Monarch Butterflies : Wonder Takes Flight

Last, but certainly not least, Monarch Butterflies.

monarch butterflies take flight

wonder takes flight

footsteps hit the ground
gravity holds me tethered
walking sticks and gear-filled backpack
firmly earthbound

surrounded by people
joined together
on the same journey
searching for wonder

faster than focus can follow
rising from trees
warmed by the sunlight
wonder takes flight

closing my eyes
thankful to be here
listening…breathing in and out
the magic of this moment

lifting…transformed
i stretch my wings
embrace the wonder
and dance with butterflies

We arrived in Angangueo, ate an amazing lunch (bottomless guacamole!!), and set our sights on El Rosario. After riding up the steep and narrow roads in the back of pick-up trucks with benches, we were greeted by enthusiastic children selling baskets woven from the local pine trees. The handcrafts were beautiful and I bought several a few days later, but now it was time find monarch butterflies. Horses were provided by the locals to carry us up the mountain. Each horse had a person to lead the way. Thank goodness! It’s been decades years since I’ve ridden.

Riding horses at El Rosario

The men have such great relationships with their animals. I’d hear kissing noises and my horse would speed up. It made me smile as I hung on tight.

Then we were off the horses and on the trail. Fernando told us not to be distracted by the occasional butterflies here and there, but it was hard not to be. Butterflies on the ground were drinking from a small trickle of water.

keep going…

click, click…

Monarch Butterfly

Not long after, we arrived at the viewing spot and could see incredibly large clusters of butterflies hanging on the branches of oyamel fir trees. There were also many of them flying around. How they don’t run into each other I’ll never know. This picture isn’t one of the clusters. It’s just a small gathering of butterflies. How many did we see? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were millions or at least hundreds of thousands.

monarch butterflies

Now, here are just a few of the clusters.

Monarch Butterfly Clusters

This isn’t really the best picture, but it gives an idea about the density of the clusters. How many butterflies are there in each one? Who knows. And…these clusters were just at the edge of the protected area. This goes on for acres.

Monarch Butterflies

Nature is incredible. This generation of monarch butterflies left Canada and the Great Lakes area of the United States, flying 3,000 miles to winter in Mexico. Considering they live for about six months, four times the average life span of Monarchs and have never been here is amazing. It was 4-5 generations ago when the last butterflies graced these mountains.

Monarch Butterflies

It was a magical moment that we repeated several times over the next few days. We visited the Chincua Sanctuary the next day and returned to El Rosario for our final experience. After taking photos, fellow travelers and I would sit quietly and these beautiful creatures would land on us. Sometimes when it was really quiet, we could hear the fluttering of their wings.

Somehow, I can’t think of them as bugs. They are just too beautiful.

And..who doesn’t want to fly?

and transform?

and add color to the world?

Days spent in a beautiful place with wonderful people… Life is good.

Hiking through the forest

And even time for a sundowner overlooking Angangueo. Wine always tastes better with a view.

Sunset over Angangueo

It’s hard to really understand being in the midst of so many active butterflies unless you are there. The video and slideshow is in progress and coming soon.

Adios!

Old Town Mexico City and Xochimilco

xochimilco

I woke up this morning excited to see Xochimilco, the water canals, and the market.

Andre, Delia and I talked about the day’s schedule that included a city tour. Trying to see everything in one day isn’t my style. I prefer spending time in a few areas observing people and savoring the surroundings.

Mexico City

After narrowing the focus of our day, we were able to spend more time in the key places we wanted to visit, beginning with the National Palace. It’s a beautiful historic building constructed almost 400 years ago. Among its most amazing features are the Diego Rivera murals, painted between 1929 and 1951 showing the history of Mexico.

Diego Rivera mural Mexico

It was amazing how the Archeology Museum, Teotihuacan, and the murals tied so closely together. Andres’ description was so detailed and I learned so much as the paintings brought the history to life.

National Palace Mexico City

Some people were more fascinated by the murals than others. And, we had plenty of security. The National Palace is an incredible place. If you happen to be in Mexico City, I’d add it to the must see list.

Delia and Andres went inside the Cathedral, which was amazing from the outside. I sat down in the middle of the square listening to the music and watching the people. A friendly man let me sit down next to him on the bench so I could draw in my sketchbook. A perfect time to soak in the moment.

We’d arrived early before the crowds and were leaving at the right time. The area was filled with people enjoying the wonderful weather.

Then it was off to Xochimilco and the flower market. Andres took Delia and I on a quick drive through the bustling streets. Vendors with caged birds and coconuts, women carrying colorful flowers and booths filled with every imaginable plant crowded all available space. It was so vibrant and filled with enticing scents. I was practically hanging out the window. Loved it!

Flower Market

Market Mexico City

Last, and certainly not least… Xochimilco and the canals. Delia and I stepped on to our private boat and met Juan who would be navigating us through the waters. The area is owned by a community and if a person would like to buy property along the shoreline, they must be approved by the majority of those who live there. It does not happen often. The properties tend to remain in the “family”.

Our lunch of chicken, tortillas, rice, mole and local beer was delicious. It was prepared on a small boat that anchored to ours while the meal was cooked and served. Many of the boats were filled with family members and friends celebrating with loud laughter and music. Merchandise of all shapes and sizes was available in boats that floated by.

Xochimilco

Xochimilco

Xochimilco

You’ve heard a picture is worth a thousand words…

Xochimilco

Our final adventure for the afternoon was the boat jam…traffic jam…gridlock, or something like that. Delia and I ended up jumping from boat to boat to get to the shore. Who knows? They may all be still stuck there. I sure hope not. Other people need to experience this delightful place.

xochimilco

Xochimilco

We were back to the hotel early to prepare to meet our fellow travelers for dinner. Then, it’s on to our butterfly adventure. Thanks Andre and Juan for a very special day.

 

 

 

Teotihuacan – Standing in Awe of Prior Civilizations

When I travel, I decide on the primary location or the main attraction for the whole trip and then arrive a few days early in the first city so I can get the lay of the land and explore. Determining the must see places in or near Mexico was easy, Teotihuacan was top on the list. Not only did Natural Habitat Adventure, our travel company, recommend it, I had several other people and websites rave about the place. We were lucky enough to get Andres, a local guide, to take us there for a reasonable price with only two other travelers.

The day started with a bit of a hitch and a damaged tire. Andres took us to the local tire shop to get it fixed. I love unexpected detours. We had a chance to explore an area of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Tire Repair in Mexico City

Some of the buildings are a hundred years olds, layered over the newer modern high rises of today.

Old and New Cityscapes Mexico City

 

After our stop, we headed on our way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Teotihuacan. We were joined by new friends, Bobbie and Susan from Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. Once we arrived at our destination, Enrique talked about the culture and the importance of the agave plant. Paper like sheets, thread and needles, along with food and drink, were developed from the plants.

Agave Threads

Many of the sculptures we saw at the Museum of Anthropology were carvings from stone. Many of the tools were also carved by the Teotihuacans.

Jade Carvings

Teotihuacan was an active city with over 125,000 people from about 100-600AD. The pyramids are spectacular.

Pyramid of the Sun

And, as always, the people watching was wonderful also.

Teotihuacan

People Watching in Teotihuacan

The Pyramid of the Moon was also amazing, and there are still paintings and some remnants of the stone sculptures still existing.

Sculptures at Teotihuatan

One of my favorite parts was the Avenue of the Dead. It is jaw dropping amazing…

Avenue of the Dead

My only regret is that we didn’t have time to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. I would have loved to see the view from the top. Still, we had another wonderful day experiencing the beauty and history of Mexico.

 

Mexico City: Museum of Anthropology

Our first full day in Mexico City started late, after a good night’s sleep and a wonderful breakfast. Then we walked a few blocks to the Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park. It was highly recommended and far exceeded expectations.

Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City

The exhibit followed a timeline, beginning in 30,000BC and ending in the current times, although we only were able to see half of the exhibits. It was spectacular. The use of technology, lighting and outdoor exhibit space was fabulous. It’s amazing how far back people created art. It was an integral part of the culture.

Museum of Anthropology Art

This is just a small assortment of the masks, sculptures and paintings that were on display. Works of art ranged from enormous stone carvings to intricate pieces of jewelry. The history was told in dioramas, videos and reconstructions of burial grounds.

Security Museum of Anthropology

There were a number of police officers on the grounds and I spotted this officer keeping a close eye on visitors from a high perch. Thanks for taking good care of us!

Museum of Anthropology

As we entered the main complex, we were greeted with an incredible totem pole style structure with sheets of water pouring down. The school children who were visiting stood in the face of the breeze that blew water in their faces. It was magnificent. Later in the day, the water was turned off, so if you plan on visiting, I’d suggest going earlier in the day.

And, as always, I love people watching.

Museum of Anthropology

 

Museum of Anthropology

 

On this one, I confirmed with mom that she approved of me taking their picture.

Museum of Anthropology Visitors

It was a wonderful day with beautiful weather and an opportunity to learn more about the rich Mexican culture at the Museum of Anthropology. It would take days to fully appreciate all the exhibits at the museum. Delia and I had to breeze through some sections we would have loved to spend more time in. We also only saw the exhibits on the first floor. There is a full second floor of mysteries that will require us to return.

It’s well worth a visit next time you are in Mexico City.

After a very full day, we headed back to the hotel to relax and, you guessed it, drink our margaritas.

On the Road to Monarchs

Monarch butterfly drawing

The cat was intent on its victim and didn’t notice my approach. The victim was a beautiful large butterfly held captive in the cat’s claws. I chased it away and picked up the butterfly, noticing the wings were a bit battered around the edges. It didn’t appear that there was other damage. As a young girl, I was fascinated by the huge colorful butterfly on my hand.

The butterfly sat on my hand for a very long time. I remember thinking it was grateful that I had saved it and that’s why it stayed. Now, I’m guessing it was probably in some kind of butterfly shock. It finally flew away. I’ve always remembered and treasured that moment. I don’t remember if it was a Monarch butterfly, just that I found it beautiful. Even today, I find butterflies magical.

I love the story of struggling to get out of the cocoon to make their wings strong and their incredible transformation. Then to find out that the Monarchs migrate and generations who have never been there find the path each year, created more of a mystery and allure. School children in the U.S. are planting milkweed to provide food for the butterflies as they migrate across the country. See…magical.

Today I’m in Mexico City a few days prior to our tour leaving to see the Migration of the Monarchs. My friend Delia is traveling with me and we’ve been looking forward to the adventure. I’ve never been to this area of Mexico and we plan on seeing a few of the local sites before we leave for the mountains.

Stay tuned!!

Retirement – The First Month

A month…it’s been a month since I left my job…just a few days officially, since I entered retirement. I was on the books burning vacation time through the end of February. It’s unbelievable that I’ve been gone from the police department for a month. Time has flown by and I’m not sure I can even tell you how I’ve spent my days, other than that I’ve been really busy.

First of all, I haven’t missed my job for a moment. And…I’m actually a little surprised. The people I care about are still part of my life and I can easily stay in touch on Facebook, or by scheduling coffee or lunch. So, I don’t miss my friends and coworkers.

Here are some of the highlights of my first month:

  • Contribution: Volunteering is an area of my life I was hoping to expand and I just finished my two day training at the Denver Zoo. I’m now an Ambassador and looking forward to spending four-six hours a week contributing my time to a place I love with a mission I can support. The volunteers range from teens to people in their eighties. It’s a diverse group and we had a great time.

Volunteer Denver Zoo

  • Travel: In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving for New Zealand. It’s a trip that has been under consideration for the last five or six years and it’s finally time. We’ll be on a three week driving tour that will cover highlights from both the north and south islands. Airbnb has become our best friend as we do research on where my friend, Delia, and I are going to stay. While I love the wild places, the people are definitely the icing on the travel cake. We can meet people who love travelers and have the inside track on the best adventures.
  • Puppy Love: Scarlett O’hair-a has already made her blog debut. She’ll be coming home after I get back from the trip. In the meantime, Olive and I have been really working on her anxiety by attending training. She’s very smart and it’s been a joy to spend so much time working on her skills and visiting the Cherry Creek off-leash park. Olive runs her heart out and loves to play in the water. After the initial adjustment, I’m confident Olive will be thrilled to have a little furry sister.

Cherry Creek with Olive

The first week I focused on making sure that I was busy, then it was too busy. Once I get back from my trip, I think I will be limiting the number of scheduled days so I have more time to relax and play. I’m definitely doing more than I was before I retired. Exercising is going to move higher up on my priority list. The weather is continuing to improve and I’m looking forward to hiking the beautiful places.

Looking back, it’s been a great month. Some days I need to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. You mean I get paid to do whatever I want, including napping? Yes.

Retirement is good.

Blooming Artist

Artist

ARTIST…

I have always loved being creative. From photography to writing, developing courses and workbooks, journals and newsletters. Yes. I think it fits.

Self defined titles are important. How do I see myself and how do I want others see me? If I tell people I’m a retired police officer, it means I used to be… And that’s true. But, I don’t want to have been something, I want to be something.

What do I want to be? What do I want to do?

I want to paint, write, learn, draw, sing, dance, explore, create, explore, discover, weld, sculpt…

The great thing about being an artist, as I see it, is getting to play like a child, wearing colorful and quirky clothes and best of all…since art is in the eye of the beholder, creating what I love.

The next time someone asks what I do, I’m going to say I’m an artist. And luckily, the bills are paid so I can skip the starving part.

Over Scheduling Retirement Week One

Adjusting to Retirement

Twelve. I counted them. Twelve appointment or activities scheduled for my first week of retirement. There are notations on the calendar every day but one and only because the appointment for that day was postponed, a weather delay.

I was warned by my retirement mentors to avoid over scheduling myself. I can see how easily that can happen. An eye appointment here and a coffee meeting there. Still, I think I needed a full schedule for this first week.  I feel good. A sense of accomplishment in fact.

My aha moments of more time:

  • Ease of scheduling mid-week, mid-day appointments
  • Workout classes with a smaller group of people
  • Less traffic when most people are at work
  • Relaxed coffee with a friend
  • Waking up without an alarm clock
  • Last minute road trips

I’m trying to celebrate and recognize the gifts that come when forty+ hours of my week are not scheduled.

While I haven’t faced any moments of retirement panic, I did have a nightmare that I was overdrawn on my bank account by $17,000. I don’t know where that figure came from. With more time comes more opportunities to spend money. 

I have a budget and I’m going to do my best to stick by it. I’m one of those lucky people with a pension, so I’ll always have money coming in for the basics. It’s the worry about my IRA and my withdrawal schedule that could be a problem, especially in a stock market where 1-2% drops on a daily basis have been the norm over the last month or two. Luckily, I’m looking at the long run and have enough in “safe” funds to last for several years without worrying about the dollars in the more moderate funds.

Do I feel like I’m on vacation? Maybe a bit. It will feel more like that as I work on the final details for my retirement trip in the next few months. Watch out New Zealand! Here I come!

The Last Day Before Retirement

Retirement Road

Retirement…

What came to mind as I drove home today, was the last scene in Terminator 2 where the road stretches out towards an unknown future. Okay, that’s kind of weird. But, it did feel weird. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be driving downtown everyday, I wanted to appreciate the moment.

Retirement…

The last few months, I’ve been paying attention to the lasts.

The last off-duty job when I worked traffic control for the Turkey Trot; the last day in uniform; the last shoot qualification; the last training course; the last…the last…the last.

Retirement…

I suppose it isn’t really the last day, since I have some administrative details to clean up and I’m officially on vacation, but it sure felt like it as I left my empty office behind and loaded up all my boxes, calendars and the coffee cup that has seen me through my last few assignments. Thirty two years wrapped up in six boxes and three thumb drives. Saying goodbye has never been easy, so the small informal potluck was perfect.

Retirement…

Some people have large recognition events and some just leave one day and everyone is surprised when they find out they’re gone. My goodbye was in the form of an email with all my personal contact information, including links to my social media accounts.

A lot has happened in 32 years. These people have worked beside me in the most strange and sometimes tragic circumstances. They have supported me and kept me safe.

Retirement…

Hopefully, my co-workers, both civilian and sworn, will call me and we can meet to tell war stories over coffee. If life gets busy, as it often does, I may not see some of them again. But I’ll never forget what an honor it has been to work beside them.

Retirement…

I unloaded my boxes when I got home and was greeted by my very enthusiastic dog, Olive. To her, this was just another day. Little does she know that she has a lot more walks in her future.

Retirement…

During the evening as I thought about the day, I came to the conclusion that over time the weirdness will wear off and my new life will become the norm. Until then…I plan to embrace the weird and to turn off my alarm clock.

 

Retirement the End or Just Another Beginning

retirement journeys

“You’re too young to retire!”

“What will you do?”

“Aren’t you going to be bored?”

RETIREMENT

A group of us discussed the word in a class I took last year, Planning for Change in the Third Age. Some people refused to even say it. I was shocked at the powerful emotions expressed during our discussions. Retirement means something different to everyone and the lifestyle associated with it has evolved over the years.

At 57, I’m in a much different place than my mother was at the same age. Today, people are more active and there are more opportunities available to us then there were 30+ years ago. Modern medicine has improved and the majority of us can expect to live another 25+ years. It’s just another phase of our lives.

When I was working out this week, with sweat pouring down my face, I thought about my mom. I wonder how her life would have been different if there were fitness centers on every corner and healthy living was a priority. As I approach this major life change, I’m in a much better place and more active because these options are available to me.

After 30+ years of proudly working in law enforcement, it’s time to focus my energies in new directions. I can travel, learn, contribute and even try a new career if I choose to do so. When I say retirement, it means moving on from my current career into something else. What it doesn’t mean, is that I’ll sit at home watching television and fade into the background.

I’m 20 days away from my last day at work. While I have a brief moment of panic every now and then, I stop myself and review all the planning I’ve done and get excited again. I’m going to do things I love and things I’ve never tried and may end up loving. So, watch out, because I’ll be living large and loud.