Nature’s Artwork

I am imperfect. Everyone is. Yet every day I see commercials advertising beauty products and fitness programs to help men and women achieve perfection. Chasing dreams is one thing, striving for the impossible is ridiculous.

I have a great appreciation for nature. Nature is beautiful without even trying. The blazing sunrise, the changing leaves, the churning clouds, the glow of sunset. Beautiful without trying to be perfect. Nature just is what it is and if you don’t stop to see that, you’re missing out.

This past Monday morning started out beautiful with a pink cast to the clouds as the sun made its journey to rise over the hills. The sun shone ever so briefly before the dark clouds of the rapidly approaching cold front blocked it out. That contrast of darkness and light was stunning to behold. Nature wasn’t trying to impress me by puffing up its chest or slathering on makeup for a perfect complexion. Nature was just doing what it does.

I managed to take Jazzmin on a short walk as the front blew in and dropped the mild morning temperatures down 10 degrees. We walked into a field and to the top of the hill to get a better view of the dark clouds. I snapped a picture of Jazz with the turbulent sky as the backdrop and to my amazement, my camera phone captured the colors perfectly.

Jazzmin and the sky

Jazzmin and the sky

Later that evening after the rain had come and gone, I went out into the yard with my daughters to enjoy the last of the day. While we were outside I saw a monarch fly by and was surprised when he landed in one of my back pine trees. I’ve never seen a monarch do that before. He stayed on one branch for a long time and Jordan was nice enough to fetch my camera for me. I took several pictures of him and he stayed still until the very last one when I turned the flash on. He opened his wings just as the picture snapped and then flew higher into the tree and out of sight.

Monarch up in my pine tree

Monarch up in my pine tree

As I write this the sky is ablaze with orange, red, pink and blue. Another breathtaking autumn sunset in what has been a true season to treasure. There is just a sliver of the moon in the sky and brush strokes of clouds. Nothing compares to nature’s artwork and she always pulls it off effortlessly.

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Sunday in the Grass

While most of my neighbors were out busily mowing their grass today, I was out laying in it with my daughters. It was a nice sunny afternoon and with the cooler temperature there’s less bugs. Jordan helped me spread out the big, old comforter I always have in the back of my car and we all stretched out on it in the sun. As Mama Nature loves to mess with me the sun soon disappeared behind a large mass of clouds. It was still a nice day though so we stayed outside.

There was sun when we came out...

There was sun when we came out…

Jordan eventually wandered off in search of sticks and grass to weave into some sort of project. Jaycie rolled up half of the blanket like a little pea pod and I laid on my back looking up at the sky of clouds. The clouds were a dense blanket and there weren’t any discernible bunny, dog or flower shapes to pick out but it was still lovely. The roar of the neighbors’ mowers eventually subsided and the only sounds were the birds and bugs. Jazz was tied out nearby and she flopped down in the grass to enjoy the fresh air.

Jaycie the peapod

Jaycie the pea pod

Peaking out Jaycie

Peaking out Jaycie

There were lots of small butterflies fluttering around enjoying the sunshine and sipping on clover nectar. Honey bees and bumblebees were buzzing around the goldenrod gathering pollen on their back legs until they could barely move. They’re rather lucky they’re not allergic to goldenrod because my girls and I certainly are. Some days my eyes, throat and ears itch so bad I want to scream but instead I just sneeze, blow my nose and vow to remember my allergy pill at night. Even so, I’ll take this nice fall weather over the unspeakable season that comes after it.

Jordan trying to uncover Jaycie

Jordan trying to uncover Jaycie

Jordan trying to roll her sister up like a burritto

Jordan trying to roll her sister up like a burritto

I could have mowed today or trimmed my front bushes but I just wasn’t in the mood. Sunday doesn’t feel like a day that should be spent sweating and swearing doing yard work. I’ll tackle those chores later this week, they’ll still be waiting. Sundays are for sleeping in, making the girls pancakes from scratch for breakfast, hanging out in pajamas for too long, mixing up delicious apple cinnamon muffins for snacks and laying in the grass enjoying the autumn breeze. I did all that and I don’t feel like I’ve wasted the day. The slower moments count just as much as the busy ones.

Butterfly Sightings

While mowing my lawn yesterday I saw several butterflies, all different sizes and colors. There were tiny ones that looked like mini-monarchs and larger ones like the Yellow Swallowtail.  I had to bring my mower to a complete stop more than once to keep from running over the lovely little creatures. They didn’t seem the least bit disturbed by the roar of the engine or the grass spitting out the shoot.

One of the small butterflies in the grass

One of the small butterflies in the grass

Butterflies are more than just beautiful insects to me, they’re a symbol of renewal and hope. The summer after my father’s passing there was a bumper crop of Monarch butterflies. Every time I saw a Monarch I felt like it was my father watching over me. There were a couple that lingered into the cooler weather and one even climbed onto my hand when I found it huddled clutching to the grass unable to fly in the strong, cold wind.

The Monarch that climbed onto my hand

The Monarch that climbed onto my hand

Seeing butterflies as symbols can be somewhat traumatic though when I’m driving in my car and they fly in front of me. I can’t really swerve for butterflies safely. Last spring there was a huge migration of small brown and orange butterflies called Red Admirals. I was driving home from work one day and the air was filled with them. I couldn’t swerve to avoid them all and there were already several that had been hit and were blowing across the road and I started crying as I drove. They were just out flying, trying to find a mate and they were dying in large numbers. That was not a good afternoon for me.

I emailed one of my close friends about how awful that drive home was and he understood because he knew all about my love for butterflies and what they mean to me. That summer he took me to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory in South Deerfield, Massachusetts and it was an amazing experience! Being surrounded by so many different butterflies that were in no danger of being struck by cars or other moving objects was very healing for me.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, South Deerfield, MA

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, South Deerfield, MA

That experience was also a little bittersweet. I looked at all the butterflies around and I was trying to take pictures with my outdated Droid phone and I knew I wasn’t capturing their beauty. I knew my father would’ve been able to capture the wonder of it all on film and I began to keenly miss him. I am embarrassed to say that I sat on a bench and started crying. I had sunglasses on but apparently they don’t hide tears as well as I thought. My friend came over and comforted me as best he could and then an employee came over to ask what was wrong. She was carrying a large lizard and suggested that I pet him, so I did. The lizard then jumped down from her arms rather gracelessly and that made me laugh. I am not meant to be sad for long, my father doesn’t want that for me.

The lizard that leaped

The lizard that leaped

As my friend and I sat on that bench a brown and white butterfly landed on first his head for several minutes and then briefly landed on my hand as I held my phone. That was the only butterfly to land on me that day but it was enough. It was reassurance to me from my father and the powers that be that I was okay and that I was on the right path in my life.

Butterfly that landed on us

Butterfly that landed on us

I highly recommend a visit to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. It’s very educational for children and enjoyable for adults as well. There’s more to see than butterflies and you always have to be on the lookout for the button quail that dart about. Spend an hour there and escape the hectic pace of life to find a bit of peace among silently fluttering wings.

Several butterflies flying over the warmth of heat lamps

Several butterflies flying over the warmth of heat lamps

Tree frog showing me his best side

Tree frog showing me his best side

Glasswing Butterfly - one of my favorites!

Glasswing Butterfly – one of my favorites!

Should you ever see me walking along or mowing and I suddenly stop to look over at something, you can bet I’ve spotted a butterfly. I’m taking a moment to admire and appreciate the beautiful flying artwork created by the amazing imagination of Mother Nature.

Mistress of Mowing

Mistress of Mowing's Front Lawn

Mistress of Mowing’s Front Lawn

I’d never driven a riding lawn mower until I mowed the acreage of my new home in the summer of 2011. It took me 3.5 hours that first time and when I finished I’d made such odd-looking circular patterns the lawn resembled a golf course. I was tempted to stick some flags into the center of the various circles but I resisted. Regardless, I was proud of myself and enjoyed the experience. Almost two years later, I still like mowing my lawn.

Yes, I said I like mowing my lawn. Even on day’s like today when the battery was giving me trouble and the shed doors closed just after I started the mower which left me coughing in exhaust fumes. I then had a stern talking to the doors (hooked them open) plugged my battery into the charger and set about my morning, all the while wreaking of tractor exhaust. I didn’t see any point in showering when I still had to mow once the battery was juiced up. All that is not what I enjoy about mowing though.

When I finally did start mowing, it felt wonderful being out in the sunshine under the bright blue sky. The air was warm, there was an occasional breeze and the grass was finally dry enough that it didn’t bog down my mower. It’s still early in the season so my grass was only really deep in a few areas but I did the whole yard to give it a uniform start. I listen to music while I mow and quite often dance along to it. My neighbors undoubtedly think I’m insane for all sorts of reasons so I don’t see any harm in doing what makes me happy during chores. I occasionally pause in the shade to change my music or answer a text but otherwise I continue mowing.

There was one lone white butterfly flitting around the front yard as I finished that last 1/3 of my property. I adore butterflies and always take them as a positive sign of hope and renewal. There were few other bugs out thankfully and I didn’t have any other major issues mowing today.

When I get off the mower my whole body is still vibrating from the ride but eventually that subsides and I feel human again. I came inside and happily washed the mower stink off and dressed in comfortable summer clothing. I enjoy mowing but it isn’t my entire life and I don’t obsess over every little spot or insist on weed whacking every time. Mowing my yard is something that has to be done and I take as much pleasure in it as I can. I am not a master of mowing because I’m always learning but I am a Mistress of Mowing because I am skilled at being the keeper of my land.