Take a Walk in a Public Garden

Revisit a Favorite Garden

It had been a week since I’d visited my favorite place, Bok Tower Gardens. Puttering in my own garden wasn’t enough. I needed to walk in nature too. On the way to the grocery, I took a side trip to the public garden, handed over my membership card at the front gate, drove the winding road past citrus groves, longleaf pine forest, and parked beneath the shade of a live oak. Opening my door in the climate controlled environment I was assaulted by the air heavy with humidity from the previous day’s much-needed rain. Quickly I grabbed my backpack, stuffed in my wallet and pocketed the iPhone.

Notice by Being in the Moment

As I walked under the arch with the quote, “Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” I pondered my own life. This quote had been a part of the gardens since it opened in 1928. As a child, I read it in various locations every time my family and I visited. Perhaps it influenced my lifelong love of gardening, especially flowers. Or maybe this place calls me because I have the same philosophy. I just knew I was happy to be in the midst of the beauty this garden offered. As I continued along the walkway outside the visitor center, the “What’s in Bloom” table caught my attention. My head bent, I inhaled the heady aroma of the gardenias in a vase flanked by pentas and firebush, picked that morning from the gardens by one of the many volunteers. Sometimes I would spend my visit hunting for the blooms on the table. Instead I felt I needed to forgo formal gardens and walk among the native plants.

Follow Your Gut Instinct

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Southern Magnolia
Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary

Just past the Pollinator Garden, I entered the large oval, my first intersection. I checked my inner voice for direction. It led me left, fragrance once again pulling me forward toward a towering Southern Magnolia tree. As I continued toward the wild gardens I saw Gulf Fritllary butterflies as they flitted about above the native purple passionflower vine, Passiflora incarnata. I looked under the leaves with holes eaten hoping to find a caterpillar, bright orange with black spines, without success. The adults, however, gifted me with opportunities to photograph them, pausing just long enough to snap these portraits.

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Close Your Eyes and Listen

On the edge of the Wild Garden I heard the “Chee-wink” call of an Eastern Towhee. It brought back memories of my grandmother who lived next door. She taught me the names of all the flowers in her garden and the feathered visitors. The call of the Towhee always made her smile. As I searched nearby trees I found the less colorful female perched on the limb of a sumac, the male furiously vying for her attention. Next my wanderings led me into the nearby bog where carnivorous pitcher plants fed on hapless flies and ants. A native milkweed bloomed among the native grasses, the leaves a larval food for the Monarch Butterfly progeny. It reminded me how vital it is to include native plants in the home landscape, natives for natives. Bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, and birds are all dependent on native plants for food and shelter. As homes replace the native meadows, bogs, and forests, we help the native animals survive when we add native plants to our gardens.

Native Milkweed
Native Milkweed
Pine Ridge Trail
Pine Ridge Trail

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How are Native Gardens and Designed Gardens Different?

Finishing out my hour in nature, I walked the gravel section of the Pine Ridge Nature Trail. I was surprised to see Turkey Oak leaves turning red in June and realized it was the current drought that forced these trees into early dormancy. The trail wound back into the Edible Garden joining the main trail toward the Visitor Center and entrance. My spirit renewed and a little damp with perspiration, I paused to drink water from my day pack, and turned back toward my car and the resumption of my morning errands.

Take Your Renewed Spirit Into the World

As I parked under a strip mall parking lot tree, the prospect of my errands seemed lighter and my smile brighter as I gathered my reusable bags, and entered the local Publix grocery, where “shopping is always a pleasure”, especially after a visit to the garden.

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Living in the Moment

Yesterday I accompanied a friend, Susan Swern, on her eight hour round trip to Aspen. Her goal in town was to speak to an art dealer and an autograph expert. We both love road trips, so it was perfect. She is also my eating coach with Eating IQ. At various times during the drive, she asked me to join her in an exercise in “Living in the Moment”.

“For 5 minutes, observe the scenery. Just notice.” she said.

I thought, that will be easy. Boy was I wrong! Everything reminded me of my husband who had passed 18 months earlier. Tears streamed down my cheeks. We talked about how my thoughts were intruding, bringing in sadness.

She said, “You control your thoughts. Let’s try again.”

The second time was easier. I saw the fences in the snow and noticed the posts were thick, then thin, then thick. My thoughts invaded again. “I remember learning to draw perspective with fences and telephone poles when I was practicing drawing as a girl.” Oops! Those thoughts are persistent! But it also reminded me how I would always be in the moment when I was drawing or painting. Hours would pass without notice. Only the act of drawing was reality.

The third time was the charm. We were in Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River slowly flowing west, dark against the snowy shore. Red rocks formed the canyon walls with tall dark spruce clinging to cracks with a backdrop of bright white snow. I achieved the joy of Living in the Moment by simply observing what is.. now. Ahhhh.

The Year of the Monkey

I remember how much I enjoyed reading about the Chinese zodiac on the paper place mats in the Chinese restaurants in small Florida towns. Do they still make those place mats?  Now I make my own Asian food or order take-out. My Chinese zodiac animal is the Water Snake, which is perfect for me as I have always loved snakes. My childhood was spent in the midst of a citrus grove on the shores of a Florida lake, a perfect location to see snakes. I’ve never felt the fear most people experience. Instead I have an intense curiosity and feel gratitude for every snake that crosses my path.

Monkeys are very different for me. They always bothered me somewhat, screaming as they swing from branch to branch in zoos or as a child, watching the escapees in the trees surrounding Silver Springs, Florida.  My Italian-American mother-in-law had a pet monkey who liked to throw his feces at people he didn’t like. Thankfully, this monkey was no longer in residence during my visits. The horoscope for Snakes is pretty good during this Year of the Monkey. Maybe monkeys are OK now.

Reading about the 2016 Year of the Monkey, I’ve learned new things about the Chinese New Year calendar.

  • The idea of compatibility based on your horoscope originated with the Chinese zodiac.
  • Celebration of the Chinese New Year is complex. February 7th is the Eve,  the 8th is the Day and the 22nd is the Lantern Festival.
  • If your Chinese zodiac is the Monkey, this year is thought to be unlucky for you. How to be lucky in your zodiac year.
  • Each zodiac animal is associated with one of the five elements. In 2016, the Monkey is associated with Fire.
  • If you were born in the  Year of the Monkey, your personal traits are witty, intelligent, ambitious, and adventurous.