- Katherine Dudley Hoehn
Exploring on sibling time
My brother and I planned a one-night getaway where we could spend a little time together without work, family, pets, or other distractions. Gainesville was convenient and I had wanted to visit the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
It is important to spend time with family and we always discover something new and interesting. We know when they need for us to listen, to insist, to suggest, or just accept. There is a give and take, with trust and understanding you only get with a sibling. All that is to say that it really doesn't matter where you go but that you do it.
Arriving early, I spent a few lovely hours at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. Staff was preparing for the hard freeze expected later in the weekend. The large stag horn ferns had already been wrapped in preparation.
There was so much to see and it was a perfect day to be there.
The camellias were still in bloom and many azaleas were vibrant in reds and pinks. Expanding my camellia collection is now on top of my wish list.
The walk around the grounds was so pleasant and peaceful, with the sound of running water and few visitors on the chilly afternoon.
Throughout the grounds, there were whimsical things I found amusing such as the foot planter, the bottle tree, the child-sized bench with rabbits, a giant praying mantis sculpture, and a colorful playground.
The bamboo was the largest I had ever seen. In the densest part of the gardens, I stood still and listened to it make a hollow haunting noise when the long stalks rubbed together in the breeze.
Standing at the overlook to an ancient sinkhole, I heard the call of an owl and several screeching hawks echoing from the far side. I just listened, watching as the hawks flew back and forth from the trees far above.
At the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Butterfly Rainforest was closed due to the extremely cold weather that was coming that evening. But we were still glad we went.
Sometimes when you plan something and get disappointed you get rewarded if you just let yourself enjoy what you have been given. That is what happened with this visit. Not seeing the Butterfly Rainforest meant we spent more time in the museum and we saw things we would have overlooked.
There were many butterfly displays we were able to see, including butterflies emerging from chrysalises and native varieties inside the laboratory.
My favorite part of the museum was a small exhibit called “Journey Underwater” which had undersea replicas magnified 12x from the perspective of a small fish. Presumably this was intended more for young children, but I found it fascinating and kept finding new and interesting things as I looked closer.
The dinosaurs and Florida fossil exhibits were well presented, as were those of the Northwest Florida Waterways and Wildlife and the South Florida People (the Calusa) and Environments. There were interesting artifacts and information about the fossil digs in nearby Montbrook. I was fascinated to see the inside of a slice of coral and a full scale mangrove forest where I spotted all sorts of bird, mammal, and plant life. I appreciated the many hands-on exploration opportunities for children large and small who, like me, learn better when they can touch things.
The whole museum was impressively clean, fresh, and beautifully displayed. Everything was well marked and interactive exhibits were at a height that was both child and wheelchair accessible.
There was so much natural Florida information that was presented in a way that held my attention. Had the Butterfly Rainforest been open, we would have missed much of it.
Sometimes things work out just right. Now I need to plan a spring trip back to see the butterflies and more of Gainesville.