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June 26, 2019

This past weekend we went on a much needed road trip to South Louisiana to relax and enjoy the scenery. It reminded me how much I take for granted in my own back yard.
We were greeted at Avery Island with a smile and miniature bottles of Tabasco Sauce.  The tour began in the factory where peppers are grown, mashed and stored in barrels until it is ripe for bottling.  
A choice of taking a three-mile walking tour of the island or a driving tour was easy to make when it was a hot and humid 95 degrees. Driving was the obvious choice.
The bird sanctuary is a natural paradise. Many species of animals and plants live on the island. I took pictures of an alligator and egrets.  When I was looking for an alligator in the murky water, I was thrilled to see a head sticking up.  I don’t get that excited when I see gators and birds at home and I rarely take pictures of them.  I don’t slow down enough to smell the roses or see the wildlife.  I am guilty of not taking time out of my schedule to appreciate the beauty of life. 
Slowing down and taking a step back allows our bodies and minds to relax and find balance, allowing us to better plan, create, and savor each moment. When you take a moment to relax you can really hear the birds more clearly.  See the colors of leaves, smell the roses more distinctly, and enjoy every bite of your meal.  We tend to rush all the time and worry. If we slow down, we can be more aware of our needs and find solutions.  Reconnecting with your surroundings is a great way to de-stress while you get fresh air. 
Bird City at Avery Island is a sanctuary for egrets.  The owner, Avery Mcllhenny, was concerned about the birds becoming extinct after they were slaughtered by the thousands to provide feathers for ladies’ hats.  In 1895 he gathered eight young egrets, raised them in captivity, and released them in the fall to migrate across the Gulf of Mexico.  The following spring the birds returned to the island with other species, and the migration continues to this day.
Exotic plants on the island include azaleas, Japanese camellias, Egyptian papyrus sedge.  The live oaks on the island are larger than the ones in Catahoula Parish but I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful oak trees draped with moss that I see every day.  I grew up in a house surrounded by oak trees.  One of my favorite pictures is of Chris and Jacob standing between two limbs of the oak tree in front of my childhood home.  
Back to Avery Island, I got out in the heat to take a picture of the Cleveland Oak, named for President Grover Cleveland.  Cleveland made a visit to Avery Island and hugged the trees, so the family named it in his honor.  The Cleveland Oak is approximately 23 feet in circumference and over 300 years old.  South Louisiana is home to some of the oldest live oaks, some estimated to be 500 to 600 years old. 
The food was amazing! The sampler plate of crawfish etouffee, red beans and gumbo filled me up.  
We ended our tour in the store full of Tabasco sauce, shirts, ice cream and soda.  Being one to live on the wild side I tried the tabasco soda and chocolate tabasco ice cream.  
On the ride home I thought about Catahoula Parish and everything it has to offer.  Lakes, good food, waterfalls, wildlife, swamps and hills.  I am going to try and take time to tour our parish and enjoy being at home.