Happy Little Nature Rampage

From the Sanctuary:

Nature rampage lately…so healing to the psyche! First to Southwest Florida to explore with friends. My first day there they introduced me to their resident tree frog who peeked at me from their balcony bromeliad. Adorable beyond words! In the five days that followed we walked the beach, visited a nature park and drove to the Everglades, a destination that had been on my bucket list since I was five and read a story about it in Kindergarten. I wasn’t disappointed as we saw plenty of alligators and manatees. I ate fresh shrimp and tried Conch for the first time sitting at a picnic table by the water in one of the restaurants near the old City Hall. A teaser trip, I’ll be back.

Another highlight was our usual fishing outing which takes us from Bonita Springs out onto the Gulf of Mexico through narrow passages by small mangrove islands and inlets. My friend is an expert navigator and patient fisherman, baiting the hooks and freeing lines of those of us who aren’t the greatest at casting.  I catch nothing but the wind in my hair and sun on my face, but that is enough. The trip includes the pleasant surprise of a school of dolphins feeding near the shore. We slow up to drift between them and marvel as they surface close enough to us so we can hear the sound of the air escaping their blowholes. Magical.   I’m quiet on the way back, letting my thoughts drift peacefully and as pleasantly as the water, glad to be sharing this time in my Florida Happy Place with happy friends.

I returned to New York on a Thursday at midnight, due at Allegany Nature Pilgrimage on Friday afternoon.   Different wardrobe packed, I hop in the car headed for a weekend of scenic bliss and a prescription of workshops that include searching for spiders (led by a delightful nine-year-old bug enthusiast), butterfly catching, instruction at a beaver lodge and lesson on rattlesnakes (not nearly as dangerous as I suspected).   I was reunited with a retired friend from my UB Engineering days and had a relaxing night fireside with cabin neighbor family, a couple and their grown son.  We enjoyed our pleasant banter that included the perfect cheater microwave recipe for S’Mores in a pinch when you’re in the mood and there’s no fire to be found. Had reports of a pesky raccoon badgering (pun intended) campers for food, but he didn’t stop by my place.

The following weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday on day-long hikes with my Earth Spirit Educational Services family for the final sessions of a four-part series on herbalism field studies. By the end, I was much more adept at recognizing plants in different settings of Western New York forests, fields, creeks and ponds.   In all, we identified more than 100 plants, including a blooming Tulip tree, majestically looking like those flowering beauties in Florida. The ground looks different now, not just a place to walk upon, but a world to enjoy the endless gifts that Mother Nature provides in all of her purposeful greenery. As is the case with all Earth Spirit events, this one came with sentiments of true nature appreciation. When our educator introduced us to poison ivy he pointed out that although it has a bad reputation, all nature does what it needs in order to survive.   The more educated we become, the less fearful we will be. That was definitely true of my recent spider and rattlesnake lessons.  Reflecting, I also thought about people I have needed to forgive during my life, and I smiled in the moment thinking of them with love and a new understanding.   Perhaps that is true of humans as well…we behave in whatever ways we need in order to survive.

As I write this I am grateful to be back at my own sanctuary enjoying the bunnies chasing each other, great blue herons by the creek, sounds of the birds and the spotted fawn who appeared with Mom a couple of weeks ago sporting brand new wobbly legs. And I am happy.