Sunny Florida

They always used to say “sunny Florida,” even though it rained most days. It rained just a little yesterday as we finished driving through Mississippi, zipped through Alabama without buying anything, and then spent a very long time on I-10 looking at trees.

We’d had a nice night in a cheery hotel in Pascagoula, MS the previous night. We knew we were no longer in Austin, because everyone commented on all of our hair.

Muscovy ducks that aren’t ugly.

Further down the road, we got ourselves this little gator, Swampy the Interstator Gator, at an extra-racist Stuckeys we stopped at to get the candy bars of our youth (Chunky Bars and Slo-Poke!). He’s our travel companion.

We all had fun.

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A Strong Sense of Place

Prior to finding the Hermits’ Rest, I knew it was possible to have a physical attachment to a specific location. I may have written before about how my body feels better when I’m in the place where I grew up, in Florida. Is it magnetism? Pleasant memories? A placebo effect?

I don’t know, but I’ve become attached to our ranch just like with Gainesville. When I get to the creek, my body relaxes and the clutter lifts from my mind. Just like that.

One possible explanation is that I really knew the plants and animals, the weather patterns, the sounds, and the smells where I grew up. And over these past years, I’ve become that familiar with the ranch, working pretty hard at it with all my Master Naturalist classes and book learning. Oh yes, and just by being observant. Doing this has made me a part of this place.

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Wasp Watching

Be prepared for lots of writing, it I think I’ve spewed forth enough deep thoughts for a couple of days.

This morning, I was trying to get some exercise before a long car ride and I suddenly realized I was about to step on at least five wasps. What the heck?

I looked around and the area in front of the ranch house was covered in wasps, all flying around a few inches above the grass. They weren’t swarming, just bopping around.

A good old mud dauber.

There were two types out there, mud daubers and great black wasps. I could only get a picture of a mud dauber. That’s too bad, since the black ones are beautiful.

Yay, I found a black wasp picture that’s public domain!

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Blessings/Prayers: A New Understanding

I’m confused

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of being blessed, praying for others, and sending out prayers. That’s kind of a weird thing for me to be thinking about, to be honest, since I have been an agnostic for most of my life, and not someone who “believes in” a particular deity.* Organized religion has always made me uncomfortable, even when I was actively participating in Unitarian Universalism and getting a lot out of membership in my church.

Am I possessed by a demon?

I have had a real issue with “praying” my whole life, which has led me to examine my own prejudices and beliefs. I have a visceral reaction when people talk about praying about a situation or for a person. Why is that?

(And why am I illustrating this post with filters applied to my face? I guess to bring something funny to a serious musing.)

Prayer perceptions

Back in the days of childhood, I went to Sunday School, basically because everyone in my working-class Gainesville neighborhood went to Sunday School. We got to be Presbyterians, because that was the closest church that wasn’t Catholic (Mom had issues with her upbringing). So, I listened to those nice people pray a lot. They always asked God for stuff, so that was what I thought praying was for. I always thought I ought to at least try to get stuff for myself.

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Book Report: Educated: A Memoir

Here’s the book. Buy it if you want to read it!

I’ve just plowed through the latest North Cat Villas book club selection in record time. If there’s one thing I can say about this book, it’s that you have a hard time putting down Educated: a Memoir, by Tara Westover.

Anita and I were just discussing the cover, and we decided it’s a winner. I feel a bit silly that I didn’t realize the pencil is a picture of a girl on a mountain (the mountain is my favorite character in the book, too!). I enjoyed a story about what meetings about book covers were like when she worked in publishing. That pencil should be yellow! People expect a yellow pencil! No one will understand that woman (or see it)! Etc. We are glad the cover artist got their design through.

Note: I am going to share some details about the events in the book, so skip if you don’t want spoilers. But I honestly don’t think knowing any of this would detract from enjoying Educated.

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Guest Post: The Baby Magnolia

By Bonnie Roberts

Today I’m sharing a story my friend Bonnie shared when I asked for what brings people joy. I loved it so much that I want to share it with you all. Here’s her little tree’s story:


I recently planted a native Sweet bay magnolia, along with some other native plants in my yard. It is still a sweet, tiny tree. I did not expect to see blossoms this year, so was thrilled to see it has a couple of buds.

This flower has been working on opening for the past week. We have had a cold, rainy month in Maryland.

The slow, patient opening of this flower has made me stop and appreciate that we need to allow ourselves to take the time necessary in order to accomplish things. Be kind and patient with your self and your grief.

Sweet bay magnolia working on a blossom.

Grateful for Insights

I was feeling pretty crummy today. I guess grief hit me hard.

This Horace’s duskywing butterfly reminds me of how things get better no matter how dark it is

I asked my Facebook community friends to share things that brought them joy recently, thinking it might help. I was smart. It did help. I highly recommend reaching out and asking for help when you need it. It will remind you that people ARE good.

If you’re my Facebook friend, check out my post asking for joyful moments. All the happy babies, cute pets, fun stories, and nature observations remind you of all the beauty and love around us.

Sample cute baby, the amazing Ripley, who is getting her first teeth

How I’m Doing

Grief is hard, even when you intellectually know all about how it works. I hadn’t cried in so long that I couldn’t recall the most recent time. So I’d forgotten how much it takes out of me.

Being on Prozac for the last couple of years has helped me a lot, but I can see how it’s separated me from expressing some emotions. They’re there, but not all on top of me. It helps me from drowning in my empathic tendencies. But yow! When something breaks through it has physical consequences!

This mystery plant never bloomed last year, but it came back! Plus, lots of basil is coming back from last year’s plants

I have had the strange headache I used to often get. It feels like something gently squeezing the sides of my head. And I forget to breathe and end up gasping. That’s annoying. My words don’t come out well and I have trouble swallowing. Ooh, and let’s not forget the chest pains, my old friends! At least the weird neck tingling that used to really bother me hasn’t kicked in.

So, those are all my anxiety symptoms I used to live with every single day. How did I manage? How do others manage? I sure feel sympathy for them. If you have anxiety and are functional, you have my admiration.

This gerbera daisy got knocked back hard in the cold winter. It looks like a new plant now! I will also recover

I’m guessing I’ll feel better soon. Grief is normal and can knock you down. Soon the grief will bloom into love and warm memories of our canine friend, Brody.

The photos are all of my plants that have resurrected themselves after the winter.

I actually thought squirrels had murdered this poor plant, or the cold had killed it begonias are hardy, like me, I think!