butterflies into the yard. We still have the butterfly net “cage”, so I decided I would clean it out with the recommended ten percent bleach/water solution to raise butterflies again now. There was something indescribable about watching the butterfly life cycle unfold before our eyes. We ordered the caterpillar, watched it eat the food source that it came with, a certain mush-in-a-cup and then watched it turn into a pupa before becoming the butterfly.
I ordered some painted lady caterpillars in the mush-in-a-cup to start with today. They will arrive in just a few days, and I am so very excited. The painted lady caterpillars take one to three weeks to reach the pupa stage, then the pupa takes about ten days to turn into the butterfly.
The painted lady butterfly is orange, black, and white, an impressive sight. These butterflies are very easy to raise without a host plant and often come in “kits” with a food source. Often, this painted lady is the first experience a person has with raising butterflies, as these are the most common in classrooms, kits, etc.
(photo courtesy of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cropwatch)
I decided that I wanted to delve a little more deeply into raising butterflies than muck-in-a-cup, so I did a little more research. My favorite butterfly, the Blue Morpho butterfly, isn’t found in these parts of Florida naturally, so it seems like an ecological no-no to raise them for release in my yard. I decided, however, that I wanted to see the WHOLE butterfly life cycle, from egg to caterpillar, then from caterpillar to pupa, then from pupa to butterfly. I also decided that I wanted to raise something other than a common orange butterfly. I found out that the eggs are laid on a certain “host plant” that can be different from butterfly to butterfly. The caterpillar, when it emerges, also eats the host plant with a voracious appetite. Once the butterfly emerges from the pupa stage, it eats things OTHER than the host plant. Some butterflies require nectar from a different plant, some butterflies require sugar water, and some require rotting fruit.
I finally decided that I would raise either the malachite butterfly (green and black butterfly pictured above) or the zebra long winged butterfly, a black and yellowish-white striped butterfly. I learned that the host plant for the malachite butterfly is the green shrimp plant or the Mexican petunia, which was a bit hard to come by in these parts, as both are highly invasive plants in the landscape. I finally found a local supplier for the Mexican petunia, which I plan to keep in a pot in the yard to contain it. I also found a local supplier for the corky-stemmed passion flower, which is the host plant for the zebra long winged butterfly.
I plan to raise the painted lady muck-in-a-cup caterpillars while I grow the host plants for the zebra long winged butterfly and malachite butterfly into sizable plants in the meantime, and I can’t wait to delve into something a little more complicated. I am told it is best to raise the different species of butterflies separately if I have a small cage, so I need to simply decide which one to raise first, then look forward to raising the other species afterward.
On a side note, I was walking with my best friend at a closed outdoor shopping center at an appropriate social distance the other night, discussing how I was looking forward to raising butterflies. I also told her that, if it all went well, I planned on raising some blue butterflies on the first anniversary of my my Mother’s death in October as a special remembrance of her that day. Blue was my Mother’s favorite color, and she would be delighted in hearing all about my new butterfly interest, so it seemed like a good way to keep her memory alive in my heart. My Mother was always interested in hearing all about whatever I was interested in. I told my friend I was having a bit of trouble sleeping this week, as this was my first Mother’s Day without my beautiful Mother, and my heart was a bit heavy from time to time this week. No word of a lie, the song that played on the loud speaker in the closed out door shopping mall just SECONDS after talking to my friend about my Mother and the butterflies caused us both to stop in our tracks and took our breath away…….
“So I put my hands up They’re playing my song, And the butterflies fly away Noddin’ my head like, yeah Movin’ my hips like, yeah I got my hands up, They’re playin’ my song You know I’m gonna be okay……”
-Miley Cyrus, “Party In The USA”
Coincidence? Maybe not. What is true is that I knew my Mother will live in my heart forever, and I really would be okay.
Find and celebrate those moments that take your breath away and stop you in your tracks. Hug those you love while you can. Know also that we all will be okay, no matter what is going on right now in our lives…..
Butterflies have always given me reason to pause what I was doing in order to enjoy their beauty. They are such symbols for endurance, change, hope, and life, and their graceful flight is such a sight. We would do well to keep them in mind as we endure our current global pandemic situation.
One of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen was at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, which is normally open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily but has been closed recently because of the pandemic. However, on May 6, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will open for limited times during the day and will offer guests two-hour visits in order to keep the numbers of guests low at any given time for social distancing. They have a butterfly conservatory that houses such amazing butterflies. The Morpho butterfly, a bright big blue butterfly with wingspan of about five to eight inches, normally lives in South America, Mexico and Central America and is one of the largest butterflies in the world. It was here that I saw my first Morpho butterfly, and I marveled at its size and beauty.
Blue colored butterflies are said to be symbolic of healing, joy and happiness and are also seen by some rain forest natives as a “wish granters.” At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one can see the butterflies up close, and it is magical when they land on your shoulder unexpectedly. Legend has it when a butterfly follows you around, it means you have something in your life that you need to address. If it lands on you, legend tells us it may mean we will undergo some type of wonderful transformation or growth in our lives, some big change might happen, or something new or refreshing might happen in our lives. Some people even think that a Guardian Angel might be sending you a message or a deceased love one might be making their presence known to you when a butterfly lands on you. I’m not sure about the validity of those legends, but it surely is a peaceful and unexpected moment, filled with joy, whenever a butterfly lands on me. It is more likely, though, that the butterfly lands on you for salt from your skin, scientists tell us.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to see butterflies, as butterflies are released into the wild twice a day, an extraordinary experience. Beyond the butterflies, you can take a forty-five minute narrated tram ride around the eighty-three acre gardens to see some beautiful plants and trees.
This time of year the Brunfelsia, the Tahitian Gardenia, the Fried Egg Tree, Frangipani Vine, Siam Rose Ginger (in the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House), and many other beautiful flowers are blooming there. This is a great place to take a book, find a quiet spot, and read a little while or sketch in a sketchbook. Of course, simply meandering about the property is a great way to spend some time there, too.
On a recent trip to a National Park, I picked up a bookmark about butterflies that caught my eye. This bookmark called “Advice From a Butterfly” (By YourTrueNature.com and written by Ilan Shamir) reads……
“Let your true colors show
Take yourself lightly
Look for the sweetness in life
Take time to smell the flowers
Catch a breeze
Treat yourself like a monarch.”
Life is good; “take yourself lightly and look for the sweetness in life”. Think about the butterfly and the healing, joy, and happiness it represents when you think of our future after the pandemic. I hope a butterfly lands on your shoulder soon, if for no reason other than for the magic moment it brings.
Carpe Diem, friends……………get out there and live life well.