Throughout my life, I’ve learned the benefits of being a silent observer. When you close your mouth and open your eyes and ears, you learn a lot about the world around you. When you quiet your mind and calm your spirit, the world opens up to you in new and beautiful ways.
My ability to be still and listen proved to be an especially wondrous trait during my recent visit to Florida. I was walking one of the trails at the Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersberg when I had a rather adorable encounter. I’d just stopped to read one of the signs throughout the trail when I heard a rustling in the tall grass and palm fronds behind me. My first thought was that it was a squirrel because I’d already seen several during my visit. As I turned and peered into the grass though, I realized that the creature was much too big to be a squirrel. As it rustled around and emerged from the grass, I was overjoyed to see that it was a nine-banded armadillo!
Armadillos might very well be as common as squirrels for residents of Florida, but to me it was one of the neatest animals I’ve ever laid eyes on. I watched the little guy snuffle around in the underbrush digging for bugs and took several pictures with my phone and my normal camera. I stood very still as I watched him and not another soul came along the path the entire time he and I were in close proximity. Eventually he ambled right up to the path within two feet of me and strolled across, unfazed by my presence. Inside I was jumping up and down that he’d come so close to me, but on the outside I was still and calm…while wearing a huge grin on my face.
He eventually disappeared into the brush on the other side of the path and I knew I’d seen what I was meant to see while walking that path. I imagine my smile was bright enough to light up the gray, cloudy day and perhaps made the people I passed later on the path wonder about my sanity, but I didn’t care. I’d opened myself to whatever amazing and positive experiences Florida had to offer me and nature had happily delivered in the form of a peaceful encounter between a quiet girl and a friendly armadillo.