While traveling in Florida, we made a special trip to my mother in-law’s near Tampa. The first thing the kids wanted to do was swim in the pool. Why not? It was Florida in the summer! When I realize that I had packed everyone’s swimsuit but mine (occupational hazard: mothers pack themselves last), I figured this was a sign that the rest of the group needed some “family time.” So, I grabbed my camera & began a hunt & find mission around the neighborhood.
My first inspiration were the beautiful tropical flowers. Nearly every yard had something different in bloom. The landscape was lush & green with pops of color, here & there.
Bees, Butterflies and Reptiles, Oh My!
I made my way through the neighborhood collecting photos of the enchanting flora, often surprised by the numerous little lizards that would appear & disappear in my path. I shifted my focus to catching a few shots of these playful fellows. It was like a game of cat & mouse. I swear they were working together. One would pop out ahead of me & as I got close, another would jump out behind me, distracting me long enough for the other to get away.
As I continued to be their muse, I noticed that the chase had led me to a large green yard with butterflies gliding over. I was curious that they were landing in the grass instead of on the abundant blossoms. This was different behavior than I was used to observing up north. I stealthily stalked these fritillary gems across the open yard, breathing slowly & evenly. There was no where to hide myself as I moved in for a closer shot. Whenever possible, I would put one of the few trees between us to camouflage my approach. It wasn’t easy to get close to them. Along the way, I found this great tree with long dripping clusters of flowers that nearly reached the ground. They swayed in the breeze like a long ladies gown. The shape reminded me of our weeping willow tree, but with flowers. It was covered in bees. I wondered how the residents kept from being stung when or if they walked by.
An Early Planted Seed
The process of discovering & photographing these fleeting moments in nature became a meditation in & of itself. I realized as I made my way through my nature walk that I was subconsciously using techniques I had learned as a child. My mom had taught me directly & indirectly to be at peace around animals & nature. I mentioned previously that we lived on a small farm & that I had been around animals my whole life. I was riding horses before the age of three. My mom taught me to relax on the horse and not be afraid. She explained that a horse could sense fear. Of course I was afraid at first, I was a small child on a huge animal. But, it didn’t take long for me to be able to slow my breath, calm my fears & tune into my animal. I had no idea then that this was the same philosophy of yoga & meditation which I enjoy today. Maybe that lesson was a precious seed planted many years ago that still influences me today?
I think it was a gift to start so young, because I didn’t have any past experiences (i.e.; baggage) that kept me from believing that if I was calm, my horse would be calm as well. Ignorance really was bliss. The truth was, it did work. I got to know my horse, Sally & she got to know me. We had a wonderful working relationship for many years. We won numerous ribbons and trophies together. She was also the one I went to when my parents were fighting and my world wasn’t making sense. We had a bond.
I spent a lot of time in the barn where I applied the same philosophy. I could easily be in the animal’s space without scaring them. They would interact with me and I would quietly observe them. I simply became part of the landscape.
I’ve grown to appreciate these precious moments in nature. They can happen in anywhere. I honestly believe that they are gifts from above. For example, one day during our visit in Tampa, we went to the home of one of my mother in-law’s friend. We were sitting on her screened porch visiting when I observed a little bird cowering under a bush. It was obvious that he was not sure if he should be very still or try to run for it. As I got closer, I could see that it was a young mourning dove. I began to look around to see where it came from & if it was ok. I found a nest hidden inside the bush above where it was hiding. I am not sure if it was his nest, but it seemed logical. I was reassured that the bird was okay when he took a short flight away from me as I tried to get a closer shot.
A canal meanders along the back of the neighborhood complete with a kayak launch. You know that I had to spend some time exploring out there. I could see from the road that there was all kinds of life in & near it just waiting to be photographed. plant life in and near the water.
Dragonflies danced all around the dock. There were numerous varieties, but I have never seen a bright red one like this before. While trying to track these darting dragonflies as they quickly passed and landed on the aquatic plants, I noticed these millions of tiny fish eating at the surface of the water. Can you see the little guys? Their school created a rippling on the otherwise still water. We had been told that the residents had occasionally found manatees & alligators in this canal. I was being very cautious. I was both relieved & disappointed not to find either this day.
Forgetting my bathing suit turned into an opportunity to discover many of Tampa’s natural treasure
s. Check out my gallery from the day.