Flowers of Disney

Growing up on the Space Coast of Florida near the Port Canaveral home of Disney Cruise Line and just an hour from Walt Disney World, it was probably inevitable I’d become a bit of a Disney fan. Being so close, I’m sure I went to the parks at least a dozen times before I graduated from high school. When I moved away after finishing college, there was at least a dozen year gap before I returned with my six year old son, and could rediscover the parks through his eyes. From the rides, to the parades, to the hidden mickeys to the deep theming, I watched him find joy for himself as I had. Sharing in his experiences I found happiness there too. In high school, I never expected I’d be visiting Disney world as an adult much focusing on the flowers of Disney World.

Since that first return, I’ve been back at least another dozen times with my son. Now he is grown, and I continue visit, but now with my wife. On good days it is a place for us to escape the pressures of daily life. It is somewhere to be present without worrying about what comes next and to feel joy without judgement. However as a survivor of childhood trauma who lives with PTSD, the crowds can overwhelm, the enclosed queues can make me feel trapped, and frustrated parents yelling at their children can trigger me.

Fresh Orchids grace the lobby of the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World.

I’ve found my typical coping techniques can sometimes work in these situations, but not always. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a very specific distraction which I’m currently enjoying. I pay extra attention to the flowers of Disney. I find if I slow down a bit and try to notice, the detailed landscaping becomes more visible. I wander the parks with my camera handy in my backpack looking for flowers, and find they are everywhere.

Snapdragons almost under my feet in the hub as I wait for the Festival of Fantasy parade.

They offer calm in the middle of the maelstrom. They are indifferent to the lives of those around them. They only car about sun, water and soil. For years, I missed the thousands of blooms present in the parks every day. Then I started to look. Now I find planters everywhere full of common varieties – well tended greenery crowned with color.

Impatients covered with dew in the town square.

Sometimes I find something a bit more exotic. In either case, I pull my camera out and search for what catch my eye, for bursts of color which make me feel something. Then I carefully frame and capture them as closely to how I experience them as I can. I soak in the beauty around me which others walking by a few feet away miss. The calm focus helps keep me present.

Hostas along a path outside the entrance of Disney Hollywood Studios

I breathe, I absorb the calm, and feel better, ready for the next thing, able to be fully present. As my collection of photos grows, I’ve wondered – why not share them with others? So here some from my last trip, and hopefully there will be more to come. I want to share both my calm and my joy es expressed by nature’s fireworks close to the ground.

A bed of flowers in the Magic Kingdom.

Spring Forward

It’s the time of year when the world is warming and brightening in fits and starts. Grey skies follow sun warmed blooming flowers, both trailed by frost – it makes the senses spin and the wardrobe catapult back and forth from sweaters to shorts. This is a bitter sweet time of year for me as winter gives way to spring, with a promise of the summer so full of reminders of the things I don’t want to remember.

Sunset in late winter.

I love the edge seasons, the in-between, the becoming. Fall and Spring are my home in the quarters of the year. Perhaps because change fits me like the old sweater I wore just last week, or because like the capris of a couple days ago, they are the harbinger of things to come. Spring and Fall keep me on my toes wondering what is next. Perhaps it’s because they are neither too hot or too cold – extremes I no longer seem to enjoy much. Deep inside, I know long, hot summer days connect to things just below awareness, bringing floating fragments to the surface, a tingly crawling to my arms, and a shake to my hands. So I’ll linger in spring as long as I can in the momentary embrace of a safe season. Sometimes I’d rather not spring forward.

A wall of purple life in the brown of winter.

Last week the three giant Japanese Magnolia trees at the park next to our house were beginning their yearly display. Driving home I saw them blossoming forth through the misty overcast evening. Disappointed at the poor light of the late hour, and determined to capture some decent photos this year, I made a mental note to head out the next day with my camera when the sun was right and the weather favorable.

It actually took for days for everything to align, but I found myself stomping up and down the little hillside with camera in hand trying to do justice to the sea of buds just set to open. While I searched, a neighbor I’d not yet met saw me and wandered over to introduce himself. It turns out he organizes a local photography meetup group. His card in my pocket, I went back to what I was focused on, intent on capturing an image which would convey the feeling of facing a flood of color. I found myself working hard to stay in this moment for as long as possible even after I was sure I had what I’d originally come for.

Japanese Magnolia tree covered in buds

Then I walked with the camera for a bit to find another moment, but as the evening wore on, I wasn’t seeing much to capture eye and heart, so I headed home. My thoughts were wandering too far from the serenity of the blooms. I felt their pull to darker places, and without something to keep my attention I decided it best to be home if an unpleasant memory or flashback popped up.

Stepping back in the house, done for the evening, I set my camera on the table and headed to the back porch to check out the sinking sun. I found something unexpected in one of my wind chimes.

I love wind chimes, their sound, their look, their delicate swaying presence. I have a special spot in my soul for geode chimes specifically. I’m sure I’ll write about them some day and dredge up a picture of my first geode – the one I picked from a pile at a roadside stand outside of Yellowstone then handed to an overalled man who cut it in two on his diamond bladed saw. The idea of prehistoric gas bubbles trapped in rock was already up the alley of this budding science geek, but then when I looked inside… there were crystals – geologic art hidden inside a boring grey rock. I was hooked.

A geode holds our star in its core.

Here, perfectly aligned with the setting sun on my back porch, one of my geode chimes held our star in its crystals. The universe once again is reminding me to stay present, to pay attention, to see the wonders in front of me, and not to give echos of the past too much sway.