A whimsical morning exploring “Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden” in Coral Gables, with a beautiful butterfly experience inside the “Wings of the Tropics” exhibit at The Clinton Family Conservatory.
Tears filled my eyes when I walked through the pressure-locked doors at the butterfly exhibit inside “Fairchild Tropical Garden.”
Partly because of the breeze the doorway created, but also because of my emotional vulnerability.
I was still dealing with the trauma of James and Rigby being attacked by three unleashed Rottweilers. I wrote about the horrific event in my last blog (Life is Beautiful).
Even though it happened almost two weeks ago, I still couldn’t shake it. James wasn’t quite himself either and don’t get me started on Rigby; just looking at the poor thing is painful.
So there I was, still feeling unhinged about life, when I walked into one of the most special things I’ve ever experienced — “Wings of the Tropics” — one of “Fairchild Garden’s” most popular exhibits. Simply put, it’s a sea of exotic butterflies. It’s absolutely magical.
The exhibit, which is lush with greenery, has a long path winding its way through an exciting journey of nature. As you walk through, you see hundreds of exotic butterflies dancing, fluttering and sometimes landing right on top of you. They apparently like the taste of human sweat. It’s a salt thing.
I was lucky enough to experience what they call a “release”, where they carefully place butterflies on your arms and shoulders. It was exciting to see them so closely and feel the pitter-patter of their feet against my dewy skin. The conservatory is kept extremely warm and humid, recreating their natural environment. OMG, I had no shortage of salty sweat, meaning the winged ones loved me, hence the blog entitled “Wings of Summer.”
After experiencing the release, I realized I had been completely in the moment. Present. Even if it was brief (and it was), I somehow managed to escape the deep sadness I had been feeling after the dog attack. James and Rigby are my everything and when they got hurt, I felt helpless and for whatever reason, I was angry, too. Nature was comforting me. Extending a healing branch, if you will.
When I left the conservatory, I felt a slight shift in my demeanor and enjoyed touring the garden grounds. There’s so much to see and do: with 83 acres of lush tropical plants, trees and everything in between, it truly is a one-of-a-kind experience and for good reason…
In 1938, the garden was carefully curated by the late Dr. David Fairchild. The famed plant explorer went all over the world to procure what you see in the garden today. Conserving the world of tropical plants isn’t easy, but he built it allowing everyone to enjoy what he loved and man, is it spectacular!
Over the years, I’ve written quite a few blogs on butterflies. One of my more popular ones, “45 Days and Nights of Black Butterflies”, was about healing after being sick with GBS. I repeatedly dreamed of butterflies all around me, coming out of me. I would float, flutter and eventually free myself of illness.
After I became well, I developed a healthy obsession with what the winged ones represent: transformation, resurrection, change, hope and life.
Having a chance to see the butterfly exhibit meant more than I can possibly explain. It’s hard for me to tear-up; as an entertainment reporter/host I’ve see a lot in my life. It was a crescendo of happiness. Also…
The metaphor isn’t lost on me: holding the beauty of life and then releasing it isn’t just about healing, it’s about enduring and becoming a better person in the process.
And that’s why “Wings of Summer” is one of my Favorite Things. 🦋
PS. James is getting better, still a bad puncture on his left hand and his knees are finally scabbing up. Rigby? Well, he finally got his stitches out and is playing with a few of his new toys. 👫🐶❤️
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, Florida 33156
Admission: Seniors 65 & over $18, Adults $25, Kids 6-17 $12, Children 5 & under Free
Fairchild Members: Free
(for more information: 305-667-1651)
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” — Audrey Hepburn
For more pictures visit www.ShireenSandoval.com.
James Woodley Photography
Butterfly Dress: ETXART & PANNO, MIAMI — IG: @extartpannous
Butterfly Ring: Jill Zaleski Custom Jewelry — IG: @jillzaleski
Vintage Flower Earrings: A gift from my mother (who was gifted them by her mother)
Hair & Make-up: Odett Hernandez
Digital Editor: Jessie Neft-Swinger
Editor: Matthew “Salt Thing” Auerbach
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