Travel Series: Key West, Paradise.
Upon entering Key West (Route 1 is the sole egress and entrance), the sign says “Welcome to Paradise.” There is no such thing as Paradise, but Key West can get pretty close…and we supplement it with our “fake Paradises”…the bars on Duval Street, fantastic restaurants, art classes, writing classes, performing arts; but my favorite fake paradise is the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. It is manufactured paradise at its finest. Bright blue, red, aqua, black & orange, lacy, yellow butterflies flutter through the atrium as if they are weightless, suspended in midair; while soft music plays. The solarium is flush with tropical vegetation…some suspended in air with moss covered root systems, others along a lightly babbling stream that winds its way throughout the conservatory. Beautiful tropical birds-- turacos, tanagers, finches dart quickly through the air with the apparent purpose of lighting on trees, plants and feeding stations and seem not to be impressed with their spectacular colors of deep indigo, turquoise, bright green, white, gray, red. For color, both real and figuratively, the Conservatory provides bright orange/pink flamingos, aptly named Scarlett & Rhett. During mating season, they squawk loudly and use their necks to create a rhythmic, choreographed dance including bows and curtsies. All of this amid lush tropical vegetation with a range of shapes, variegations, flowers and foliage. For amusement, small white, black, brown and gray quail dart in and out along the brick pathways; with their silly waddle; showing no fear of the large feet of the mesmerized tourists.
The air is warm and humid and the scene of floating color combining with soft music and chirping birds causing a sense of wonderment. I like to go as soon as it opens, before the cruise ships and tourists discover paradise. It is not possible to be unmoved watching the color, music, waterfall sounds, and behavior blend in perfect harmony.
And sometimes on somedays it can be a spiritual experience. I was with my sister-in-law, shortly after her brother and my husband’s death. On that day, the butterflies were drawn to her similar to the scene in Avatar, where the seeds of pure spirits alighted on and saved the life of the protagonist. It is said that if a butterfly lands you on, it is good luck…the butterflies seemed to be telling her that she can be assured of luck and happiness in abundance.
Ah Paradise…even if it is manufactured, it is still paradise.
Learn more about Key West in these posts from Angela:
Paradise (this one)
Key West Quirkiness
Key West's Spirituality