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.
I started drinking herbal tea when I was in the seventh grade or somewhere thereabouts. I still remember my Mother offering to make me a cup of tea at the time. I threw my head back laughing, telling her I would ONLY drink herbal tea in a beautiful teacup. I told her a mug simply would not do. After that day, my Mother laughed when she saw me drinking herbal time each and every time in one of her beautiful china cups with a delicate floral pattern and a saucer. It’s not so much about the tea as much as it is about creating a small, good, beautiful moment for me somehow.
Tonight, making my herbal tea, I took out my Mother’s china cup and made myself a steeping cup of pumpkin spice herbal tea, and both the tea and memories of my late Mother warmed my heart in a way that I needed tonight. Missing her, I connected my thoughts about her with happy and comforting thoughts tonight, trading my sense of loss for something that made me smile instead.
I decided tonight I would do something that I have not done in a while after a particularly busy week. I try not to structure my life so that it is “too busy”, as I value having time to enjoy my life and try to live my life with intention. I decided I would read by the fire and light all the candles in the room tonight, too, which is something I don’t usually do. I usually read outside at night on the lanai by the fire table, but I decided I would shake things up a bit tonight. There was such a peaceful feeling hearing the crackle of the fire combined with simultaneous scent of the candles nearby. When I need to shake things up, I try to do something I love, see something I love, hear something I love, touch something I love, smell something I love, or taste something I love. The senses invoke such strong memories for me and yet somehow ground me in the moment right now with a small good thing.
Within minutes of reading my book, sipping my tea, watching the fire, smelling the candles, and hearing the crackling of the fire, I felt centered again and quickly found peace. In a world full of turmoil with the pandemic and other disturbing current events from time to time, it helps to draw in a deep breath, exhale, and find peace in whatever way we can dial things down a little to enjoy the moment.
Life is good; try to dial it down a little tonight to find a way to create peace in your heart. Life is good…..
Now that the state of Florida is opening up little by little after the pandemic, my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, and I decided we were well overdue for a road trip. Living in Florida has its benefits, even though this time of year it is hot. VERY hot. We have some of the most beautiful springs with crystal clear blue water that I’ve ever seen, and we decided it would be well worth the two and a half hour ride to see them.
This time, we decided to travel to Dunnellon, Florida to see Rainbow Springs State Park. This park was originally a privately owned theme park destination in the 1930s , complete with a zoo, a rodeo, gardens everywhere, a boat ride, and a ride with leaf-shaped gondolas suspended from up high above the ground. After the theme parks in Orlando opened in the early 1970s, Rainbow Springs closed. Sometime thereafter (in the 1990s) , the state of Florida acquired this land and made it into a beautiful park, preserving the original three man-made waterfalls. At the time of our visit, two of the waterfalls were inoperable due to a maintenance issue, but the one that was still in operation was beautiful.
A cement and brick walkway circles most of the main areas in the park, but there are several wooded trails to walk as well.
We traveled mostly on the cement and brick walkways as well as the boardwalk paths, but we walked a little way on one of the wooded paths behind the overgrown butterfly garden, which is scheduled for refurbishment in the near future.
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” -Henry David Thoreau
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway on the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. ” – Henry David Thoreau
While walking on trail in the woods, however, we encountered a park sign alerting us about the presence of bears in the park, along with instructions about what to do if we encountered any bears. We decided to turn back toward the more populated areas. At this park, you can rent canoes and kayaks and can swim in the crystal blue water as well, although a sign alerts you of the possibility of alligators in the water. We decided to skip this fresh water swimming experience for the time being, as I felt it was a bit unsafe to swim in fresh water with others during the present corona pandemic.
We saw many beautiful flowers while walking about the park and were forunate enough to see a butterfly egg on the back of a leaf when we turned it over. Fascinating find.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he expects.” – John Muir
“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” – Henry David Thoreau
We came to this park mainly see the beautiful blue spring waters and the waterfalls but were delighted to see the beautiful plants and a glimpse of an unexpected butterfly or two. They say it is the “little things that matter,” and the unexpected “little things” in sum added up to a wonderful experience.
We exited the park, full of wonder and joy at all that we had seen, heard, smelled, and touched at this beautiful site when we passed by a little pond with the most beautiful green algae floating on top of it, which beckoned us to stop for a moment.
There was something special about this little pond that “Teen Traveler” and I felt simultaneously the moment we stopped. We looked at each other and both said that it was a place at which we could literally spend hours. It was so serene and peaceful. We decided to sit upon a rock at the edge of the pond, watching with the sense that something great was before our eyes. While sitting silently and experiencing this magic moment together, my daughter noticed a frog on the shore of the pond.
It was one of those magic moments where the world works in perfect synchronicity for a time, where everything works together as it should. It amazed us that this frog was so perfectly suited for the pond, and the pond was perfectly suited for the frog. The camouflage before our eyes was amazing. The frog’s head was exactly the color of the algae, and the frog’s lower body was exactly the same color as the rocky sand beneath him. We watched the frog, and the frog watched us. None of us moved for a moment or two. While we were experiencing one of those things that just took our breath away, my daughter slowly and quietly pointed to the pond. At first pass, I thought I was looking at several leaves floating beautifully in the water before us.
“Could a greater miracle take place for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau
At second glance, I realize most of what I was looking at were NOT leaves. My daughter pointed out to me that we were looking at frogs, and the frogs were looking at us.
Counting quickly, we saw at least nineteen sets of eyes gazing upon us as we gazed upon them. There were frogs EVERYWHERE. It felt surreal, almost like we were in a film, maybe some perfect version of the world in a Disney film perhaps. I had never given frogs a second thought in my entire life, yet this was one of the most beautiful and amazing sites I have seen right before me that moment. As I sat quietly on that rock, watching the world unfold before me and enjoying life through my lens, I realized what we came for didn’t quite work out the way we planned, as two of the waterfalls were broken and the butterfly garden was overgrown and in need of refurbishment, yet the beauty and experience that surrounded us was one of the best Florida day trips we had experienced in a long time. Sometimes if we are flexible enough to open our eyes to what is thrown our way, we discover that life is beautiful, if we allow ourselves to see all the possibilities before us.
Today after seeing the partially assembled pergola in my back yard, I sat under it right after a rain shower and noticed a beautiful rainbow right above my eyes. I am so grateful to see such beauty developing right before me.
As I continued to sit under the half-constructed pergola, I couldn’t help but feel the world of possibilities developing before my eyes in my mind. How exciting it is to envision a big project such as this. I am thinking of all the ways to transform the pergola into an oasis of peace and tranquility. I’m picturing lights hanging from the pergola, maybe a candle chandelier, along with some hanging pots of orchids or new guinea impatiens. I want the pergola to evoke a sensory experience with something scented, colorful, and something I can hear. Perhaps a new set of wind chimes, too. Should I have a counter-height bistro set or a low comfortable L-shaped sectional. Should I have a few chaise lounges? There are so many possibilities to consider.
As I sit here, I remember getting excited like this when we bought our first home about a few millions of years ago. It has been quite a long time since we’ve done a project like this in our own backyard, and it feels nostalgic quite honestly.
I continue to sit, watching the darkness crawl in before my eyes while I remember a poem that describes the fog crawling in similarly on little cat feet (“The Fog” by Carl Sandburg). Sitting in front of the pond behind our house, I notice all kinds of noises and sights I don’t normally see when I sit in the screen deck by the pool. I see gnats swirling around en mass in a frenzy within some sort of twirling and twisting cloud. I see various birds taking off from the water, barely disturbing the surface as they glide gracefully into flight. I hear splashes in the water as some long-necked birds swim underwater, but it is growing too dark to tell what type of birds they are. I’m thinking they are likely either cormorants or anhingas. Both birds swim in the water, but cormorants are usually found in salt water, and anhingas are usually found in fresh water. Both have long snake-like necks, but the tell-tale sign is the beaks, which would help me identify them if it were not quite so dark. Cormorants have roundish hook-like beaks at the end, but anhingas have straight beaks, although both hunt and eat fish.
I consider myself lucky to have this little sliver of time of solitude and peace while the world is in turmoil from the pandemic around me. It helps me to find a little slice of “normal” within each day, and that means finding a little smattering of beauty before my eyes.
Life is good; life fully and completely, and find a reason to be grateful today. Try to see the beauty in something today and enjoy the moment.
Life is good; carpe diem, friends………………
Feel free to comment below with any suggestions, pictures, or ideas about how I can transform my pergola into an oasis of peace and beauty.
(Note to self: ask the landscaper trim the shrubs AGAIN)
Happy Mother’s Day y’all. Today I wanted to get out of the house to do something different. Several years back, we had traveled throughout Tuscany looking for sunflowers. I never realized they were right in our own state in such numbers. “There’s no place like home,” it’s been said. Traveling to Sledd’s u-Pick Farm in Mims reminded me of that saying. Although the sky was cloudy, the bright yellow sunflowers provided a beautiful contrast against the otherwise dreary day. It took my breath away when we pulled up to the farm and saw sunflowers in such number.
Sledd’s is a pick-your-own farm in Mims, Florida, offering a large field of sunflowers that you can pick yourself, as well as a sunflower maze this time of year. While many of the sunflowers have already been picked and some are past their prime, more sunflowers will be available to pick again in June.
Sledd’s charges five dollars per person for entry into the field and then charges for the sunflowers you pick. Prices are two dollars for the first sunflower stem, three dollars for two sunflower stems, and five dollars for three sunflower stems. Remember to bring your own scissors, as none are provided for you. Also, come prepared with cash, as this is the only form of payment they accept. Plan ahead by checking their Facebook page, as hours change greatly due to weather and unforeseen circumstances as well. Keep in mind, also, that there are only port-a-johns on site and only a little structure under which to make payment. This is a small family farm without any kind of gift shop or visitor center that offers other pick your own crops at different times of year, such as tomatoes, berries, and vegetables as well.
“Like a single sunbeam on a warm summer day, there is an exuberance and a brilliance of a sunflower.” -Author unknown
When we arrived, we were amazed at the numbers of people that were standing in line (without six feet between them) to pay for entry into the field. No attempt was made to remind the visitors of the need for social distancing, and we saw only two other families with masks. We were glad we brought along my husband’s N-97 mask from his workshop, which we took turns sharing and went into the field one at a time. Once we got into the field, however, we could stay apart from others to keep our social distancing.
I’m thinking that this place might be less crowded on a week-day or any other week end than Mother’s Day. Seems as though lots of people came with their mothers for this charming pick your own activity. Social Distancing might be easier at another time.
I couldn’t help but notice my daughter “Teen Traveler’s” tee shirt, which suggested the need to “Bloom With Grace” when she was walking around the field. That’s my girl; such attention to detail. Such sage advice. My daughter, the old soul.
Sunflowers are symbolic in China for longevity and long life, and I am reminded of the pandemic which began in China while walking about the field, hoping for long life for the citizens there and everywhere. My mind wanders also to Vincent Van Gogh, who said he found “comfort in contemplating the sunflowers.” I also found comfort among the sunflowers after being essentially cooped up inside for weeks during our “safer at home” pandemic orders here in Florida. It felt so good to be among such a bright backdrop of living, thriving beautiful plants today. There were lots of bees on the flowers, and watching them on the sticky sunflower heads was fascinating. There was such peace for that moment in time, and it felt wonderful to be a part of it. It felt like life goes on, despite all that is going on around the world at the same moment.
“…You’re making it feel that everything is alright You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower In a world that’s crumbling, all around us everyday You are, all the inspiration that I need to find my way…
You’re, making it feel that everything is alright You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower You’re, making it feel that everything is alright You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower….”
-“Sunflower” by Lenny Kravitz
Helen Keller, an inspirational writer who was born both deaf and blind once wrote
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” ~ Helen Keller
I contemplate this as I think about the days ahead with the pandemic. Helen Keller’s advice, along with the old Maori proverb that says to “Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.” I look forward to brighter days ahead when we can return to some semblance of normal after the Covid pandemic is behind us. In the meantime I remember that life is still good, even now.
Carpe diem, friends……..and turn your face to the sunshine today while you get out to live fully again. May the shadows fall behind you, or may you at least not SEE the shadows today.
It has been said that a good practice is to keep in mind the things for which one is thankful. To that end, I start each day whenever I think about it with an “attitude of gratitude”. Some days I forget, but most days I start the day thinking of all the wonderful things in my life for which I am thankful. I task myself to think of ten, just ten. Most times, I find myself listing many more than ten in my mind or even on a piece of paper some days.
Amidst the uncertainty that the novel coronavirus has brought to our lives individually as well as within our society, it helps to think about what is going RIGHT in our lives right now. Stop, look, and listen to all that is good in your life at this very moment. The distraction this exercise brings you might help you seize the day.
“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.”
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”
Life is good. Rest for a moment and be thankful. Develop an attitude of gratitude today if you don’t already have one. It helps us to see that that glass really IS half full.
There is sometimes a certain positive solitude that comes with being alone. Sometimes that solitude doesn’t have to feel lonely, however. Guillermo Maldonado once said, “Loneliness is not lack of company, it is lack of purpose.”
When we find ourselves looking straight at ourselves, or our souls when we self-isolate, we are forced to face who we are. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that “No one can bring you peace but yourself.”
Finding peace while stuck at home is challenging for many people from time to time. The key to finding peace seems to be to slow down and unclutter your mind and your home. Accept what is instead of what you think should be. Listen to music. Like yourself in order to like your life right now. Keep a sense of humor. Recognize that life is far too important to be taken so seriously and laugh as much as you can. Life isn’t perfect, so learn to laugh at your mistakes. Worry less and “let it go.” Don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel regret. Realize you are doing the best you can in your situation with what you have at the moment. Strive to better yourself by setting goals, but realize that your goals may shift their order of priority from time to time. Remember to have fun every day. Every single day. Do something you love and reach out to those that you love. Make your own peace with yourself so you can make peace with your life.
“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.”
“If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone.” – Maxwell Maltz
“Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not leave you astray.”
“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
Look for peace today; you might already find it exists deep within your heart. Life is good; carpe diem, friends……………