Flutterbies

I went on an outing with the community garden club awhile back.  Among other things, we went to a natural history museum to visit a butterfly rainforest.  It was sensational.  The rainforest consisted of a room about the size of a fairly large movie theater.  It was filled with beautiful, lush, colorful plants.  There were butterfly feeding stations sprinkled throughout the room.  Innumerable wisps of gorgeous butterfly bits flitted randomly around the space- color and grace gone wild.  The museum’s butterfly whisperer gave a short educational presentation and released a newborn batch of flutterby beauty while we watched. 

One of the first things I noticed about the butterfly rainforest was that the air was weighty with delight.  Despite the fact that there were a sizable number of visitors in the area, the butterfly rainforest felt peaceful and mesmerizing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something gorgeous and enchanting to see.  I think butterflies must have some special endorphin that they secrete into the atmosphere because all the visitors stood around with huge, unrestrained grins on their faces.  Those butterflies generated joy.  Every now and then, a butterfly would light on a visitor. It happened to me once. It was kind of awe-inspiring…. as if the butterfly was God touching me with a tiny glimpse of the miraculous.   

As we looked around the rainforest, my friends and I talked about the different butterflies and which ones we liked the best.  Initially, all of us settled on a species of large, electric blue butterfly that almost glittered in its flight.  The color was so eye-catching and fantastical.  As we spent more time in the butterfly sanctuary, though, we started noticing other beautiful specimens.  I changed my mind about which I thought was most beautiful.  There was one species that was smaller in size and pure white in color.  When I looked closely at the wings, I saw that they showcased an intricate, delicate white-on-white pattern. The pattern on the wings looked like the most exquisite handmade artisan lace.   But you had to look closely to see it. 

Exploring further, we noticed a large species of butterfly with brown wings resting on a plant.  Again, looking closely at the wings, we saw a pattern of swirls and dots and curlicues in shades of brown.  The wings looked like soft, suedey hand-tooled leather.  Again, beautiful craftsmanship, but not necessarily flashy and eye-catching.  Then, the brown butterfly spread its wings and took off in flight.  We discovered that this “brown” butterfly was actually one of the striking electric blue butterflies.  When at rest, with wings folded up, the butterfly appeared to be brown.  When the butterfly opened up and showed the other side of its wings, it revealed a spectacular, sparkling surprise. 

So here’s what I learned from my day with the flutterbies: 

1.    The beauty of butterflies can touch you and give you a sense of God’s miraculousness.

2.    Sometimes, butterfly beauty is more than flashiness and you have to look closely to find it.

3.    No matter what you see on the outside of a butterfly, there may be another whole layer of beauty on the inside. 

I guess butterflies are a lot like people. 

Have you ever been to a butterfly rainforest?  Did you see any similarities between butterflies and people?  Please tell us what you learned!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a fluttery day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Vacationing To Versus Vacationing From

Some time back, I posted a blog piece discussing the concept of vacationing after retirement.  You can review it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/vacations/.  I asked whether you can still call it a vacation when you no longer have a job from which to vacate.  After considering the routine of my post-employment life and the activities I enjoyed on a couple of trips Max and I took after retirement, I concluded that the word “vacation” is still appropriate.

Recently, we visited Williamsburg, Virginia. There is something about the whole vibe of Williamsburg that relaxes me, reduces my physical and mental pace, and delights me.  Max and I have been there together three times now. Each time, we have highlighted different sights and experiences.  We repeat some activities, but, for the most part, each visit has been different. This time, we experienced a rather impressive number of new adventures.

If I had to put a label on the theme of this trip that made it different from prior visits, I’d probably say that this trip focused on “immersive” experiences.

We went to a reenactment of an actual colonial trial.  We’ve done that in the past. This time, though, I volunteered to play the part of the plaintiff. As wild and madcap and uncharacteristic as it was for me to willingly put myself at the center of attention, I actually enjoyed myself.  And I did a really good job.  Just ask my new agent.

In the colonial city, we also participated in three “nation-builder” talks.  Three fantastically smart and incredibly brave historic interpreters channeled George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.  These gentlemen spent some time “introducing themselves” to explain who they were and into which specific time period we present day tourists had stumbled. Then, unbelievably, they took questions- any random questions from anyone in the audience (I know because I raised my hand and asked one).  It was mindboggling how much these guys knew.  What was even more incredible was how deftly they molded the massive quantities of data that must be filed away in their brains into coherent, conversational, and seamless answers to questions they didn’t know the audience would ask.  I was in awe.

Not only were these presentations impressive exhibitions of historical prowess, they were damned entertaining.  It was more than a mite chizzly in Williamsburg when we were there. The temperatures were in the upper 40s during the nation-building presentations and there was a less-than-gentle “brrrrr…eeze.” We sat in the cold and wind for 45 minutes for each of the talks. We were so mesmerized, we barely felt the blood freeze in our veins.

We ate dinner in one of the colonial taverns for the first time on this trip. We went to Christina Campbell’s, which is a restoration of George Washington’s favorite restaurant in Williamsburg.  I say that I have the eating habits of your typical four-year-old.  If a four-year-old won’t eat it, I probably won’t either.  At Christina Campbell’s, I even pushed the boundaries of my non-adventurous eating.  I tried the spoonbread.  I didn’t like it, but I got into the spirit of the thing and tried it.

Our “immersive experiences” did not stop at the colonial city.  We also visited Busch Gardens.  Our main objective for this excursion was to go on two special animal tours. During those tours, we interacted with Clydesdales, border collies, sheep, and wolves. What made the tours even more special was the fact that Max and I were apparently the only two people in the park more interested in animals than roller coasters.  On both tours, we were the only two participants.  We had private Clydesdale, collie, sheep, and wolf training lessons.  I got to pet a Clydesdale, shake hands with a border collie, feed a sheep, and play tetherball with a wolf.  It was all pretty terrific, but I have to admit that asking a wolf to jump for her ball and throwing her hot dogs when she did so was over-the-top cool.

This trip really was very different from our other trips.  When I think about it, I realize it wasn’t different only because of the activities we enjoyed.  The concept of “immersion” went deeper than that. I felt more engaged and connected with the entire experience.

I think my “immersion” experience had to do with the whole work versus retirement thing.  When I was working, I looked forward to vacations with almost the same intensity of a dialysis patient waiting for a kidney. The fun of a vacation generated at least as much from what I was escaping as it did from the trip itself. I had to spend a sizeable portion of the vacation bailing work-related stress out of my saturated brain before I could notice the delights of what was actually going on around me during the vacation.  Then, there was the period at the end of the vacation when I was reigniting to go back to work.  Those periods at the beginning and end of the vacation were not unpleasant.  They were helpful and regenerating.  It was a personal and professional advantage to take that time to reset my brain.  The thing is, though, that it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing when engaged in those “decompress and regenerate” cycles.  My focus was on the process of resetting my brain, not on the process of experiencing new places, people, and activities.  Those new places, people, and activities were really just a backdrop to my own attempts to renew my brain.

Even after I retired, I think I still had the “vacationing from” mentality rather than the “vacationing to” mentality.  Taking care of my mother, even before she suffered the stroke, replaced my “regular” job.  I didn’t work as many hours at this “new job,” but I invested all my love and energy to create as beautiful an experience as I could for her.  In creating that beautiful experience for my mother, I also created one for myself, but doing so required energy and focus.  When I went on vacation during the time I was caring for my mother, I had as much need to concentrate on renewing myself as I did when I had a paying job.

I think this trip to Williamsburg might have been my first vacation that was really about the vacation itself.  It is kind of ironic that, after grappling with whether a pleasure trip is still a vacation after you retire, I should come to the conclusion that post-work vacations may be more pure vacation than those trips during career life.

Now that I no longer have to focus on renewing my worn-out brain during vacations, I find myself much more able to throw myself into the experience of the vacation itself. A vacation is now an event instead of a respite from events.   I can immerse myself in the novelty of the experience.  I can participate more fully in the “only on vacation” moments- the activities, the sightseeing, the food, the environment, etc.  Everything about the vacation seems somehow more “in focus” than when I took a vacation while I was working.  It feels like I was experiencing vacations in 2D when I was still working and now I can perceive the vacation third dimension because the part of my brain that shut down to destress while I vacationed from work is now available to process a richer, more complete experience.

I don’t know whether I would say that vacationing after retirement is “better” or “more fun” than vacationing while one is still working, but it certainly feels different to me.

What do you think?  Are vacations different after you retire?  What has your experience been?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Please also email me if you would like to join the launch party for my book,  Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In RetirementThere are still lines available for the conference call.  

Also, if you would like to get an early copy of the book, you can go to https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2076  to order.  If you use the promo code terri, you will receive a 15% discount.  Those of you who are attending the launch party, either virtually or in real life, may want to wait as I will be offering a larger discount for party participants.

Finally, Happy Mothers’ Day! I’ve been working on a Mothers’ Day post, but it just wasn’t coming together as quickly as I had hoped.  I decided I would rather do it just-ice rather than just-in time, so terrilabonte.com will be celebrating Mothers’ Day at some future date.  For those of you living in the real world, though…. have a warm, wonderful celebration of motherhood whether your mom is in this world with you or not.

Phew!!!!! Hope I haven’t exhausted any of you.  Please try to get some rest today, after reading this marathon!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Cranes In My Cranium

Recently, I wrote about my feeling that the “circle of life” might be more of a curved line in my case because I don’t have any children. Mona, one of our faithful readers and commenters, shared her perspective on the “circle of life” from her experience working in a hospital. She said that there were always new babies in the nursery when someone died elsewhere in the hospital. Her comment really resonated with me. It was a timely reminder that everything isn’t always about me all the time. Imagine my surprise and dismay! Still, even when reality is a bitter pill, it can have the power to heal.

A few days after I posted that piece, the Universe brought Mona’s point into even sharper focus for me. As I was driving through my community, I nearly drove off the road because of cuteness distraction. I saw my first baby Sandhill cranes of the season. Those of you who have been reading the blog for some time will understand my reaction. By the way, if you haven’t been following every blink of my rapid eye movement for the past couple of years, where have you been? If you would like to jump on the Sandhill crane express now, you can read http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/cranes/ .

Sandhill cranes are a bit of nature’s serendipity to me. I never expected to fall in love with them when I moved to Florida, but they never fail to lighten my mood. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had my eyes open because Momma and Daddy Sandhill cranes usually start prancing their new offspring around the development right about this time each year. Even with my keen anticipation, the sight of these new fluffballs on stilts flipped my equilibrium when I saw them. It was only by the grace of God that I did not flip my car as well.

The sight of those newborn cranes filled my heart with effervescent delight. I felt as bubbly and fizzy as champagne all morning. I was operating under the influence of baby cranes, a condition which surely must alter the state of the mind. In fact, by the afternoon, I didn’t think my day could get any more whimsical and entrancing.

But wait, there’s more. Later in the day, I was driving down a highway to a doctor’s appointment. I turned off the main road onto a smaller street to get to the medical building parking lot. Almost immediately, I noticed a very official-looking sign on the side of the road proclaiming, “CAUTION! BABY CRANE CROSSING.”

I know, right?

I parked the car and walked over to get a better look at the sign. Apparently, the question is not only why does the baby Sandhill crane cross the road, but where. Somebody was taking no chances with baby Sandhill crane safety. There were at least five such cautionary signs spaced out along the road. It was pretty charming.

When I saw the doctor, she asked me how I was. I told her I was wonderful and related my Sandhill crane sighting stories with great delight. She looked at me rather oddly and suggested that perhaps it was time to cut back on the anti-depressant.

Today, I was running errands and happened to notice another Sandhill crane family parading around a schoolyard I was passing. The momma, daddy, and two baby cranes were promenading in perfect unison. They instinctively adjusted their strides to form perfect lockstep ranks and files. I wish I had been a crane when I was in the junior high school marching band.

What a wonderful day! The sight of those cranes put a soft, slippery smile on my face that has been there ever since. It is a smile that suggests I have a precious, heart-filling secret.

I do have such a secret. My Sandhill crane friends have taught me something. My life is not a circle. And that’s okay. My life is a small dot on the circumference of a much huger continuum. And that continuum is the circle- the circle of life.

What about you? Does Nature ever put you in your place and make you realize that there is more to the world than just you? Won’t you tell us about your experience? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a beautiful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I am kind of surprised that I have only heard from a couple of people about a spot at the virtual launch party for Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. Of course, I know that you all have lives that do not revolve around me and the publication of my book. I understand if you cannot join us or if you just don’t want to participate. A couple of my friends suggested, though, that some of you might not have a good understanding of what you would be getting into if you come to the virtual party. When I was working, I swear it felt like I existed more in virtual life than in real life. I guess I forget that not everyone spent thirty plus years with a phone growing out of his or her ear. I thought I’d give you some more info on what to expect if you come to the party.

Step #1: Email me at terriretirement@gmail.com to let me know you would like to attend. I will reply to you with a telephone number you can call from any phone, toll-free, a little before 4:00pm EDT on Saturday, 5/19/18. I will also give you a participant code.

Step #2: At party time, you will call the phone number I’ll provide you in my response to your email. An automated voice will prompt you to enter the participant code. Once you do that, you will be on a phone call with the other virtual guests, me, and the folks attending in real life. You will be on speaker phone, but I will give you instructions on how to mute your line at the beginning of the call, if you would prefer.

Step #3: Enjoy! We will have a couple of drawings for REAL prizes- no virtual teddy bears! I will do a reading from the book and field questions from the participants. During the event, one of my lovely assistants will be emailing you photos and coupons and information on how to purchase the book. If you don’t wish to get the emails, all you need to do is let me know. You are still welcome to join us.

There is no charge to you for the party and the process for joining is simple. I am limiting the number of spaces for virtual guests because of budgetary reasons- and also just to make sure it doesn’t become a crazy free-for-all. Right now, neither of these issues should be a problem, so please email me today at terriretirement@gmail.com if you would like to join us so that I can give you the call-in info and get you on my list.