It will be a cold day in H – E – double hockey sticks before I take no notice of the beauty around me, but generally, it’s on a hasty “drive-by” or a generic, “Oh, how beautiful!” or a mental note to come back this way and spend more time investigating and appreciating all that’s around us, no matter where we are. I think in yoga it’s called mindfulness or maybe it’s meditation of a sort, I’m not sure. I just know that when I take time to appreciate my surroundings, I feel better, as if the smoggy air inside has dissipated, and I don’t think it’s my mind playing tricks on me (yet!).
Have you ever been to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in “sort of” central Florida, but north of Lake O? I went with friends and while driving in, looked at the vast acres of prairie and a fleeting thought went through my mind… “Looks like there’s nothing much here…” My husband, on the other hand, a Florida native by the way, had a different view. “Did you know this is the last 50,000 acres of Florida that is undeveloped in any way? The rest of the 2,000,000 acres that was wild is now turned into pasture land, so this is pristine and original and that’s what makes it so special.” Ok, wow, I thought. I never knew that. “You mean there will never be any development here and it will always stay pristine for the people of Florida and visitors to see what the Florida landscape was really like?” I asked.
If you’ve ever had your significant other roll his/her eyes at a question you asked, multiply that by 100. His eye-rolling hit Mars and bounced back. Not spoiling for a confrontation in such a pristine setting, I let it go (but I may recall that at some point! Wink!).
We stopped by some of the informational signs and found out that Kissimmee Prairie was the last known sighting of the Carolina parakeet in the entire world. THE ENTIRE WORLD! What? What was a parrot or parakeet doing in Florida? Aren’t they native of warmer climes, like South America? To say I was shocked was an understatement! But it was true. This beautiful bird had a lovely life on the Kissimmee Prairie until its extinction – never to be seen again. Was it harvested for food? Its feathers? We’ll never know. Sad.
Getting back to the prairie, there’s more there than meets the initial eye. There is a campground. Honestly, I almost hate to share that information, but it’s beautiful and within walking distance of intriguing areas to explore. Yes, you have to reserve a spot and adhere to their “regs,” but so what? Do we want to preserve or ruin? No brainer, preserve!
Some of the impressive nature sights we saw by hiking and taking time to “see, smell, experience” the local environment.
There are so many beautiful natural places to explore in Florida and we are so fortunate to have them surrounding us. Take the time to experience the beauty before it’s depleted or destroyed. You’ll be glad you did.
Stay tuned for additional opportunities for exploration and peaceful fulfillment.
Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!