Six Great Things To Do in Dingle, Ireland

Six Great Things To Do in Dingle, Ireland

Six Great Things To Do in Dingle, Ireland

By Ellen Federico

Tucked into the rugged Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland, local artisans are transforming nature’s bounty into handmade dreams. This once sleepy town is dancing a new jig with a fresh vibe. Consider these ‘must do’ things when next in Dingle.

Scenic gateways into Dingle are route 561 by Inch Strand, a gorgeous three-mile beach where surfers brave chilly waves below brawny mountains dotted with cottages, manor homes and grazing sheep. A rush of sea air whips off the Harbor with a thousand welcomes! Or, take the dramatic route 560 one of Ireland’s highest mountain roads through Conor Pass viewing lush valleys, ancient ruins and panoramic seascapes.

All roads lead to the revitalized colorful port town of Dingle buzzing with activity on six main streets veined in hidden lanes and streams all sweeping toward the busy Marina. Gulls squawk above charter boats returning from shoals running silver with mackerel, sea bass or ling. Bobbing sailboat masts poke at a cobalt sky as fishermen on the quays mend tangled nets with bone needles swift and sure. Marina parking is €1 per hour from 8am to 6pm, with free overnight parking. You can walk the entire town in a day.



Visit Holyground Farmers Market every Friday from 9am to 3pm on Strand Street. Purchase organic produce, baked goods, chocolates and jams. I met ‘Pickled in Dingle’ owner Marie Charland, a French Canadian who makes divine chutneys like Beetroot and Orange. Marie arrived 16 years ago and met her husband Fergal Murphy the owner of Ballydavid Honey. Marie poured Fergal a pint at his local pub and the rest is pickling history. See the annual 2018 Dingle food, wine, beer and market festival: Dingle food.



Sue Redican

Behind the red door at An Gailearai Beag (The Little Gallery) on Main Street, home to the West Kerry Craft Guild is a treasure of sophisticated crafts made by local artists. Hermit weaver Sue Redican looms intricate designs on Great Blasket Island – dying fleece from wildflowers and plants. Peruse displays of pottery, woodwork, paintings, stitched fairies, jewelry, bees wax candles and magic soaps hidden in felted washcloths by Druid Priestess, Juli Ni Mhaoileoin. Most popular is Juli’s ‘Gratitude Spray’ with essences of lavender, rose, dandelion, nettle, and rosemary.

Another great thing are the artists who take turns running the shop and where I met Sue Redican who lives most of the year alone on Great Blasket Island. I asked her if she was ever afraid living on her own there? “Only when the tourists come in summer and camp overnight, I prefer the grey seals and birds, or my grandson.” You can visit Sue weaving on the island in summer by daily ferry from Dunquin Harbor, or view her wall hangings at the Blasket Heritage Centre. Hold the best of Dingle in the palm of your hands at An Gailearai Beag.

Even the ordinary becomes holy in Dingle. A great photo op is the gigantic ‘bullaun’ stone parked on Goat Street with holes worn in the top dating to the Bronze Age. Local driver Diarmuid Begley shares, “The stone was used to trick the English from knowing where the Irish were having mass. When folks put sand in a hole, mass was at the beach, when they put water in a hole, mass was by a certain stream. Clever buggers.”



Stroll across Green Street towards the bell tower of Saint Mary’s. Behind the church,
is a wonderful circular meditation garden inspired by the Tree of Life that leads to the Convent of the Presentation Sisters, now the Diseart Centre of Irish Culture. Visit the Chapel of the Sacred Heart with museum quality stained-glass windows designed by famed artist Harry Clarke in 1922 and commissioned by the savvy Superior Mother Ita for a mere 1000 pounds. My favorite is the image of Mary Magdalene witnessing the risen Christ.

A must see is the former Sisters Dining Room to view the massive wall Fresco painted by Colorado mural artist, Eleanor Yates in 2011. Her intention was to paint a large scale Last Supper embedded with local images. The Apostles themselves are all local men the artist found throughout Dingle with just the right face. Open Monday – Saturday from 10am – 4pm, admission is €3 per person.



Dine in the serene Global Village Restaurant on Main Street for modern cuisine with a touch of tradition. Seared local scallops on roasted cauliflower puree with carrot jam and cloud light mashed spuds is perfect harmony. Our waitress shares that the chef uses ingredients harvested from his own garden. The food and wine here are outstanding.

Global Village Restaurant

Global Village Restaurant

For a special handmade dessert step into the blue-sky shop of Murphy’s Ice Cream on Strand Street open 12 Noon – 10pm. Smiling Scoopers offer samples to help you decide which flavors to choose. Murphy’s ice cream is made from the milk of Kerry cows, local eggs, and a jewel box of fresh ingredients. Dingle Sea Salt paired with Caramelized Brown Bread is heavenly, for more adventurous palettes try refreshing Dingle Gin.

Savoring homemade ice cream while watching a fiery sunset mirrored in the glass calm of Dingle Bay is a delicious memory to mark in your great book of life.



Castlewood House, a boutique hotel nestled on the bay is a ten-minute walk into town. Husband and wife innkeepers, Helen and Brian Heaton operate the best hotel in Dingle prized for beautiful rooms with spa bathrooms and praised for an award-winning breakfast prepared by Chef Brian.

Castlewood House

Castlewood House

Inviting interiors are an eclectic mix of antique and contemporary furnishings with fresh flowers in each room, and a gallery of landscape paintings, adorn the hallways. I enjoyed a three-night stay in a harbor view room, where I could hear the ebb and flow of tides, and the rise and shine caws of seabirds each morning. A savored memory of Castlewood’s is the over the top breakfast feast.

Castlewood Irish Porridge

Castlewood Irish Porridge

Poached spiced fruits, breads, jams, cheeses and salamis, a menu of full Irish or Vegetarian hot dishes, omelets, pancakes, and fluffy porridge paired with brown sugar and Irish Whiskey drizzle. Rates start at €125 per night including full breakfast. Tip: Free parking on site, request water view rooms, and the dining room only serves Breakfast or Afternoon Tea.




Brick’s Pub, B&B and Brewery, seven miles west on Slea Head Drive in Ballyferriter, is where owner Adrienne Heslin is Publican and Brew Mistress of the West Kerry Brewing Company. Back in the 17th century it was not uncommon for women to brew barley ales and honey mead, hence the name alewives. Adrienne turns well water, yeast and botanicals into high-quality beer while surrounded by majestic sweeping views of the Wine Strand and “Three Sisters” cliffs where Star Wars, The Last Jedi was filmed.

Bricks Pub and B&B

Bricks Pub and B&B

The rich green façade of Brick’s Pub circa 1890 is also a charming self-catering B&B with a communal kitchen. High season rates run €90 per night. See rooms on website. Sitting in the lovely garden behind Brick’s the scents of wild roses and fragrant yeast from the brewery are intoxicating. Camouflaged in the untamed brambles are striking metal sculptures with extraordinary features. Adrienne is a trained sculptor by trade, in addition to her other impressive titles. In the shadow of pub and brewery this pioneering woman shares a bittersweet journey with a humble timbre.

Adrienne Heslin

I asked Adrienne how she ended up living on the edge of Ireland? Her face lit, “Love brought me to Brick’s! I met and fell in love with Pádraig Brick in ’92 in Dingle Town where I had lived since completing my Fine Art studies in Dublin.” What inspired you to start a brewery? “With the sudden death of Pádraig in 2001 I had no time for my artwork with running the pub and guesthouse, so I needed to channel my creativity. Through my love of cooking I contemplated the idea of starting a brewery in my art studio. I had a well for water, some savings and the space, it made sense.” What do you love most about living here? “The location has become my oasis. Natural beauty and my coastal setting along with the mountainous terrain are quite inspiring. “

That evening I claim a stool at the well-worn full liquor bar and sip Blue Rose Pale Ale, crisp and dry with mild notes of rose hips and blackcurrant. An excellent ale that tingles my toes. Candles are lit on tables and window sills. A wood fire crackles in the brick hearth as Local’s trickle in, some carrying musical instruments taking familiar seats in a corner. More musicians and seasoned travelers arrive as Adrienne greets them all like family. Taps flow with fresh brews and spirits lift as music fills this enchanted pub. Brick’s bubbles with life as a testament to Adrienne’s hard work and bold dreams. Call ahead for a tour of the brewery and sample West Kerry Classic Beer in fruity dark, or pale ales. Tip: Live open music sessions on Friday nights at 9pm.

The people who live on the Dingle Peninsula share an exquisitely simple philosophy of living in balance with nature. My favorite memory is with Diarmuid Begley, an awesome driver and keeper of secrets who grew up on the Peninsula. On my last day he pulls off the road and makes me squeeze a fuchsia flower until one drop of nectar falls to the ground, “God’s Tears” he says. This is what I love most about Dingle… everyone has a story. Holding the flower, I gaze out toward the roiling Atlantic Ocean and inhale a deep breath of sea air like a shot of happiness… it must be the Gratitude Spray.

Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula


Monitoring Monarchs

Monitoring Monarchs

Monitoring Monarchs by Kristin Thieling-Di Rico

An interview with Ellen Federico, Fire Island Tide Newspaper May 25, 2018

Every year, tens of thousands of Monarchs visit Fire Island on their migratory journey from Canada to Mexico. Unfortunately, the number of these beautiful island visitors has fallen sharply in recent years. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to Fire Island. In fact, recent studies show a drastic decrease in the overall Monarch population, wit some estimates finding a 90 percent decline in the population in the past two decades. Experts state that increased herbicide use has destroyed milkweed plants, which are the only plants Monarch caterpillars feed on. In addition, global climate change, logging, and other human activities have also been cited as possible causes of the sever population decline. The Monarchs’ situation is dire enough that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently assessing whether to extend federal protections to the butterflies under the Endangered Species Act.

Federico House and Monarch Habitat

Ellen Federico has been monitoring Monarch populations on Fire Island for many years. She spoke with the Fire Island Tide Newspaper about the butterflies, the many benefits they bring to humans and the environment, and her on-going efforts to tag and count the many Monarchs that visit Fire Island every year.

Fire Island Tide: What is your personal connection to Fire Island?
Ellen Federico: My Father, Captain Bob Federico, worked for Fire Island Ferries in the 1960’s before starting a sight-seeing and private party boat business located at Captree State Park. He was well known on the island and also piloted freight barges and water taxis up and down the barrier reef. My siblings and I ran barefoot on the beach from April – November. Our home in Lonelyville was purchased on eastern Long Island, barged over the Great South Bay, then rolled into place on pilings to Robbins Walk, where it stands today.

Fire Island Tide: When did you first develop an interest in Monarch butterflies?
Ellen Federico: The Captain taught all of his eight children about wildlife on Fire Island, and how to judge the weather by reading the changing signs in the sky, tides, and animal behavior. My Mother taught us how to plant nectar flowers to attract butterflies. The Monarchs would migrate over us every Autumn on their way to Mexico. When I was a kid there were thousands flying over FI from September to Mid-October. The Monarchs still come, only far less in number.

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

Fire Island Tide: Can you tell us a little bit about monarch butterflies?
Ellen Federico: The Monarch is a milkweed butterfly. They belong to the order, Lepidoptera, their science name is (Danaus plexippus). Female Monarchs only lay eggs on milkweed, in four days tiny caterpillars hatch, and begin eating the milkweed, their only food source because milkweed contains toxic glycosides and protein that help protect them from predators. The caterpillars eat like crazy to match their body weight in a day. They must shed their skins five times to allow their bodies to expand. After 12 days the caterpillars will climb to a safe place and spit a foam like glue attaching their heads, so they can hang in a “J” shape. In 24 hours they form a beautiful jade green chrysalis from the bottom up. During this ‘pupa’ cocoon stage metamorphosis takes place, changing from caterpillar to adult butterfly. In 9 – 14 days they will emerge from the chrysalis and cling to it until their wings are dry and stiff. The Monarch takes flight looking for flower nectar to sip, through a straw-like tongue called a proboscis.

All butterflies live about 4-6 weeks, mate, lay eggs, then die. All, except the 4th generation migrating Monarchs that live up to 9 months and fly 3000 miles every autumn to Mexico, where they rest over winter. The babies born of this 4th generation will live 4-6 weeks, then take flight from Mexico heading back north. It will take three more, six-week life cycles to reach Canada and the Northern States by summer. So, the 3rd generation are the parents of the 4th generation Migrating Monarchs. And the epic journey begins all over again. A great site to learn about migrating animals is Journey North Learner.

Fire Island Tide: Why is Fire Island important to the monarch population?
Ellen Federico: Fire Island is strategically located on their flight path to Mexico from Canada and upstate NY. Fire Island is also a natural habitat for Monarchs with native milkweed and nectar flowers. Monarchs also need a bit of salt which is plentiful from the sea and spray, in addition, the sand dunes and houses on the island reflect the suns warmth releasing up thermal currents that butterflies and birds like to glide on to conserve energy. The facts are, no milkweed, no Monarchs. The caterpillars born in the wild, not on butterfly farms, will only eat milkweed.

Fire Island Tide: Why are monarch butterflies important to Fire Island and the larger global ecosystem?
Ellen Federico: 
They are pollinators along with the bees, both currently at risk of becoming endangered. Scientists are studying Monarchs for cancer research regarding why they can ingest milkweed toxins, but if a bat or bird eats the Monarch they will become sick or possibly die from the toxins. Monarch migrations are good indicators for climate change by monitoring what time of year, and which flight paths they take. Monarchs should arrive in Mexico by early November. I spotted my last Monarch in Lonelyville on November 12, 2017.

Migratory Path of Monarch Butterfly

Fire Island Tide: Can you discuss your current efforts to track the butterflies on Fire Island?
Ellen Federico: 
I am a member of Monarch Watch with a certified habitat. I order tracking tags, a small sticker the size of a pea with number code, from their website first week of September. Our Lonelyville community joins in helping, especially the children, by wrangling Monarchs (gentle netting), then we tag the outer wing, and log the date, sex, and location, on data sheets. I input the data on the site, and their volunteers in the Monarch sanctuaries in Mexico search the mountain forests for tagged Monarchs and log their numbers on the site. I monitor the site, looking for any Fire Island tagged numbers. In eight years we had ten of our tagged Monarchs found. That’s pretty good considering there are millions of Monarchs in the winter resting sanctuaries.

Fire Island Tide: Why is this effort important?
Ellen Federico: 
The tagging program is important because it shows how far, how long, and how many migrating Monarchs are surviving the journey. Hurricane season and severe temperatures too hot, or too cold can kill Monarchs. However, the biggest threat to Monarchs are humans, who kill milkweed and nectar flowers with poison pesticides, over development, and illegal tree logging in Mexico.

Fire Island Tide: Have you seen any shifts in the butterfly population or its behaviors?
Ellen Federico: 
Yes. Since my childhood the migrating Monarchs flutters are less than half of what they were back then. Hurricane Sandy washed through my habitat destroying most of it. The local children and I replanted the following year, but it took two more years for the new flutters to find their way back to Lonelyville. The past few years we have had very good Monarch populations arrive because the milkweed and nectar habitat, is flourishing. Monarchs will return to the same locations as their relatives did even though they have never been to Fire Island before. Somehow, they know they can feed, mate in our pine trees, and lay their eggs.

Fire Island Tide: What can people do to help your efforts?
Ellen Federico: 
Plant Milkweed and nectar flowers. Folks can stop by my house at 31 Robbins Walk corner at Central for Fire Island milkweed seeds. They can also order seeds online. Tropical milkweed or nectar plants purchased at local nurseries or Home Depot must be rinsed well to remove pesticides. The nectar plants Monarchs like are Asters, Zinnias, Cone flowers, Salvias, Buddleia Bushes, and their favorite bright orange Mexican sunflowers called Tithonia. If you plant a little habitat, they will come.

Fire Island Tide: Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Ellen Federico: 
Migrating Monarch butterflies are beautiful, brave, and extraordinary creatures. Folks ask me why they migrate every year? I went to the Michoacán Mountains in Mexico to see where they have been flying to for centuries. It was the best day of my life! And now I understand… they fly for us, the humans. To remind us to cherish and care for this planet, its renewal is our only hope.




Jewel In The Desert – Best Southwest Conference Site

Jewel In The Desert – Best Southwest Conference Site

The Biltmore Hotel, a jewel in the desert, is as surprisingly beautiful and rich in history as the Sonoran Desert it was built on. When you pull up to the hotel you’ll be smitten by the refined Charles MacArthur architecture and the attention to every detail. MacArthur was schooled by Frank Lloyd Wright whose spirit is felt everywhere.

The airport is a 20-minute drive to the hotel. The best weather is November – April 1.

This is a perfect property for corporate conferences, with 500+ sleeping rooms, numerous meeting rooms, several event lawns, two large ballrooms, and three smaller banquet rooms. Off-site activities are plentiful, like nearby Wrigley Mansion, Hope Native American Caves, shopping in town, and must see – Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1937 winter home and school for interns, ‘Taliesin West’, now a National Landmark.

Stepping out of bright sunshine into the softer lobby lighting or conference corridors is cool and soothing. Hotel interiors are rich and natural in wood, stone, and gold finishes. See the exquisite wall mural in the Gold Room off the lobby. Make sure you peek inside the Aztec room and imagine the prohibition Hollywood parties that raged back in the day.

The Lobby Bar is the hub of social mingling and meeting, they have a wonderful cocktail menu, try their famous Tequila Sunrise the hotel originated. My favorite is the Lavender Lemon Martini.

Newly renovated sleeping rooms are quite lovely with large spa bathrooms and very comfortable beds. Room rates range depending on season from $275 and up.

Surrounding gardens are colorful and floral beds highlight gorgeous stone masonry that adorns every building. Blooming citrus trees release an intoxicating fragrance. Sitting by the great lawn I saw my first humming birds sipping nectar. The dry air aroma of mountain clay mixed with sweet floral notes from all the gardens is a calming balm. The grounds are well cared for.

The food is very good and changes with the seasons. A bit pricey, but it is a resort. Excellent Spa services and staff on site, and of course the Golf Course is stunning. Swimming pools both large and small tucked into gardens sparkle. In summer months, misters abound. In winter months, fire pots crackle for cozy outdoor gatherings under the stars.

The Biltmore is a perfect property for corporate conferences, with 500+ sleeping rooms, numerous meeting rooms, several event lawns, two large ballrooms, three smaller banquet rooms. Off-site activities are plentiful, like nearby Wrigley Mansion, Hope Native American Caves, shopping in town, and must see – Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1937 winter home and school for interns, ‘Taliesin West’, now a National Landmark.

Biltmore Staff are courteous and polite with fast set up department. The property and rooms are clean and well maintained. Tip- Don’t walk barefoot on lawns, scorpions are native to AZ.

Conference Destination in San Antonio, Hill Country, TX

Conference Destination in San Antonio, Hill Country, TX

Timing is everything when planning a conference in San Antonio! The JW Marriott San Antonio in Hill Country is a wonderful property to visit and host a meeting in March-April to see the gorgeous blue bonnets that stretch for miles along roadsides, hills and valleys. It’s truly a sight to cherish and capture with a camera. Or, go in October and witness the extraordinary flight path of thousands of Monarch Butterflies migrating toward Mexico for the winter.

The Airport is a 25-minute drive to the hotel.

The hotel property is a resort, but feels casual and comfortable with modern rustic interiors, and very clean, and sprawling outdoor lawns, pools, flower beds, and a golf course. The spa is very good with a large range of treatments to choose from.

Sleeping rooms are spacious and clean with excellent mattresses. Ask for rooms with a patio that face the back of the hotel lawns, to feel the breeze off the hills. Rates start at $250 and up.

Hotel food is delicious, and of course they grill like masters with incredible cuts of beef covered in awesome hot sauces. Breakfast was my favorite in Cibolo Moon with homemade jams, honey butters, eggs any style, thick bacon, and a large buffet of breakfast favorites. The hotel has their own chef gardens behind the Sunday House and Breakout rooms. For fine dining make a reservation at 18 Oaks, pricey… but excellent. Try some of their local Texas wines… not bad al all.

Off-site attractions include ranches, rodeos, and trips into town for River Walk is terrific with great shopping and restaurants. It’s a 20 minute drive into town, avoid rush hour!

The property is active with conferences and events based on the numerous ballrooms and breakout meeting rooms. Book far in advance, best rates are over summer. big freight dock for loading in large sets. Be mindful of heat June – September.

All the staff are professional and courteous. Always best to document notes and agendas if planning a conference.

The Butterfly Lady of Fire Island

The Butterfly Lady of Fire Island

From The New Yorker:

There’s no place like an island, and a barrier island especially, for seasonal migrants. That’s certainly true of Fire Island. The thirty-two-mile-long sandbar off Long Island may be best known for little red wagons, houses on stilts, and gay beach parties, but it is also beloved by lepidopterists. Every September and October, the island’s dunes become a way station for tens of thousands of monarch butterflies, who stop there on their three-thousand-mile journey from Canada to a mountaintop in Michoacán, near Mexico City, where they go to reproduce and die.

Ellen Federico, who is known to locals as “the butterfly lady,” grew up across the water, in West Islip. She works as an event planner in Manhattan, but she spends her free time in a clapboard cottage that her father floated over to Fire Island on a barge in the seventies. The house, where she vacationed as a girl with her parents and her seven siblings, is one of the oldest in the beach community of Lonelyville. Federico, who is fifty-nine, is the island’s most authoritative witness to the gradual decline in the butterflies’ numbers.

“When I was small, the monarchs would swarm down the beach,” she said, one recent afternoon. She sat on her deck, surrounded by pots of milkweed, which the monarchs love. “You could run beneath them with a net and pull in a dozen. Not anymore.” Across America, falling monarch populations are usually blamed on climate change and on the use of herbicides that have eliminated the weeds they feed on. Federico likes to give milkweed seeds to her neighbors.

She inherited her love for monarchs from her father, who was known as Captain Bob. “He made his living from the sea—not just fishing but working charters, chumming for bait,” she said. “You know in ‘Funny Girl,’ when Barbra Streisand sings ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ on that tugboat? My dad was piloting one of the camera boats.” Captain Bob was fascinated by navigation. “He used to sit here when the monarchs flew over and say, ‘Look at that. Aeronautical perfection.’ ”

Federico has befriended monarch experts around the world, and she likes to explain how the monarchs fly by gliding on warm air (“as far as a hundred miles a day!”) and navigate by the angle of the sun. She gently pulled a big monarch from a mesh cage with her hands. “These ones, the royal monarchs, we also call ‘4Gs.’ They’re the fourth generation—the three generations before this, they live just four to six weeks, like most butterflies. But these 4Gs live up to nine months—long enough to fly to Mexico to mate before sending their babies back north.”

Seven years ago, Federico launched an effort to tag and count the butterflies on Fire Island. Each fall, her squad of child volunteers stalks the island and affixes weightless stickers to monarchs’ wings. The stickers allow her to track the butterflies all the way to Michoacán.

“This one’s a boy,” a ten-year-old named Cora Reynolds explained, as she held out a monarch she’d netted on a buddleia bush. “You have to be careful, when you put the sticker on his wing, not to cover the pheromone spots.” She pointed to two black dots. “Or else he won’t get a girlfriend.” Reynolds applied the sticker and wrote down its number on a clipboard.

Federico treasures a 2016 photograph of Barack Obama signing an agreement with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to protect the monarchs’ migration. In February, she travelled to Michoacán, to see where her butterflies end up. She rode a mule up into the El Rosario biosphere reserve, with a guide and a bodyguard armed against drug cartels. “It was the most magical day of my life,” she said, holding up a photograph and pointing to clouds of orange ringing high fir trees and to a sign, in the foreground, instructing visitors to maintain silence and to remain for a maximum of fifteen minutes. “I stayed for three hours,” she said. She was distressed to learn about a surge in illegal logging there. “Do you know why they’re cutting down the Oyamel firs my monarchs love?” she asked. “To plant more avocados for us fat-ass Americans to buy at Whole Foods.”

As Federico talked, several monarchs flitted about her garden. “This year’s been interesting, with these hurricanes in the Atlantic,” she said. “It’s been such a warm fall—they’re definitely heading south late. But the monarchs are flying. They know you can’t wall the wind.” ♦

This article appears in other versions of the October 9, 2017, issue, with the headline “Monarchs.”
Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is the author of “Island People: The Caribbean and the World,” and the co-editor of “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas.”

Beautiful Bandits

Beautiful Bandits

I recently read a Forbes list of the ten most stressful jobs and was not surprised to see Event Coordinator noted as #5 behind Police Officer, Airline Pilot, Firefighter, and Military Personnel. As a thirty-year event planner and ‘code red junkie’ this winter I moaned to myself, “I need a time out.” Right about the time Trump was threatening travel bans and swearing to build the wall. True to my nature, I picked Mexico City. I wanted to see where all those migrating Monarch Butterflies retreat to over winter?

I figured if these tiny creatures weighing less than a paperclip can fly 3000 miles from Canada through the States and over the Mexican border without a GPS or passport illegally for centuries, and to the same place… I should find out why? Six hours later I checked into a hotel in Mexico City and the next morning at 7am I was on my way into the Michoacan Mountains. Four hours later in El Rosario a mule-horse was humbly transporting me deep into the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary at an altitude of 12000 feet.

In sneakers still embedded with NYC grime, I quietly entered a cathedral of towering pine trees layered in ‘millions’ of orange, black and white Monarchs, wings closed at rest. A fragrance of pine, cedar and wild violets surrounded me. All I could do was smile as the sun stroked the trees and butterflies fluttered on cue off branches taking a wing stretch. A cool fire of color under a cobalt sky (silent Wow-wee!) There is NO talking in the sanctuary, I was grouped with a dozen older citizen scientists sitting on tree stumps taking it all in very casually. I wanted to burst with excitement in New Yorker volume, but I contained myself. However, true to my nature I whispered to a scholarly gentleman, “Excuse me sir, do you know why the Monarchs come here?” He looked up into the trees knowingly and shared, “To rest, sip nectar, mate, and fly.”

Somebody slap me, shouldn’t we all? Next time you need a time out… do it. Take flight!