What does the image above invoke for you? What is the first word that comes to mind? Do you think she is following the advice, feel free to be yourself? Do you think she is funny, quirky, silly, deranged, or entering into dementia?
My experience being myself in public
Of course, the woman in the floppy, purple hat is me. The picture missed the rest of my ensemble; pink skort, white athletic socks, and grey athletic shoes. I left home wearing everything except the floppy purple hat, which is a permanent fixture in my car.
There were less than fifty cars in the parking lot as I arrived at Bok Tower Gardens around 10:30 am last Sunday morning. I wandered along paths through the butterfly garden, children’s garden, and finally along the path to the tower.
I felt very free, almost blissful in my bright duds. The smiles and hello’s from the people I met verified my belief that the motto, “be yourself”, is uplifting both for the participant and onlookers.
One emotion missing was embarrassment. I felt comfortable, therefore the people who encountered me felt comfortable. I felt positive and they felt positive.
Take a walk on the free side
I challenge you to find the freedom to be yourself this week. Put fear aside, let your hair down, or put your hair up. If it’s freeing to dress in heels to go grocery shopping, do it! Find one way that you feel free to be yourself and go for it.
As I sat on my second story deck, enjoying my first cup of coffee, I noticed a Great Egret perched on an old piling near the edge of the dock. He remained within my view, for over an hour as he patiently performed his morning ritual. This bird’s message about patience affected my entire day.
Nature is the Delivery System
I’ve always felt close to nature, enjoyed her beauty and found serenity in all aspects. It’s not surprising I find messages in the form of animals all the time. In the past I Googled “the spiritual meaning of…” and excitedly looked for the explanation that sounded accurate. Now I simply ponder what it means to me and the answer is there, in my thoughts.
Today the Message is PATIENCE
Why patience? Watching the egret this morning, I felt drawn to his behavior. He peered into the water at times, occasionally he stretched his long white neck until it was completely straight. The early morning sun illuminated his chest, neck, head and yellow bill. He seemed to stretch as if to gather more of the sun’s energy. Then he returned to his primary goal, catching his breakfast.
I found I needed patience throughout the day, more easily found through my message received from the egret.
Here are some of the events of the day that required patience.
The air conditioner wasn’t working properly when I got out of bed
My trainer was running late
I had little time left to get ready for another appointment
The usual traffic impediments
When I found a store associate, my desired items were at the furthest point away from me
The stoplight misfired adding to my time at the intersection
Here are some events that were gifts of my patience.
The air conditioner worked after installation of a new filter
I arrived 5 minutes early for my appointment
The appointment was on time and lasted a mere 15 minutes
I easily found a shaded parking space
Waiting at the stoplight gave me time for contemplation
My energy was positive all day
Patience and Living in the Moment
By focusing on practicing patience, I naturally lived in the moment. I felt no anger, whose source is past hurt. I felt no fear, whose source is the future. There was only peace in my body, mind, and soul. The Great Egret’s message about patience gave me a beautiful day and the promise of more beautiful days found through living in the moment.
I gifted myself with a walk in one of my favorite places, Bok Tower Gardens, and the Universe gifted me with a multitude of butterflies.
Family responsibilities kept me busy until late morning to finally start my walk around noon. As I surveyed the skies to gauge the need for an umbrella, a sea of light blue was a foil for an occasional fluffy white cloud. I opted to carry a full bottle of water to replenish the sweat I knew would serve to keep me cool, leaving my umbrella behind.
Choosing a Different Path
Rather than walk one of the older paths that lead toward the tower or Pinewood Estate, I chose to walk through the Wild Garden, where landscape designers have worked with a local native plant nursery to recreate the ecological zones that occur in Central Florida—Piney Flatwoods, Oak Hammock, Wet Prairie, And Bog.
As I walked through the Piney Flatwoods, the first zone, I was surprised to see so many blooming plants during the heat of early August. There were maypop (Passiflora), goldenrod (Salidago), and sunflowers (Helianthus). I saw an occasional yellow cabbage butterfly, but none close enough or still enough to photograph.
My First Butterfly
Rather than eating the nectar of a flower, my first butterfly, a monarch, was resting on an oak leaf in the transition area between the Piney Flatwoods and the Oak Hammock. He sat there a long time, giving me ample opportunity to focus my phone and capture a shot of him. Starting off again, I paused to look up and was rewarded with the striking silhouette of a large air plant (Tillandsia) against the cumulus clouds and the blue sky.
The Wet Prairie
Taking a left off the main walk, I entered the Wet Prairie. There were many yellow butterfly weed plants (Asclepius) and something quite small on a blossom just beyond the capability of my phone camera. “Why hadn’t I brought my camera?” I mused. As I looked more closely, I realized that this little creature was similar to the small butterflies I saw during my time volunteering for the Butterfly Count in Colorado, a member of the brush foots family, known as a phaon crescent butterfly.
Taking a few photos from too far away, I was disappointed with the results and moved along the wide elevated wooden path. I noticed a few plants in the distance that looked very much like cannabis. “That can’t be right.”
Meanwhile, two of the little crescents had moved along the path with me, performing their aerial dance among the ground ferns. Once again, I couldn’t catch them in a photo. Then one seemed to read my mind and know my desire. He landed almost at my feet, just off the path on a contrasting green leaf, resting with his wings open for a perfect shot. I felt so lucky to have two photos of butterflies less than halfway through my walk.
Here at the edge of the Wet Prairie, just before the Bog, I came across the cannabis imposter in full bloom. The large red petals and large center spike with many stamens immediately identified it in the mallow family, which also includes hibiscus. There was no sign of the butterflies. Perhaps they had already visited the shimmering nectars before I arrived. Do you see a different type of insect sitting on the petal?
Many different species of pitcher plants (Nepenthes) greeted me in the Bog. It isn’t bloom time, but their hues of lime green and burgundy are always a delight. There were small tickseed flowers (Coreopsis) sprinkled about and woody St. John’s wort (Hypericum) along the drier edges. Yellow seems to be the primary color for native flowers here in August.
The Butterfly Playground
I took a shortcut along a service path where native firebush (Hamelin) had been planted in abundance. These orange and yellow tubular flowers are a favorite of the official Florida butterfly, the zebra longwing (Heliconius). A placard explained their habit of roosting together in the camouflage of the trees from dusk until mid-morning, in an effort to thwart birds looking for a tasty meal.
The air was thick as thunder rolled in the near distance, but I was transfixed by a multitude of butterflies—zebra longwings and much larger swallowtails (Papilio) immersed in an aerial dance above the firebush growing along the edge of the manicured garden. After trying unsuccessfully to catch a photo, I changed to video. There were at least five longwings cavorting among the pine needles and I managed to capture two of them. The swallowtails were always just out of the range of my lens, seeming to giggle at my attempts to film them.
Central Florida in mid-summer usually spikes above 90 degrees F with the humidity at 70% or higher. Sweat was dripping down my back and along my face. As the sky threatened, growing darker every minute, I spotted a gulf fritillary (Agraulis) in the gloom, posed against the fresh pale yellow paint on a stuccoed wall. I captured my last shot of a butterfly and made a beeline for the café and a cool glass of fresh Florida’s Natural orange juice.
Later, as I navigated the twisting road past the citrus groves of Mountain Lake toward the exit, visions of a multitude of butterflies danced in my mind’s eye, fresh memories to savor and share.