Review | A BOUQUET OF DAYS by Fran Palmeri (Benin)


A Bouquet of Days: Rambles through the Natural Beauties of Florida
by Fran Palmeri (Benin 1967–68)
200 pages
January 2024
$32.87 (paperback)

Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96), 


Fran Palmeri and her husband Bob, who was with the USIA, were assigned to  Dahomey (now Benin) in 1967/68, and helped set up the Peace Corps program there.  She is a member of the RPCV Gulf Coast Florida group.  An award-winning writer/photographer, Fran has been exploring natural Florida for fifty years.

A Bouquet of Days is divided into four chapters, one for each season.  Fran guides us through the manifestations of Florida’s seasonal changes as they affect the weather, plants, animals, insects, birds, trees and whatever else lives on this tiny tongue of the planet.  She also tells you through her expressive words and color-splashed photographs how the changes affect her.

 “Sometimes when winter overstays its welcome a longing as ancient as our species overtakes me.” When temperatures plummet to the sixties, Fran hibernates in her home on the edge of a forest, trying to stay warm until the sun comes back.

In the spring, mint-green leaves bud on bare branches of swamp oaks, birds chase each other in mating waltzes, days are sunny and temperatures balmy.  Flowers bloom in clouds of pale pastels.

Photographing the first iris of spring, I feel slightly tipsy – a ‘Drunkard on Springtime.’ That such beauty should exist in this world of ours seems a miracle.

Fran not only observes, but senses all things in nature, like a Seminole or a panther, eyes swiveling, nose in the air.  The difference is that she carries a camera with which to make passing moments indelible.

Weather can be dramatic in Florida in the summer — stifling heat and hurricanes — and Fran photographs its volatile moods.  “Enjoy a pyrotechnic sunset after a day of thunderstorms.  They won’t last long and then it’s back to ‘humdrum’ red ball into blue Gulf.  We Floridians are spoiled by summer sunsets.”

Then comes autumn and deciduous tropical trees and foliage start to change.  “The colors vary.  The fall palette is more robust; reds, purples and yellows
 . . . greens prevail in the woods . . . lopsided Indian grass and bushy bluestems … a great burst of growth to see out the year into the next – when the real thing starts arriving.”

Fran can be spied in the middle of woods peering through her camera at the face of a flower. Her photographs are stunning, from a panorama of clouds in a blue sky, to the complex striations of bark on a swamp oak tree, caves and waterways, and even an occasional human.  “For now there’s still beauty around.  And my camera keeps  on recording it.”

She writes about her favorite botanists and nature research centers, including Oscar Scherer National Park near Naples, where she lives. Every page of her several books astonishes the eye with pictures of glorious microcosms of nature.  “In nature there is no ranking.  Everything has its place in the circle of life.  Connectivity is the very definition of nature.”

On climate change: “… loss stares me in the face, I cannot look away.  Nature needs our care and concern as dedicatedly now as ever, maybe more so.”  “Let us not mourn the past.  Let us not live in the future before we get there.  We will not roll over and be dead before our time.”

I call Fran our “Florida Thoreau.”  She has much to teach us about our world through the eyes of her world.  In this Bouquet of Days she offers us a gift of ethereal wonder, a gift to be treasured.

Fran Palmeri

Fran has written several other books focusing on certain aspects of nature that catch her fancy:  In Praise of Spanish Moss, Florida: Lost and Found, Florida Wildflowers, Florida Wildflower through the Seasons, Florida is for the Birds.

Fran is past Secretary of the Friends of Oscar Scherer Park and a former member of the Sarasota Tree Advisory Council.  She writes for national and international magazines and is a contributing editor to the Sarasota News Leader.  Fran’s photographs are featured in Natural Florida Landscaping by Dan Walton and Laurel Schiller.  They are also on display at various state and county Parks.  She is co-owner of the Florida Native Plants Nursery, Vice President of the Florida Native Plant Society (Serenoa Chapter), and a member of the Board of the Sustainable Living Center in Hampton. Her web


Reviewer Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002, and wrote a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and of Haiti, In the Valley of Atibon, as well as several travel memoirs. She is president of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Gulf Coast FL.

Leita received the Lillian Carter Award in 2017.

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