It’s time to leave the safety of the capsule to once again set foot on the planet. Now that Joe and I are both fully vaccinated and have waited the two-week post-jab period, this is our exact thought as we make arrangements to re-acclimate ourselves to a COVID-weary world.
It’s a weird feeling to re-enter society, especially as my thoughts are with other parts of the world still battling the virus while the anti-mask/anti-vax movement in this country doesn’t exactly make me feel comfortable about leaving our safe space. Since it’s been over a year since Joe and I began our strict self-imposed quarantine/isolation/distance/lockdown/exile, I have to wonder what it’s going to be like to interact with people while keeping COVID anxiety at bay and not feeling the constant need to breathe into a brown paper bag.
To date, we’ve taken small steps, smaller than those of the turtle above. Our first one was Thai takeout, eaten in our backyard. It was the first meal that neither Joe nor I have cooked since we removed ourselves from the outside world. Then, a fully vaccinated friend invited us to a backyard BBQ with about six other fully vaccinated people. We actually hugged other people and saw smiles not hidden behind masks. With light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, it’s the small things that truly matter.
Our next major outing was a field trip to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, a 3-acre subtropical jewel hidden in plain sight across from the convention center in that city. Good things, it’s been said, come to those who wait — and this was quite the wait. We had planned on visiting here in April 2020!
With a Japanese garden, native garden, orchids galore, as well as space for a small nursery, boutique, and rooms for cultural, art, and educational events, the MBBG packs a lot into a relatively small space. Because of COVID, it also has limited access and strongly suggests masks.
One of the most impressive and mesmerizing areas was the native garden, which hosts the largest number of Atala butterflies, a Florida native, I’ve ever seen at one time — fluttering, flittering, and flying. This picture (below) captures only a few of the black-winged beauties.
About a hundred years ago, when Miami Beach gained popularity as a playground with palm trees, the property was actually a golf course. Over time, though, it became an overgrown, vacant lot. In ’62, the city re-developed it into the Garden Center, a city park across from the newly constructed Miami Beach Convention Center.
The site again deteriorated. Then in ’96, a group of concerned residents and gardeners approached the city to create the Miami Beach Garden Conservancy, a non-profit group charged with restoring the garden. The effort is now a public/private partnership that embraces the environment through education, stewardship, and sustainability.
It took us just under two hours to finish the visit. Although the calendar said April, it felt more like a white-hot, mid-summer day. Fortunately, for us, a canopy of tall trees, hats, some SPF protection, and an ocean breeze kept us cool as we wandered the garden path and discovered that life could feel almost normal.
Milestone: 10-Year Blogoversary
In the midst of putting this post together, I was notified by WordPress that my blog had reached a milestone: Nitty Gritty Dirt Man turned 10. That’s a lot of plants and pictures and words — lots and lots of words.
A lot has changed over these ten years. I’m gardening in a whole new zone, for one thing. I also have a lot more gray hair, so much so that when I catch a glimpse of myself in full sun, my head looks like it’s glowing. I also think it’s becoming more difficult to stay focused, particularly on this blog — and I wonder if this could be the result of retiree brain.
Still, Nitty Gritty Dirt Man has been a wonderful adventure. After staking my small plot in blogland, I quickly learned that I was joining this incredible neighborhood — and how rewarding it’s been to have talked to other gardeners and bloggers over the garden gate. Many I now consider friends.
I’m also happy to say that after ten years, this blog still amazes me. Recently, a writer from Celtic Life International contacted me for her cover story. The magazine was putting together a Pride issue, and she was assigned the task of writing about the LGBTQ+ community and Celtic culture. She needed someone to represent the bagpipe angle and had hit a brick wall — until she discovered an old blog post of mine — because old posts never die. The issue is now available, and I’m so proud and humbled to have been a small part of her article.
I guess what I really want to say, no matter if you’re an old friend or a new reader, is thank you. I have truly loved sharing my life and garden with you, and I look forward to continuing — retiree brain permitting.