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.
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
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.”
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.
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…..