1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Too Dark to Be Green--Blame It on Global Warming

"Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience."

--Henry David Thoreau--

Apparently, I upset the apple cart and made some people close to me worried with my last too-dark post, so I will vindicate myself by jumping on the "green" bandwagon and blame it all on the oil business and global warming.

I am not necessarily looking down my nose at the notion of "going green." Well....yes, I am, in a manner of speaking. I took this picture looking down from the walking path at the local park. It represents an unused piece of land of at least an acre that is mowed and kept neat looking, but for what purpose? Sometimes I feel like the befuddled Lily Briscoe from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. I have to keep asking "What does it mean?"

I guess I could blame my ignorance on waiting until my mid 40s to finish up my undergraduate English degree, which I did last December. You see, I had some trouble being explicit enough to please my professors at UWF (University of West Florida). I got in the habit there and then of asking myself the "so what" question, but I still find it difficult here and now to be not so implicit. I might as well blame that bad habit on learning from a generation intent on hiding its true feelings--of horror and shame--about what has taken place in this world since the War to End All Wars behind a Janus-mask of discontent and self-improvement.

For some strange reason, I could no longer stand the heat in the kitchen, and I jumped at every chance I had to get out and take classes. I became what you might call a dilettante. Improve thyself became my mantra, but I was too afraid to trust my kids to the care of strangers. Blame that fear on the plethora of news stories in the 80s and 90s about sexual predators lurking everywhere and especially masquerading as loving childcare workers and teachers. What could I do? I did not like putting them in daycare when they were little, nor did I like making them ride a bus full of foul-mouthed and unruly kids home to an empty house. So I waited. I even homeschooled for a while. As Thoreau implied, I did not strike while the iron was hot. Ideas cooled in my hot little brain like cookies on a rack and maybe got a little stale too.

Wait. I need to slow down a bit. The speed bumps in life are there for a reason. They keep you from veering off the road into the ditch and make you appreciate the beauty you see and have.

Where am I going with these thoughts? To an empty baseball field at the local park, of course. It is the end of the season here for baseball. Football practice has already started, and school begins in a few weeks. All of the vans and SUVs which used to crowd the lots here at the park are resting silently in garages or driveways. The park is quiet now except for a few self-deprecating, middle-aged people who like to walk in the early morning and evening and talk about how things used to be, how bad they are now, and how good they could be again. Okay, I will be fair and limit the self-deprecating part of that description to just me. I will blame that bad habit on living too long in the Bible Belt, not taking the Gospel to heart, and learning to be cynical.

That last post of mine may have sounded a little negative. I will grant that supposition. It was meant to ring with irony. I felt tired of sounding sappy and wanted to try a different design for my "garden." Blame it on global warming. I am trying to cook up ideas that have cooled for too long, and the extra heat is taking its toll on my brain. I hope no one is keeping score.

"What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands up and grip one; could the blade cut; the fist grasp? Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life?--startling, unexpected, unknown?"

--Lily Briscoe in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse--

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Frost i'th' Dog Days! Strange!"

As I was sitting in my air-conditioned apartment today, looking through some older photos of my grandson Micah and missing him terribly, I got to thinking about how pathetically contradictory and hypocritical I am--hence, the title of this post (from John Webster's play The White Devil). I know John Webster could not even have dreamed of such a thing as air conditioning existing in the year 1612, but I imagine he would not be surprised--if he could suddenly be transported to the 21st century--to find out that people really haven't changed since his time, in spite of all that has transpired since then. We still isolate ourselves from each other, sometimes just to selfishly enjoy what we think we deserve, and sometimes to avoid being honest. On our walk through the local park this morning, my husband and I were discussing how surprising but lamentable the fact that one can still find bigotry thriving in this country today. You hear it everywhere: on television, on the radio, in movies, in music, even in the jokes that people tell....and laugh at.

I blog about saving wetlands, and then I take such pleasure in remembering how Micah played with the water hose for at least an hour. I call myself Roamin' and Bloomin', but at the moment I'm not doing much of either of those commendable activities. I like to think of myself as an altruist, wanting to become a massage therapist so I can help people find stress relief, but I find myself revealed as a negativist and narcissist. The revelation came to me after I nicked myself with the razor while shaving my legs in the shower (wasting more water!). I waited for the blood to start flowing down the back of my leg, but it took a while. While I waited, I thought about how many times I checked e-mail today: probably at least a dozen times. Had anyone left either a cryptic or uplifting message? Were there any new comments on any of my posts? It's shameful, that's what it is. If a blog is supposed to be a reflection of the person who created it, this one reflects a fraud and a hypocrite.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hard at Work and Play

Jack (BN)'s found an oil slick!

(W2W, 2008)

Hubby on Sunday kept his boss and his wife happy (you mean they aren't one and the same?) by negotiating a balance between work and play. First, he drove out to the rig early in the morning to pick up drilling samples and monitor the drilling progress. I will refer to these roughnecks as JBQs (Jack-Be-Quicks). They have a tough job to do and have to be quick on their feet and with their hands, or they are liable to lose some toes or fingers. They work eight hour shifts and during this current oil boom rarely have a day off except for the following reasons: they get sick, the rig they work on breaks down and needs repair, or they get time off for bad behavior (sent to jail). The last reason, sadly, accounts for more time off than any other one. I theorize that the nature of their work throws their home life out of balance and upsets the equilibrium of their Qi (energy). Drilling into Mother Earth somehow pits her yin against their yang, and their tension after work finds an outlet in barroom brawls or "domestic disturbances."

The JBQs work too hard, it seems, and the danger and resulting tension they face every day on the job sometimes boils over in reaction and spills onto the mundane things in life, like language. My husband knows what a word freak I am, and he has kindly consented to provide me with a set of colorful oil field terms he hears while at the rig as well as their meanings:

Blow the hole down: Drill fast!
Blowout: Gas or oil spews out because of underground pressure.
Bottom hole pressure: The underground gas pressure that gets measured at drilling completion.
Break out a joint: Separate joints of pipe from others.
Circulate bottoms up: Time required to get rock cuttings (samples) from the bottom of hole to the surface.
Gas to surface: Natural gas making its way to the surface through the drill pipe.
Going in the hole/Running in the hole: Lowering drill pipe into the bore hole.
Lost tools in hole: Losing a string of pipe.
Make a Trip: Coming all the way out of the hole to replace a drill bit.
Make up/Break Out: Twisting two pieces of pipe together or loosening them.
Mud up: Initiate use of drilling mud to condition the hole.
Nipple up: Weld two different sizes of pipe together.
No bottom hole recorded: No pressure in the formation.
Pumpjack: The equipment used to pump the oil to the surface after completion of the well drilling.
Strip log: The geologist's record of drilling time at each formation.
Stripping rubbers: Doughnut-like rings placed below the rotary table, used to strip the mud off the pipe when coming out of the hole to replace the bit or perform a drill-stem test.
Tight hole: All information on well is kept secret.
Tool pusher: The boss of the drillers. He makes sure the crew uses sufficient pipe "dope" and "trips" when needed (comes out of the hole to change the bit).
Twisted off: This term can mean either the torque of the drill rig twists the pipe off or the driller quits suddenly.

These pits hold the drilling mud, a mixture of bentonite clay (kitty litter), water, and various stabilizing chemicals, which circulates the rock cuttings from the bottom of the hole upwards. The JBQs "grab" samples of these cuttings and collect them in little bags for the geologist to evaluate for the presence of oil. The drilling "mud" or fluid is the lifeblood of the well. Drilling could not be accomplished without this circulatory system.

The draw works pictured here is the apparatus that allows for lowering and hoisting of drill pipe in and out of the hole. It also has brakes to put so many points of weight on the drill bit (or hold off weight).

Like a ship, the drill rig has a crow's nest, but in this case it's not for sighting land. Here, one of the JBQs stacks the pipe vertically in a rack when drilling is not yet completed but there is a need to remove the pipe from the hole, such as when for tripping for a bit or running a drill stem test.

All of the equipment for drilling is brought in on skids and set up within a matter of a couple of days. To the left of the picture you see the doghouse, where the driller monitors and controls the action of the drilling and also where the crew members take short breaks. The derrick in the center of the picture, of course, is where all the action and drama unfold. The blue structure on the right side is the water tank holding the water to be used for mixing with the mud chemicals. In the foreground are the pipe tubs (right) and one of the pipe racks.

This setup can be seen more and more frequently on various highways and byways throughout the southern part of Illinois.

After working at the rig for a couple of hours, hubby brought some balance back to the day by going on a hike with me to Giant City State Park. The temperature soared to nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit (mid 90s in the shade), but he never complained, at least not until I stopped moving at intervals along the trail to take pictures.

I know that I saw this plant blooming earlier in the spring. Now it seems to be putting on fruit. I really need to get a wildflower book for this area so I can identify plants like this one (hint).

Of course, this plant is easy to recognize as a blackberry vine. I found it growing right out of a rock along the trail.

You can't keep a good man down (on the ground). Hubby insisted on climbing up the slippery, moss-covered rock into a shallow cave.

Well, I'm not exactly a tree hugger, but I do find them to be excellent places to hold onto and keep one's balance when stumbling about a root-laden trail.

I like this perspective of the road from the trail, seen between two rocks that separated from each other during some cataclysmic event like an earthquake. This spot was one of the few cool places (literally) along the entire path.

The sign gently warns visitors to not remove or disturb anything found in the area. Footprints should be the only thing left behind after a visit.

Occasional rumbles could be heard while we were at the top of the trail, and we discovered that these noises came from motorcycles making their way through the park, undoubtedly on the way to visit some of the local wineries. We followed suit in our car after hiking, but not before we made a small detour to visit a place called Boskydell, south of Carbondale. I lived in this area with my parents for a couple of years while finishing up high school and met one of the sweetest ladies imaginable, who changed my life forever. Her name was Rose Lipe.

This group of dilapidated buildings is all that remains of a once well-kept farm that Rose owned and maintained until her death in 1995. We drove up the driveway, thinking that no one lived there anymore, only to be surprised by a young, bikini-clad woman peeking out from behind some weeds. The house looked uninhabitable, so I'm not sure what she was doing there.

If you click on the picture above, you will see proudly proclaimed that this barn was build by friends. Rose had many of them.

Rose meant a lot to me. She was my Sunday School teacher in this little one-room schoolhouse, my 4-H leader (we met here for some of our meetings), and a wonderful friend who taught me a lot about hard work, fun, faith, love, and happiness. She knew how to balance them all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Geliebte Tante Ilse!

I took this picture of a sage plant growing through the deck railing at my mother's house just over a week ago. Sage has been regarded as a valuable plant for thousands of years, and its Latin name Salvia derives from the same root as the word salvation. The Romans called it the "herba sacra" or sacred herb because they considered it able to save them from disease or even death.

This Don Juan has been thriving in my mom's garden for over a decade. It was always one of my dad's favorites. Its color and vigor remind me of Tante Ilse's lovely complexion and exuberance. My mom called me this afternoon and told me that Tante Ilse passed away yesterday in Germany. She lost a long battle with cancer, two years after losing her husband to the same disease.

I remember her as the aunt who never overlooked the tiniest detail in matters of hospitality. When I was a child, we stayed with her and my Uncle Helmut while visiting a host of relatives in northern Germany. Their house did not have central heat at that time, and she insisted on tucking me in the huge featherbed every night with a hot water bottle to warm my feet. She also tolerated my sliding down the thickly carpeted, steep stairway at their house, even after my mother stopped me and warned me not to do it again. She merely winked at me when my mother went outside, as if to say "go ahead, I don't mind, do it again!"

I know she had a difficult life at times, having lived through World War II in Germany, enduring the privations associated with it, as well as its aftermath. She also took care of my widowed grandmother (her mother-in-law), believing it to be her duty and an honor to do so. I seldom saw my uncle without a genuine smile lighting up his face. He knew he was married to a gem of a woman, someone who could thrive despite life's hardships and lend her own seemingly limitless strength to others. I wish I was more like her.

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
And lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
All the days of her life...
Give her the reward she has earned
And let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
(Proverbs 31)

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Wetland on Its Knees

"I readily believe that there are more invisible than visible Natures in the universe. But who will explain for us the family of these beings, and the ranks and relations and distinguishing features and functions of each? What do they do? What places do they inhabit? The human mind has always sought the knowledge of these things but never attained it. Meanwhile I do not deny that it is helpful sometimes to contemplate in the mind, as on a tablet, the image of a greater and better world, lest the intellect, habituated to the petty things of daily life, narrow itself and sink wholly into trivial thoughts. But at the same time we must be watchful for the truth and keep a sense of proportion, so that we may distinguish the certain from the uncertain, day from night."
(Epigraph to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Adapted by Samuel Taylor Coleridge from Thomas Burnet's Archaeologiae Philosophicae (1692).

A visit to the Cache River yesterday with hubby left some deep impressions on me. I was struck not only by the beauty of the place (a swamp?) but also by its fragile existence, its importance in keeping the environment healthy, and its unfathomable mysteries.

Though this national treasure was in danger of disappearing forever, various government entities and nature enthusiasts have worked together to purchase farmland and let it return to its natural state. The Cache River was once a meandering waterway that provided a home for countless species of plants and animals and acted as a natural sponge, sopping up flood water in the floodplain of the Ohio River. When people began to settle in this area, they found the soil rich with promise for crops and forage for their livestock. The huge oaks and cypress trees which once covered much of the area were chopped down and hauled away for building towns and cities near and far. To make it easier for the wood to be shipped down the Ohio River, a channel was cut from the Cache to the Ohio. Draining the swamp seemed like a sensible idea to the farmers and lumber companies, and "progress" was the mantra of the day.

We took to the trails at Heron Pond to view the swamp firsthand but not before stopping at the impressive Wetlands Center for a little background information. The park ranger in charge of the operation showed us a short film about the area's history and plans for the future. After the film, I asked her something that I've been curious about for quite some time: What purpose do cypress knees serve, other than calling to mind those mythical creatures known as gnomes? She responded that "no one really knows for sure" and that various theories have been devised but none have been proven conclusive. One theory is that the knees provide stability in the trees' somewhat unstable watery environment. Another theory is that they allow the trees' underwater roots to access more oxygen. A little investigation by me online turned up an interesting but still inconclusive article by Christopher H. Briand, "Cypress Knees: An Enduring Enigma." Briand admits that "after nearly 200 years of speculation and research, the function or functions of the knees of cypresses remain unclear. Darwin referred to the origin of the flowering plants as an 'abominable mystery'; it appears that the function of cypress knees is another. The truth may be that cypress knees evolved in response to past environmental pressures that no longer exist, in which case their function may be lost in the depth of time."

In other words, the discovery of their purpose is still around the bend, submerged in the curious mind of some unknown child. It's just waiting to be picked up and put to good use for solving some problem like cancer or maybe providing some insight into the real causes of global climate change.

As hubby and I strolled along the trail to Heron Pond, we encountered a young couple with an energetic child in tow. We observed him hacking away mercilessly at the trunk of a small tree growing next to the trail. His father was recording the "cute" behavior on a DVR and laughing as the tyke imitated the actions of a lumberjack from the past or maybe those of a modern firefighter in California cutting a fireline (something he had obviously seen in a movie or on an evening news broadcast). I held my tongue until we were out of earshot and then railed loudly to hubby against the lax attitudes of parents today. Instead of recording his son's antics, that young father should have been gently dissuading him and using the moment to teach him a valuable lesson about taking care of nature. Don't get me wrong. I applaud the parents' attempt to immerse the youngster in the midst of an environment in peril. I think this kind of parental effort is sorely lacking today. Most parents would rather recline in air-conditioned comfort while their youngsters sit enthralled in front of the movie screen, getting their life-lessons from Hollywood. Still, I wish that young father had told his son that striking the tree bark could damage the tree's "skin" and perhaps make it sick and unable to grow big and tall like the trees all around it. If parents today don't act as a bridge to the next generation, leading them to love the world they live in, our world is indeed "doomed to destruction," as the media are so fond of insisting.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Unspoiled Booty

I visited the MD on Thursday per hubby's request, but I thought the exam was a waste of time and money as his assessment of my PITA or booty pain was inconclusive at best. He determined that my symptoms represented classic sciatica and promptly prescribed the following: No more long car trips in the near future (okay, Illinois, I'm a captive audience), twice daily stretching exercises, no heavy lifting (hubby is hereby sentenced to grocery shopping with me for a while), heat pack on the affected area (hmm, sounds good), and drugs (of course; what else are MDs good for?) which include Feldene and Flexeril. I am following the first four instructions faithfully, but in all good conscience, I cannot continue taking the drugs. The Feldene is not as effective as ibuprofen, and it produced some heartburn. The Flexeril (taken at bedtime) promptly knocked me out, but it gave me brain fog the next morning. I'm probably already perilously low on brain cells. I don't need to lose any more. Luckily, I couldn't find a local pharmacy open Thursday evening, so I didn't suffer any ill effects until Saturday. Friday (July 4), we decided to visit some fairly local attractions: Stoneface in the Shawnee National Forest (Saline County) and The American Fluorite Museum in Rosiclare.

We found this site on the way to Rosiclare by consulting a book we purchased about ten years ago, Fifty Nature Walks in Southern Illinois, written by Alan McPherson and published in 1993. Unfortunately, hard economic times and a federal policy of "letting things go" have rendered the trails nearly impassable. There seems to be a Catch-22 mentality operating here. Visitors are welcome but may be discouraged by the roughness of the terrain.

We found the site with some difficulty. Apparently, the local kids must take some perverse pleasure in removing directional signs from the road, and the Forest Service does not regularly inspect or service those signs or the roads leading to the trailhead.

We finally made it up to the top of the trail to view what we think might be the Stoneface. It doesn't look like the picture in the book, but the photo there was taken from an aerial vantage point.

Maybe it's a good thing the trail is difficult to negotiate. Otherwise, this monument to Josh's indiscretion might be situated on the relatively undisturbed rock face. We found this mess in the parking area, probably a favorite haunt for local youngsters. Josh, this is no joke. Clean it up!

Here are some specimens of the booty we discovered in the mining spoils at The American Fluorite Museum.

Hubby got me interested in minerals a long time ago (30 years, to be exact) when we first met. Both of his parents were avid gem and mineral collectors, and they encouraged his interest in geology, his profession for the past 28 years. We seem to have come full circle at this point in our life together. He was recently hired to explore for oil again in the Illinois basin, something he did way back in the early-to-mid-80s, before the price of oil plummeted and the oil industry crashed. Neither of us is happy about the high price of gasoline now, but we are thrilled that he has a chance to finally work again in a field that interests him and potentially will benefit our family finances.

Fluorite, a cubic, crystalline mineral, comes in many colors, including this lovely shade of blue. The color is produced by impurities in the mineral deposition. I rather think this specimen's beauty is enhanced rather than spoiled by its impurities.

Apparently, someone else thought the blue specimen was worthy of photographic depiction.

Per hubby, this is a "geologic map showing faults and folding of the subsurface, and the most prominent feature on the map is Hick's Dome, a large circular upheaval caused by igneous intrusives. The fluorite found here was created by minerals deposited over time in the cracks which opened up during a cataclysmic event precipitated by magma flow upwards through the rock layers."

I insisted on bringing home a few tiny specimens (pictured above) from the spoils pile outside the museum, and hubby obliged me by picking through it. Though the price seemed cheap to me (one dollar per pound), hubby says he remembers a time when his parents purchased museum-quality, fist-size and larger specimens from one of the Rosiclare miners for 25 cents a pound. That practice of profiting on company time would be grounds for dismissal in any business now, but back in the day many miners supplemented their incomes, and the practice was acknowledged but ignored by company officials. The price of fluorite then was high, profits were soaring, and a little moonlighting could be overlooked. Rumor has it that the cheap Chinese fluorite which flooded the market and eventually necessitated the closing of the mine may become too expensive to import because of rising fuel prices. Maybe the wheel has also finally come full circle for the economically depressed town of Rosiclare.