THE BLESSING OF AN INSPIRATION AND OF A FRIEND

Wall mural and bike photo taken in Amsterdam, the “cycling capital of the world”

I have an amazing friend who lives in another part of the world. He has a certain “joie de vivre” that I can’t possibly explain. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to break bread with him and share a laugh or two over a short period of time. When he smiles, the world smiles with him. My friend recently went on a bike ride while going for a short get away while he was seriously ill and feeling very tired. He was equally tired of all his body has been through with his illness, yet he managed to find joy that day. An explorer and a traveler, my friend adjusted to his status at the time, adapted to what he could do, and revised his conception of adventure during this week end. A picture of him riding his bike that day is one of my favorite pictures of him, as it captures his essence somehow. This friend makes me smile again and again. The world is a better place, in part, because of him. The world is also a funnier place, too, because of him. He knows how to live well, and I admire that in him. He enjoys the love of his beautiful family, great food, travel to exotic places, and reading. One of his favorite songs is “Oh What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, and it has always been one of my favorite songs, too. My friend is an inspiration to many people, including me. I will keep this photo of him etched in my mind and heart forever, feeling fortunate to have had the good fortune of spending time with him, even if a short time.

my strong and funny friend

Today, thinking of my friend, I decided to get on my bike, as I used to really enjoy riding my bike and haven’t done that in a while . Seems like it’s been a long while since I went for a bike ride in the neighborhood. Too long. Can’t believe I haven’t thought of this earlier as I try to find something new or re-connect with something that I used to do as often as I can during this pandemic and self-isolation. It seems pretty easy to social distance on a bike.

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”

-John F. Kennedy

(photo taken in Amsterdam)

Perhaps I’ll go for a little longer bike ride tomorrow. Perhaps the next day will be even longer. Maybe later in the week I will put the bike on the bike rack on the car to go for an even longer ride. No time like the present. Makes me think of a reply I once heard when I asked someone what time it was. The reply was simple; the person said “the time is now.”

“It is the unknown around the corner which turns my wheels.”

-Heinz Stucke

(photo taken in Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands)

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

Life is good. Find something you used to love doing and haven’t done in a while today. Live fully, live life well, and enjoy the moment, using some inspiration as your guide if you have one.

Carpe diem, friends………………………….

SOCIAL DISTANCING WITH SCENIC SUNFLOWERS WHILE THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU

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.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BUTTERFLY AND A TRIP TO FAIRFIELD TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN IN MIAMI

Gulf Fritilary butterfly

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.

tranquility on the grounds at Fairfield Tropical Botanic Garden

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.

narrated tram ride (credit:Fairfield)

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.

fried egg tree (credit:Fairfield)

rainbow colored eucalyptus tree

closeup of rainbow colored eucalyptus bark (credit:Fairfield)

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.

COPING WITH CORONA WITH A CONTEST OF THE DAY

photo courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Many years ago one of my best friends who shares my same sense of humor and I decided we would challenge each other to a contest to use an archaic word in a conversation with someone else that day. The word was to be used in normal conversation without a laugh or smile, never letting on to the other participant in the conversation that we put each other up to that word. Now this is my friend who has been with me through so many times where we laughed so hard that we almost cried. One time I actually choked on my food in a restaurant for real. You know when you laugh so hard that your stomach actually hurts, and you almost can’t breathe? I know this feeling well and love it. There is something about laughter that is simply delightful. One word we used that day was “hijinks.” Another was “hoodwinked”. Try using THOSE words in a conversation with a straight face!

WebMd.com tells us that laughter increases blood flow, may reduce blood sugar levels, and may reduce stress to increase an immune system response. That all may be true, but a good ol’ fashioned belly laugh simply feels good, if nothing else.

Fast forward to today. I was just on the phone with one of my best friends, laughing about one thing or another as we normally do. Reaching out to my best friends daily while I am social-isolating during these stay-at-home orders makes me smile. Game ON! I told my friend about the word a day contest I had with my friend many years ago and it turns out this friend had as similar contest with her friend in SIXTH grade! Game ON! Tough competition. Maybe the first person who uses the word first the next day could win eating the first piece of pizza the next time we met. I love a good contest and have been DYING to win a contest that would allow me to eat the first piece of pizza. I will surely pick the BIGGEST piece with the MOST toppings. When else can I deliberately eschew the good manners that my Momma taught me?

Hmmmm………what word to pick? I remember telling my friend a while back that it fascinates me that there are many words in other languages that cannot be translated and that I remember reading that there was actually a word in another language that meant something like “the roof of my mouth is burning or on fire.” A GREAT word to win the first-slice-of-pizza contest to be sure. We agreed to that word:

“Pelinti”: word in Buli, the language of Ghana in West Africa. Pelinti means “moving food quickly around your mouth after you’ve belatedly discovered that it’s still piping hot,” according to syntacta.co.uk. Evidently pelinti happens to me EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY NIGHT while I eat pizza during our Friday pizza and a movie celebration in our home. I think I should have the hang of it by now, but no.

So….. go ahead and find a reason to laugh until your belly hurts. When was the last time you did that? It feels GREAT. And throw in a contest of the day to cope with Corona. You might be glad you did. Maybe YOU can win the first slice of pizza next time.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends……..

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 11…”GO FLY A KITE!”

How about getting out of the house today with a touch of whimsy before Corona comes knocking at your door? You can head to your local field or beach to fly a kite while still maintaining appropriate “social distance.” When was the last time you ran with the wind in your hair and a kite in your hand? It IS March, after all…..

“You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite
Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!
When you send it flyin’ up there
All at once you’re lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze
Over ‘ouses and trees
With your first ‘olding tight
To the string of your kite
Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Let’s go fly a kite!”

-“Let’s Go Fly A Kite” song by David Tomlinson from the movie “Mary Poppins”, 1964

Get outside and have some fun today; the sky’s the limit! Carpe diem, friends…………..

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 3 OR “FOR EVERY DROP OF RAIN THAT FALLS A FLOWER GROWS”….

Keukenhof Gardens, the largest flower garden in the world, located in Lisse, Netherlands (South Holland)

As I transition from “social distancing” to self-isolation in our home, I am reminded of an old song that says, “For every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” I am reminded of all the good things that are happening in the world right now, despite our current precarious world situation, that are still positive.

The smile of a stranger at the market from an appropriate social distance combined with eyes that meet and show a shared understanding (before I self-isolated), the sense of community in my neighborhood where people are looking out for each other and some folks have offered to get groceries and supplies for the elderly or at-risk neighbors, the gift of extra time together with my family, sharing a laugh as we remember to have fun while we prepare for this coronavirus to come knocking at our door. Having the luxury of extra time with board games while “Teen Traveler” is home from school and watching any pandemic movie we can will be fun memories to reflect upon years from now. Today we will find a remote stretch of beach where there are no visitors so we can feel the sand between our toes and the wind in our hair. This situation is serious, but we still can live while we are living with the situation.

There are many other other things that are that that “flower growing” despite the “rain” in this health crisis. Dolphins have returned to the canals in Venice because the water is cleaner and clearer right now with less traffic. The air is cleaner as emissions have fallen as China’s coal use drops. Many companies are changing policies and procedures to make working from home a possibility, which can help families who are normally juggling the needs of their children while needing to work. Supply chains are working overtime to help meet the needs of the country. We have begun to investigate what self-reliance means personally and as a country, giving some thought to how we can manage on many levels when things go awry. We all have developed an “attitude of gratitude” when we find a supply of toilet paper, any toilet paper, any brand, in the market.

I am reminded of the beauty of Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands while I think “for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” The garden will not open tomorrow as planned, yet I can’t help think of all the beautiful flowers that continue to grow, despite our global turmoil. I had always wanted to see the tulips growing in fields as a bucket list item, so last year we traveled there. Another bucket list item crossed off my list.

Tulip farm near Keukenhof

Keukenhof Gardens normally is open in the spring for the about eight weeks from mid-March to mid-May. Originally the gardens were part of Countess Jacoba van Beieren’ s (Jacqueline of Bavaria, 1401-1436) kitchen gardens at Teylingen Castle. In 1949, plans were made by some prominent bulb growers to use that space to grow bulbs, and in 1950 the gardens were opened to the public.

At Keukenhoff, one can take a forty-five minute quiet electric boat ride through the region where you can learn a little bit more of the area. Unfortunately this boat is NOT wheel-chair accessible. Fees range from 4.50- 9. Euros (about $4.82 USD for children -$9.63 USD for adults) at the time of this writing. Children under three are free of charge. The park does, however, offer complimentary electric wheelchairs to guest to enjoy the gardens, though.

Keukenhoff is NORMALLY open from 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM but is temporarily closed now because of Covid-19. There are multiple places to eat within the park, and the park allows dogs on leashes.

A pop of color in a box
Breathtakingly sturdy and enduring windmill on the property reminds me of our resolute human will while battling cornona
Daffodils mingle among tulips and hyacinths in harmony
Wish for quick resolution of the Coronavirus and its effects
Hyacinths and crocuses
These tulips were not dyed but grow this color
Breathtaking displays of exhibition tulips grow everywhere

Coping with the Corona situation is difficult for everyone, but taking a moment in your heart and mind to visit other places where beauty endures and life goes on might be just what you need. Armchair travel is always good for the soul, as it gives us something for which to look forward some day. The flower bulbs remind us that life goes on, year after year, even after a period in which everything appears to have stopped and is dormant.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray someone will come
To show the way
I believe, I believeI believe above a storm the smallest prayer
Can still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every wordEvery time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believeEvery time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believe”

-Written by Roger Whittaker and sung by Mahalia Jackson

TODAY is a good day to have a good day. Spring has sprung. Go out and live; carpe diem, friends…………..

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 2 (LIFE THROUGH A LENS)

With Covid-19 positive cases cropping up here in Florida, combined with the CDC recommendations not to visit places with greater than fifty people, I am strolling down memory lane to visit Silver Springs State Park, which was extremely popular within Florida’s tourist industry, until the early 1970’s when some of the large theme parks opened in Orlando. This park was so popular that a tour boat operator released rhesus monkeys there in an effort to make a Tarzan-like attraction. Now, visitors can spot an occasional wild monkey roaming about the park. If you see a monkey, though, don’t get too close. Many are infected with herpes B virus, which can be transmitted to humans through contact with the monkeys if they bite. Sometimes the monkeys are aggressive, so it is better to stay away from them and live life through your lens with photographs.

Sign at Silver Springs State Park, describing the wild monkeys and advising you to stay away from them
Turquoise blue spring waters from ancient limestone formations

I spent the day, with my daughter, “Traveling Teen” hiking through the trails, enjoying the moments as they unfolded before our eyes……..

Temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round, but swimming is not permitted

Although swimming is not permitted at Silver Springs State Park, you can take a glass bottom boat ride for only $12.oo for a half hour. You can even see some statues from one of the underwater scenes from a James Bond movie filmed there.

Like Alice at the looking glass, you can see a whole new world through the glass bottom boat floor at Silver Springs

Many movies were filmed at Silver Springs:

The Seven Swans

Never Say Never Again

Thunderball

Legend

Moon Over Miami

The Yearling

Distant Drums

Underwater!

Creature From The Black Lagoon

Don’t Give Up The Ship

Blindfold

Tarzan And His Mate

Tarzan The Ape Man

Smokey And The Bandit, Part 3

Rebel Without A Cause

The Frogmen

SeaHunt (Series)

Spanish Moss hanging from trees everywhere

While coping with Covid-19, you can always take a road trip to Silver Springs to create a memory with someone you love as you get some fresh air. If you want to avoid a crowded boat, you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and canoes there, too.

Life is good; get out to enjoy it whenever you can. Silver Springs is located in Marion County, Florida, north central Florida, just east of Ocala. The blue waters and this park is “old Florida” at its best. Enjoy today; carpe diem……….

“The best way to explain it is to do it.” 

-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice: “How Long is Forever?”

White Rabbit: “Sometimes, just one second.”

-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

https://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings