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The inevitable had occurred. We were late, again, and the fault was mine. I catapulted through the porch like a rabid turkey hen that has lost a fuzzy, baby chick. My wild movements were attempts at creating rapid order out of the chaos the timid, wee woodland creatures had created in a brief span of time. One languidly yawned as I lost hold of his litter pan and shot wood shavings all over the floor. He then proceeded to lick his long, dark-pink ear in a slow, meditative manner. After this, he looked up at me with those wide, rabbit eyes that now seemed to twinkle with mirth. His mouth twitched. The other rabbit was more animated, standing on her two hind legs, leaning on the bars of the pen, wanting desperately to burst out and run to me. She receded, subdued, at last, as I ignored her, though with great force of will, but here eyes were shining winsomely. Some sight to watch their kindly owner as she stampeded around with arms flailing like some sick bird convinced she could still fly. Sticks were tossing, boxes were rolling, brooms thrashing, and water was, of course, sluicing the floor instead of staying in the dish. At last, the task was through, and the rabbits and their pens sparkled with order once again. I could see little furry grins hiding behind their long, white whiskers, and felt content, patting each one good bye on each velvet head. I knew as soon as I stepped out, they would pounce into ardent action, to destroy, crash, dishevel, splash, toss, and drag everything they could clasp their little mouths onto, and bat and dig into with their tiny paws. Such happy rabbits.

“Sir,” I said to my father as I bounced back through the door and into the house, “we need to be quicker than this,” of course, I had inserted him into the “we”, when I was the true cause of our extreme lateness.

And he was very quick to take ownership, replying in his sad, wallowing voice so redolent of the Eeor donkey from Winnie, “Yes…we always do this.”

“No…” I thought, “I always do.”

“You are far too lackadaisical,” I lectured myself, “like a lump of seaweed. You toss around, spouting all this poetry, arms gesticulating like some sort of inspired gorilla, absolutely reveling in all this beauty. Focus! There is not always time to praise every drop of sunshine, every note of song spilling from each little songbird, or every gently sweeping cloud or tickle of tangy brine in the virason breeze. Discipline!”

As we trotted out, I thought with the five cats and two rabbits, perhaps a farmhand would help with my dilemma so that I would have sufficient time for all this reveling.

At last, we began to sally forth, and I noticed it was a most sanguine Saturday, brushed with a cool, vitative wind, landscape sluiced with vibrant, late-morning sunshine. Sir and I were soon winding along a cheerful, grey road, lined with ebullient palm trees and budding plumerias, the air alive with the sounds of chortling starlings and serenading mockingbirds. Another grand day in Brevard.

Our destination was a Green Living Expo, being held in Cocoa at the University of Florida’s Agricultural and Resource Center. We were entering advanced tardiness, I fear, squeezing in within the last twenty minutes. I realized, chastising myself, it was going to be one of those situations where one receives those cold, biting stares that say, “You are the last ones here…we’d like to go, so hurry up already…”

An atrocious foible, being late. We parked and soon were ambling across the lot, cast in a sea of shivering shadows and dancing sunshine as the trees quivered in the wind. It was such a blissfully cool day, feeling very much like spring.

As we walked in, we accepted we had missed all the educational talks and activities, but we could quickly sail through the stations in the little auditorium.

Waltzing in, the room was airy and serene, splashed with the colour of decorated booths promoting all things environmental and sustainable. Sir and I quickly began to circuit the room, suctioning up pamphlets and information.

I began to revel, again, at a different kind of beauty. It was the beauty of community, of people coming together for change, and the transformation of a county. When we had first moved to Brevard some years ago, it had seemed just a bit apathetic, environmentally. There were myriad events about the appreciation of the natural wonders of this diverse area, but no real focus on working with nature to conserve, preserve, and do as little harm as possible. Perhaps it was just more subtle back then.

This groovy Florida native, Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a larval host plant for Florida’s state butterfly, the gorgeous Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius). This flower is also host to other species of butterflies.

Then, a massive oil spill occurred in the Gulf. Our impact on the environment sprang into the conscious minds of many throughout Florida. Seeing so vividly before us an example of what we could do to harm this paradise seemed to arouse awareness. Yes, our actions do indeed affect this gorgeous planet. We can work with nature, in harmony, or against, in detriment.

It is perhaps obvious I adore this state. The diversity here is astounding! Why, there are perhaps more than 2,800 native plants and something like 180 species of butterflies dappling the shimmering landscapes, the lush prairies, the marshes and hammocks, jungle forests and sandy scrub trails. There are over 600 freshwater springs in this state, with those rejuvenating, lucid waters of scintillating sapphire where the gentle manatee abides in the winter. Anyone would love it, but it takes more than love to protect it. We must be aware of our own place in the ecosystem, understand how our actions affect the wilderness of pristine beauty around us. With awareness and understanding, along with that initial love, we are then equipped with all the tools needed to conserve and preserve the nature around us. Too marvelous!

So, with the awakening spurred from the doleful reality of the oil spill grew something exquisite and glorious- change! People came together, groups were organized, events planned, letters written, and the county began to transform. Such tremendous good can come from such a dreary event!

I remember the day I was most conscious of the active change around town, when one find day I was strolling Eau Gallie Park, enjoying the wondrous day, when I noticed that recycle bins had been installed next to the usual waste bins. Astounded, I bounded forth to see if they were real. Aye, now people could dispose of their empty bottles and know the plastic would be recycled. This struck me as absolutely marvelous. Today, these recycle bins sprinkle the whole county, including some of the beaches. It is majestic, indeed!

Blue Spring State Park

The beauty of this transformation grows every day. There is always some new green event to participate in, whether it be a beach clean, a farmer’s market with locally grown organic produce, volunteering with a restoration project, removing exotic species, attending a clean energy summit, cleaning and maintaining forest trails, going to a trash bash, attending meetings with Sierra Club or Keep Brevard Beautiful, learning about sea turtle conservation on a nocturnal turtle walk, or just going to an Art in the Park event celebrating the love of nature and promoting conservation. This area gets groovier every day. I, of course, want to do my own part to preserve this marvelous paradise.

And now, here we were, at the first Green Expo held at the Agricultural and Resource Centre. Discussion here was moving beyond growing native gardens, but living native, ourselves. Every little change helps tremendously. Avoiding using pesticides and fertilizers on our lawns is one fantastic change. One can go to a local gardening center, or market, like The Green Market, or Rockledge Gardens, and purchase organic fertilizers. One can take courses at the Agricultural and Resource Centre in organic pesticide treatment. Doing this helps our lagoon and the ocean tremendously. When it rains during the summer monsoon, fertilizer and pesticide runoff create the perfect environment for toxic algal blooms, which kill off fish, plant life, and even mammals like manatees, not to mention the horrid stench that cloaks the air anywhere near the affected water. A few years ago, several manatees died as casualty to an algal bloom.

Wee intriguing fact: In the U.S. Agriculture is the largest use of water, the second is the electricity industry. Electricity production from fossil fuels and nuclear energy uses 190,000 million gallons of water/day, accounting for 39% of all freshwater withdrawals in the nation, with 71% of that going to fossil-fuel electricty generation alone. Time for me to install a rain-barrel 😀

Another fantastic thing to do is install a rain barrel and water plants with the water collected. Rain barrels are pretty marvelous, and can be decorated. They are not difficult to install. There are many sites online devoted to helping one get started with installing a rain barrel.

Plant native plants! They are adapted to the environment here, are absolutely stunning, and need less supplemental water. They also are in tune with the ecosystem. Many exotic species have invasively taken over and choked out other native plants, stressing the whole ecosystem, threatening species.

The exhibits were alive with many more tips. Even a local thermal solar company was present! Solar power is such a groovy, sustainable technology. Other exhibits included green living tips on eco-friendly cleaning, eating locally grown organic produce, recycling and reusing ideas, bicycling and carpooling suggestions, and volunteering opportunities in the area.

Indeed, my heart was most sonorous at the sight of this wonderful event. Not only was this event about the wonders of gardening native, but also applying this concept to our own lives and ways of living. It was indeed edifying.

As we finally made our way to the last booth, a kind woman with warm brown eyes began conveying the beauty of avoiding the use of exotic species, when suddenly I noticed a little leaflet on her table.

“The Green Market? There is a green market in Cocoa, now?” I asked, enthusiastically.

“Oh yes. I hear it’s fabulous. I haven’t personally been, but they have all kinds of organic produce, all grown right there on the farm, raw goat cheese, free-range eggs,-”

“GOATS?!” I bawled at her, cutting her off suddenly.

“Uh…yes, they have goats on the farm. Wonderful milk and cheese, too, and plants for sale,” she said, a bit shaken.

“One can pet GOATS there?!” I bugled the inquiry at her poor askance visage.

“Uhm…I don’t know if you can pet the goats. Don’t think so,” she replied.

I realized I had just exhausted the poor lass…she was here because of an intense passion for the environment, to promote healthy living, environmentally conscious action, volunteering, awareness about the dangers of thoughtless actions, wanting to do her part to help change the world! And here were the strange goat people that come swaggering in…all they seemed to care about was their next goat-petting fix, and nothing else, like eager toddlers, with grubby, blue-stained fingers from wet candy floss, groping for the horns of a Billy goat at the fair. I felt for her.

Florida native, the Gulf Fritillary (Argraulis vanillae), who likes to lay eggs and visit with Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). This butterfly is a common Southerner, and I have found to be less coy and timid than others. Too splendid!

How patient she was when Sir joined in my ardor and asked to clarify the directions about eight times, to get to the Green Market, which was only about five minutes away. I thanked her and she even had the energy to smile and say a gentle good-bye as we darted away.

And so ended the first Green Living Expo we had ever been to in Brevard County. A day to celebrate, a day that marks a turning-point in this wonderful, beautiful county by the sea.

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