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
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.”
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…………..
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.
We ordered 1500 live ladybugs to release in our yard recently, as we wanted to find a natural control to the aphids that were eating our plants. They arrived in a small mesh bag, and we released them at dusk one night, as they normally fly during the day. Releasing them at dusk allows them some time to find food and settle in for the night. We sprayed them with a little sugar water as we released them, as this makes their wings a bit sticky for a few days to encourage them to stick around and find food before they can fly away.
We transferred the ladybugs one by one to our plants in the yard and were fascinated by them in the meantime. Who knew watching a ladybug would be such a delight! Some ladybugs don’t have any spots.
“A multitude of small delights constitute happiness.”
Life is good; look for the little things that provide you with a new sense of wonder.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
“Here’s to the ones that we got Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories Of everything we’ve been through Toast to the ones here today Toast to the ones that we lost on the way ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories And the memories bring back, memories bring back you”
-“Memories” by Maroon Five
Life is good; enjoy the moment….. ALL the moments…..
Although it is only May (already), my thoughts turned today for some reason to an anecdote that I hold dear in my heart. When I was first married many many years ago, my husband and I had so many wonderful discussions about how we would begin our lives together. Because we got married in September, it seemed that the holidays would arrive before we knew it. We began talking about our first Christmas Tree together, and we visited a local farm in New England, which has since closed, to find, tag, and cut down our own tree.
It sounded like such a fond memory even before we went to the farm, and it was every bit as wonderful as we thought it would be. There is something so tender about finding a tree together in the snow and dragging it off the field after going on a hayride or sleigh ride to get to the field in the first place. I think we even had the classic Hallmark cup of hot chocolate afterwards.
Some of our compromises that seemed like such difficult concessions at the time really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things I’m thinking now. It is so very easy to get caught up in the mundane at any stage of our lives, to give importance to the unimportant and somehow miss what is right before our eyes. I have learned since then that life is far too important to be taken so seriously. It doesn’t really matter to me whether we have garland or ribbon, tinsel or no tinsel, ornaments that all match or are mis-matched, or even Christmas lights that are all white or multi-colored, as long as we spend our Christmas season together with those that we love, laughing, baking cookies, and creating new memories and traditions while remembering the old ways fondly, too.
We decided somewhere along the way that we would have a photo ornament that represents each year that we have been married, in good times and in bad, and THAT is something I would decide to do all over again.
Our discussion at the time many years ago, however, turned to whether we would have a star or an angel on top of our first tree, as we set out to purchase our first ornaments together to decorate our tree. Growing up in the same city, there were many similarities, as well as differences, to our upbringings, but both households had an angel on top of the Christmas tree. That made that decision very easy, and an angel it was. While we were walking through the store to find the perfect angel to top our perfect tree, I remembered the angel that sat on top of the tree in the house I grew up in. Christmas was a special time for me, as I was the youngest child, and the youngest in our family had the privilege of being the one to put the very last decoration, the angel, on top of the tree. For years and years, my father lifted me up on his shoulders to accomplish this task. This made me feel like I was on top of the world, which I really was because my parents were the center of my world at the time.
Because my parents had moved out of state before we were married, there was no angel from my childhood to show my husband, as my parents were still using it on their tree in another state. I tried to find the words to describe to my husband how very beautiful the angel was, dressed in a gold dress with perfect pleats. The size of the angel was just perfect, too, neither too large nor too small. The angel’s hair, with it’s perfectly flowing and uniformly curled hairstyle was not like any more modern angel I had ever seen, either. The angel was, in fact, the most beautiful angel I had ever seen, and I would be hard-pressed to find anything at all that would compare in anyway to this angel from my childhood. We settled on a pretty angel, but she held no proverbial candle to the angel from my childhood in my mind.
Fast forward to a few years later. My parents sold their home and started using a smaller, table top tree, that many seniors use after growing tired of puttting the tree up and taking it down again in such a short amount of time, after having taken it up from the basement for many years, year after year. My parents decided when sorting through their decorations they would no longer need that it was very clear that the angel from my childhood should go to me. Time to pass down the baton, so to speak. One day when I went to visit them, my parents unexpectedly presented me with a cardboard box, flat and brown. I recognized the box immediately, as I removed the angel gently, very gently, from her resting spot between Christmases, before putting her on the tree each year. When I opened the box, I was surprised to see that the angel from my childhood was a little “worse for the wear” than I had expected, and the perfect pleats on her dress were a little imperfect. Her hairstyle was a little messy, and her arms were a bit bent. Not only was she a little old, my perfect angel wasn’t so perfect after all. In fact, I was shocked to see that she was a bit ugly, too. Her facial expression wasn’t nearly as beautiful as I had remembered, maybe even a little creepy, but I was oh so very grateful for the gift.
When I came to the realization that the angel wasn’t quite what I made her out to be in my mind all these years, I smiled. I realized that she was the most beautiful angel in the world on top of any tree that I had ever seen, mainly as a child, because of all the love, laughter, and happy memories at Christmas with my family that made her beautiful to me. While I can’t quite bring myself to put the angel on top of my tree now, I keep her in that same flat, rectangle, cardboard box from many years ago, among my present-day Christmas decorations. She serves as a reminder of where I have come from, who I came from, and what makes Christmas, and life, meaningful. I also have come to appreciate the need to see as much as we can through child-like eyes to see the beauty from time to time. Even if the angel is quite ugly, she is still so beautiful in so many ways, because of what she represents. And timeless memories of years past with those we love, even if deciding on unimportant things which seemed so important at the time, are priceless.