Nature on Display
Although I have occasionally briefly paused to admire a Monarch Butterfly passing through a park, I had never embraced the true beauty and grace of butterflies in their natural habitat until visiting the FLMNH. The exhibit drew me in because I had only witnessed the typical orange and black butterfly, but I was intrigued by other exotic species. Furthermore, I felt as if I was being invited into the butterfly's home to explore their lives rather than sharing mine with them. Being lost in nature can lead to losing one's sense of self.
While walking through the butterfly rainforest, I felt captivated by the natural elegance and delicacy of butterflies with colors ranging all over the spectrum. White butterflies danced in flocks in the air while shockingly blue butterflies darted back and forth. In that moment, I learned that each creature is unique and that I should take the opportunity to admire the world's insects more rather than casting them off as "gross" or "boring". Evidently, walking into the butterflies' home opened my eyes to the dazzling complexity of nature around me. Now, I know that I need to literally stop and smell the roses more often.
Nature and Ethics
Standing in the wildlife estuary exhibit among lush mangroves and feathery pelicans brought me back to summer days in my hometown - Tampa, Florida. I could almost here the squish of the warm Gulf breeze and low-pitched chirp of a seagull. This exhibit stood out to me because of its instant familiarity and reminder of the peaceful sensations I experience at home while paddle-boarding among forests of mangroves. At home and in the museum, I was captivated by a sense of urgency to protect the endangered mangroves to preserve their beauty and usefulness rather than destroy them.
In this exhibit, I learned about the incredible resilience of mangroves. In fact, Red Mangroves can stay rooted even in miserable storms, Black Mangroves can withstand the salty conditions of the Gulf's waters, and White Mangroves blossom with ivory flowers despite the usually poisonous saltwater environment. Furthermore, I learned the importance of mangroves to the environment and why they must be continuously protected. These incredible plants minimize erosion, filter pollution, provide homes for many organisms, invite birds to nest, and even protect humans from storm winds.
Although others in the exhibit might not have felt as strongly connected to estuary conservation, they still took the time to read about the environmental problems and gain a sense of understanding. After visiting the exhibit, I feel reassured of my ethical responsibility to ensure that the mangroves, pelicans, stingrays, and other organisms are protected rather than excavated for commercial land use.
Nature and the Human Spirit
The depths of the ocean are full of mystery, ambiguity, and inexplicably beauty. Stepping into this exhibit transferred me from ordinary life into the deep abyss of open water. Walking around underneath oversized replicas of sea creatures made me realize my place in the world and how minuscule I am compared to the wondrous and mystical creatures that lurk far below. For me, being underwater provides a sense of serenity and isolation - a time to be alone with my thoughts. In this exhibit, too, I felt like I could escape from society and just imagine myself in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean, appreciating the serene seaweed, swift crabs, and lull of the waves.
Undoubtedly, this aquatic exhibit helped me understand that I am merely a guest in nature's world. Furthermore, it showed me the true beauty of creatures like jellyfish and crabs that most people find daunting. These organisms, like us are simply trying to fulfill certain goods in their live to ensure safety and basic satisfaction. Unlike humans, these peaceful creatures are content with merely the means to survive. We could all use a lesson about abandoning extraneous gratifications, and simply learning to just be.