For months now, life has been throwing lemons at us.

Politics of hate, pandemic like none of us have ever seen before, racial disharmony, social dissolution, and a crumbling economy. And those are just the top five in a long list of maladies that came in with 2020.

Whatever we each have been dealing with individually, these are the additional levels of destruction that have made many of us wince at the start of each new day.

Optimism seems difficult to embrace and the horizon seems smothered in dark clouds.

So this morning, when I found myself on a property in Bradenton, trudging in tiredness across endless asphalt, taking picture after picture, the last thing on my mind was finding something of beauty or intrigue.

If truth be told, the weight of the camera was almost overbearing in the early morning Florida heat and there was little reason to think kindly of the instrument that normally brings such joy my way.

And then, from nowhere, my eyes caught a shape that was largely silhouetted against the low rising sun. I had stumbled upon a treasure trove of Bird of Paradise flowers and their sudden appearance transformed the morning into one of awe.

When my Mom and Dad visited Tampa around ten years ago, they embraced this flower and marveled openly on its audacious style and colors. They had only seen them in photographs or on TV as Ireland’s climate wasn’t really conducive to such a loud burst of beauty.

And for a moment my mind found a home in 2010 and I relived the memories brought on by this early morning bird.

I took some shots and have attached my favorite at the end of this blog, along with one that had a stylish collection of shadows, shapes, and reflections from lakeside at the back of the property.

I hope you enjoy them!

Anyway, as I stepped away from the treasure and my eyes returned to focus on the more mundane aspect of the property I was there to photograph, there was a distinct pep in my step and the horizon began to take shape in my heart.

A few minutes later around the back of the building, I caught myself singing, subconsciously I might add. The only reason I even noticed that I was making a noise was because it disturbed a gathering of Ibis and Wood Cranes at the water’s edge and they moved quickly to put distance between them and this strange humming creature.

I apologized to them of course and spoke soothingly to them and they settled down to a level where they tolerated my uninvited disturbance.

Yes, I did take pics of them but it was the wrong type of lens for decent pictures of creatures, so I decided against sharing here. I also came across three rabbits that were chomping on the recently cut grasses near the water’s edge, but for much the same reason, their images don’t appear here.

They too allowed me to engage in quiet conversation with them and they saw no reason to move away from me while I continued my perimeter walk.

It was just after that, I seem to recall, that I realized how my mood had changed distinctly from when I had set out on foot originally.

That first glimpse of paradise saved my heart from a wretched day and my soul took flight as life’s lemons began to taste quite palatable. In many ways it felt like my parents had joined me on the journey and pointed out all the wonderful sights and sounds around me.

I think it’s important to recognize that we ourselves shape how we receive the world around us. If we want to get depressed by all the shit, then we will. And by the same account, if we want to acknowledge the lemons but make something better out of it, then we get out the juicer and some fresh water and sugar.

There is sweet f#*$all we can do about the amount of negative stuff happening all around us. Maybe even TO us. But what we can do, is decide how we deal with it.

Do we lick our wounds and moan about the loss of happiness, or do we actively seek out happiness wherever we find it. Clearly, the latter is the better option.

And I am not naive enough to think that we won’t occasionally buckle under the weight of negativity. We all experience that. But the key word in that sentence was “buckle” not break.

Lemonade is a wonderfully refreshing drink. It isn’t something you want to be drinking every day, but when you do drink it, it can revitalize your body and refresh your soul.

… brought to you, by the folks at Minute Maid.