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On a sweltering day in Sicily, the enchanted, shady lanes of Palermo’s Orto Botanico (Botanical Gardens) offer a respite from the heat while seemingly transporting a visitor back to another time and place. The huge, 25-acre garden just off Palermo’s Cala and adjacent to the historic Kalsa district and Villa Guilia, was designed in 1789 and has served as one of Italy’s important botanical research facilities ever since.

The public gardens exhibit what might be described kindly as the typical Italian management style—slow but not unintentional—and with a sense of important things happening behind the scenes. The largest Ficus macrophiia in all of Europe seems to rise up out the very depths of the earth to greet visitors. In the “experimental field” are medical plants, a tropical orchard, palm grove and historical collections with stories to tell.

It’s all a little low-key, but in this feverish city of endless historic sites, shops and scooters, an hour or two spent watching the garden workers sweep the dirt paths is welcome indeed.

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We wait patiently here in the Pacific Northwest for the clouds to break. Our gray winter skies can be monotone at best. We don’t get any more rain than my hometown of New York City, but we have long stretches of cloud cover and we say bye-bye to the sun for many a day. Yes, we get SAD (seasonal affective disorder); we are in essence starved for light. Waiting for the sun to break through is a great Seattle winter pastime, supplemented with drinking warm beverages, reading books and watching movies.

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There are some other very useful things that help the ‘winter blahs’…

•Take short walks

•See friends

•Get out of bed and stay active

•Don’t over eat

•Change the colors of your living and work environments (we can help with that)

•Communicate with bright designs (we can help with that too)

•Looking at photos of sunnier times (we took lots of photos this summer)

So look up, and if you’re lucky enough to catch a patch of blue… smile.

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