Consecutive Days Riding: 126 Days Blogged: 108
New Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 895
As I climb on the bike this morning we are preparing to visit our fourth pilgrimage site in four days! Those of you who have been following my progress know that I go through a kind of a feast versus famine experience with respect to pilgrimage site visits. At times there are long stretches where either few sites exist along our virtual path or I may for various reasons simply ride and go “off map.” However for the next week there’ll be a number of pilgrimage/retreat sites that we will visit as we leave the Orlando area and head east toward the coast.
In an earlier posting I talked about how I classify retreat sites based on the degree to which they offer nature as part of their experience. Retreat sites range from “indoor” sites, to ones that feature Gardens, to those that offer what I call “nature tranquility” where there may be walking paths and extensive botanical Gardens and then what I call “nature sites.” Nature Sites are typically places like national parks where there may be little man make development and the awe inspiring aspects of nature predominate.
I came across an article, from which I took today’s blog title, in which a researcher from the University of Rochester in New York talked about the impact of nature on humans. The researcher noted that numerous studies point to the positive physical and mental benefits of immersing oneself in natural phenomenon. In the researcher’s newest study he found that the effects of nature which they call a “naturally nice” effect, does not hinge upon immersing yourself in nature on a daily basis but it’s more important to pay attention to the natural elements that we encounter each day. As the researcher notes: “it’s about stopping and smelling the roses as opposed to passing them by as you think about your next meeting”. The researchers found that in fact this “nice effect” can be stimulated by simply having a nature scene as your computer screensaver. This is significant, especially for individuals living in the northern climates, for sometimes winter weather can limit our opportunities to go outdoors. I guess we could say that these results provide scientific evidence for the importance that nature plays in the retreat experience. These results would also lend support to the construction of an indoor winter altar featuring nature scenes and artwork.
Today we’re stopping by a pilgrimage retreat site in Orlando just up the road from the theme park we visited yesterday. This site is run by the city of Orlando and is entitled the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The site includes: America’s largest camellia collection outside of California; the largest formal rose garden in Florida; a house/museum dating from the 1880s; acres of tropical spring gardens, butterfly gardens and assorted other specialty gardens. It’s clear why I have classified this location a “nature tranquility” site as it offers ample opportunities for visitors to find solitude and/or to get lost in the beauty of the flowers and joyful fluttering of colorful insects.
Also of note on the history of the garden which ties into our visit to the Monument of States two days ago. At that site I highlighted the importance of finding meaning in our life and the fact that for many people taking on a “special project” can provide them with a sense of well-being and at the same time serve a greater purpose with their community and nation. Harry Leu’s story represents another example of this search for meaning and the consequences it can have for a community. Mr. Leu was a hard-working dedicated local boy who worked his way up within a local manufacturing company. He started as a lowly worker, became the “go to trouble shooter” and eventually the owner.
He and his loving wife traveled the world collecting exotic plants which they carried back to Orlando for their expanding garden. He was called “the Johnny Appleseed of Central Florida” as he would propagate his plants and then give away seedlings to his neighbors and friends. He opened his estate and the Gardens to visitors, sharing the beauty and the joy he found in the flowers and butterflies. After his retirement he and his spouse made the decision to leave their estate including the home and the expansive gardens for future generations. The property was willed over to the city of Orlando with the agreement that the city was forbidden to sell it or change its “not-for-profit” status.
He found meaning in a life of hard work, he found meaning in a life of exploration, he found meaning in the diversity and beauty of nature, and he found meaning in sharing that joy with generations to come. He can serve as an inspiration to all of us! I, for one, send out a heartfelt thank you to the universe that people like Mr. Leu inhabited and continue to inhabit this planet we call home.
I hope you have enjoyed this are pilgrimage site visit. Tomorrow we will visit the last of our Orlando sites it brings together artwork, nature’s beauty and light! Have a wonderful day!
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