Tuesday mornings I go to the Naples Botanical Garden when it opens at 8:00, an hour early for members and people walking dogs. Today the skies are very grey and there is a chance of rain so I stayed home. I must miss this part of my winter routine because I have been thinking of the simple pleasures I experienced on my first two visits this year.
When the garden opened this fall, there was a new entrance, meeting room, an enlarged gift shop, and a restaurant. Last year I watched the buildings going up; I heard the noise behind the fences I walked past on my way to my favorite spot of the day. I had tried to envision what it would look like when it was finished. I felt like a child waiting for Christmas as I imagined what the new orchid garden would be like.
How exciting it is to see orchids hanging from trees – bright in color, subtle shades, some bold, some delicate. And the thrill of finding one in a pot almost hidden at a eye-level for all the little magical beings that tend the garden during the night. I bet they gather in the pouch for a nectar break.
The orchid garden is tucked between two buildings – a new place to explore. When I started to move towards my favorite parts of the garden, expecting to experience the pleasant calm that comes from the familiar, I became disoriented. They had designed and planted the new so it flows seamlessly into the old – but not the old garden as I knew it. I had moments when I felt lost, not knowing how to get from here to there even though I had walked it many times. Funny how changes in one part of our world, and our life, can shake up all other parts.
As I moved through the parts of the garden that were unchanged, I would stop and smile at the familiar. This river of grass gives an open view to the brackish marshes and open water that makes southern Florida such a unique habitat for a wide variety of creatures. The Naples Botanical Garden has built replicas of tropical gardens from around the world, but this part of the garden replicates the natural environment of the Everglades that covers most of southern Florida.
I frequently visit this area looking for the large wading birds but they haven’t arrived yet. I hope they haven’t been grounded in Ohio because of the nasty ice and snow passing through. Two duck having breakfast together gave me an excuse to sit and pause.
Sometimes I find that my goal of seeing the world and capturing the perfect image keeps me from finding pleasure in the whole of my experience. Sometimes I need to close my eyes so I can better feel the air and sun against my skin, to open my ears to the sounds of the birds. A deep breath centers me.
I continue to move through the gardens, within the old and familiar. But disorientation creeps in making me believe they have put in new walkways; even the old cracks in the cement can’t seem to make the way feel familiar. How strange to balance this excitement for new with my need for the comfort of familiar. I know that I will adjust to this new garden perspective but to escape the discomfort of change I embrace the excitement of the new. I head for the restaurant.
The Organic African Nectar tea is the best tea I have ever drank, and is a perfect compliment for a cranberry scone. It is early in the season so I am about the only person there which gives me ample opportunity to gaze at how beautifully the architect and gardeners blended the new with the old.
Maybe this is a lesson for me as I face the disorientation of new changes that come with aging and passing time, while finding comfort in the familiarity of the world I know. Yes, I can walk this path if I keep my eye on the simple pleasures. Thanks for walking with me.