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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Like a Rock on a Stick--Get the Habit of Seeing in the Dark

I still remember elements of a disagreement over words with one or both of my brothers when I was about seven years old. They are five and seven years older than me. The argument began like this: "Don't just sit there like a rock on a stick! Get going!" I was urging our dog Ranger to leave his spot in the garden where he was sunning himself and crushing my precious pumpkin plant. I had started it from seed and brought it home from my second-grade class to plant in the backyard. One or both of them overheard me and snickered, "Rock on a stick? Hahaha! Don't you mean bump on a log?" My view of the world was taking shape when well-meaning people at home in America sang songs that asked questions about where the flowers had gone. That war in Vietnam stole a piece of my childhood that can never be replaced. A rock on a stick seemed appropriate to a seven-year-old child who was trying, though not always succeeding, to maintain some stability when Daddy went away. The only contacts I (we) had with him for a year were the sound of his voice on reel-to-reel tapes and letters sent back and forth through the snail mail. I figure that my brothers must have been missing him too.

We (SAM and I) returned to our old stomping grounds in the Midwest a couple of weeks ago on a mission: family to visit and business opportunities to explore. After a few days of family time and some business meetings, we headed east on Highway 146 through Southern Illinois on our way to Greenville, Kentucky. Of course, we had to stop for a while and visit our favorite cave. I've been mulling over that visit and its significance at this particular time in my life and at this point in history when various world views are coming out of hiding and being dragged into the light of the sun. Plato attempted to explain the importance of needing to know one's place in the world in his Cave Allegory.

Our POTUS, God bless him, is facing some thorny situations right now, and I don't envy his responsibilities one bit. Sure, he has an agenda--who doesn't?--but I believe his heart is in the right place. I imagine that it beats a little faster every time he hears about another casualty, a Daddy or--this time--Mommy, who won't be coming home to that family left behind to wait and worry.

We spent several hours at Cave-in-Rock, exploring not only the trails in the park and the famous cave but also some mighty fine food at Kaylor's Cafe. The Sunday buffet includes fried chicken and catfish, along with freshly prepared salads and vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, hush puppies, yeast rolls, and a variety of rich desserts. You can order from the menu, but the buffet is worth every penny. SAM agreed with me that it rivals one of his mom's Sunday dinners, and she had a reputation for putting on quite a spread, back in the day.

After dinner, a leisurely walk along the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River helps the food settle and reveals some spectacular views of the water and the neighboring state--actually Commonwealth--of Kentucky. Before we departed on the ferry across the river, SAM got to talking to a local man who was casting his net along the bank for shad--bait fish, in case you were wondering. Turns out the man knew SAM's dad, back in the day, when they would fish from atop one of the Ohio River lock-and-dams. The man was also a Navy vet who had served a tour of duty at Pensacola NAS. Small world, isn't it?

Cave-in-Rock is a friendly--if sleepy--little town. I just hope the handwriting on the wall concerning the pending climate legislation doesn't render it completely catatonic. Its future depends on that traffic you saw in the first photo, the one with the barge carrying coal downriver.

Someone in charge of building the little riverfront park must have been thinking of warmer climes. We all know that pelicans don't live in Illinois. Or do they?

Everyone must take a ferry ride here at least once--you really have no choice if you're traveling east to Kentucky. The trip across the river gives you a chance to appreciate the slow rhythm of life on the water while you wait for the barges and other business of life to pass by. No one seems to be in a hurry here. People smile at each other and wave hello and goodbye to each other and even to strangers. They seem to realize that life is too short to be "strangers" with their neighbors, familiar or not.

Before we traveled to visit the cave and before we boarded that ferry to Kentucky, while SAM was meeting with someone who might become an important part of our future, I took some time to reflect on some other business of life.

A veterans' cemetery like the one at Bloomfield in Missouri tugs at your heart, especially if you have a loved one resting there.

"Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the den, and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth. And thus our State, which is also yours, will be a reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst." --Socrates in Plato's Republic, Book VII, concerning the Allegory of the Cave--


  1. Never heard the rock on a stick phrase. My Dad used to say get off your thumb and get busy;)

    It's been many years since I was thru that area.

  2. Well, Marnie, I guess it's just you and me here to converse. Rock on a stick was my own 7-year-old-ism. I probably should have been called Miss Malaprop(ism) for all of the damage I did to the language. Your dad sounds like quite a hoot. You should try to make it down to SI someday and see the sights. The area probably hasn't changed a whole lot since you saw it last, except for the addition of all the vineyards and wineries. Or maybe I should say replacement of them. Before prohibition, Illinois used to be one of the nation's biggest producers of grapes and wine.

  3. I don't recall ever being in Ill. but I'm from not far away. I did have relatives that lived there before their demise. Some family still in Ind. But it does seem to be a very pretty place.
    We use to say "Dumb as a rock" or some such things. At present don't remember too many of the sayings.

  4. This was a very interesting post.
    I enjoyed the way you wove your memories with todays experiences.
    I felt as if I was hiking with you and you were sharing your story.

  5. You know, Lola, I'm still not sure if that expression "dumb as a rock" means mentally deficient or rendered silent, as in "cat got your tongue?" Whatever the meaning, I've always been fascinated by the powerful effect that words have on all of us, even before we're born, according to some researchers.

    Thanks, Sherry! It's fun to have a companion along for the "walk." And the conversation is the best part of it.

  6. LOl like Roses and Lilacs, I'd never heard of the rock on a stick phrase. I'll have to use it.

  7. Another wonderful and thought provoking post. Thorny issues indeed as we are facing the very situation. Most unexpected and difficult. I have never heard the term 'rock on a stick' but all I can think of is lollipops. Maybe because it is Halloween. You have a great one.

    P.S. I think you are right on my grasshopper!

  8. There’s no joke like an obscure old family joke.

    A rock on a stick makes as much sense as a bump on a log as the antithesis of getting going.

    Your photos show the eye of a native, but with a fresh point of view that only months away can provide.

    You evoke VietNam from an age cohort younger than mine. It’s time to tell your stories to the next generation. And keep those family jokes alive. And stay out of scary caves. It’s Halloween!

  9. I love that opening shot – perfectly framed! I like how you tie the image into Plato, your family and Vietnam. Cave-in-Rock is the best name for a town. Your life is an allegory.

  10. That Plato was one cool dude. And his cave allegory is my all-time favorite (actually, it's the only allegory I've studied, so I'm really not sure that it's my "all-time favorite" since I have no others to compare it to).

    I may be visiting My Old Kentucky Home come Thanksgiving (that'd be Greensburg, KY, a little town along the banks of the Green River).

  11. What a great trip to Kentucky! I would like to see that cave one day and ride the ferry!

    Hope SAM is gonna be feeling better soon...I have had that darn cough/cold/flu the past three just keeps on hangin on! I am dragging around still...

    Happy Halloween you you both!

  12. Sorry to be so late getting here, W2W; I've been under the weather and haven't done much blog reading this week. On a recent trip to Tennessee, we came home through Kentucky and Southern Illinois. Every time I drive through this part of the state I think how different it is from the central flatlands where I live. Beautiful country!

    Your post is so poignant and timely--a former student of mine was killed in Iraq this week. It certainly reminded me of the sacrifices made by the families of servicemen as well. I believe, too, that our President has good intentions, but one man cannot effect change overnight. It will take time.

  13. MBT, be my guest. The phrase is free for the taking.

    Tina, I did think of your situation when I wrote this post, and I'm keeping your family in my prayers. Who knows where that phrase came from? Maybe I was eating a lollipop at the time. We all know what rotten teeth I have! Glad I could help with the grasshopper.

    WS, I can't promise that I will stay out of scary caves, but I will continue to tell stories. Maybe not too many family ones, though. I'm already a bit of a black sheep/odd duck in the family. Maybe Sarah is right about the allegory fit.

    Thanks, Sarah. Whenever I put a post together, it seems to make perfect sense to me. I'm always a little amazed, though, when other people can appreciate the connections.

    TC, I agree, Plato's cave is one of the best. But I'm sure you've read Animal Farm? Pilgrim's Progress? Beauty and the Beast? There sure are a lot of Green places in the Bluegrass State. I'm surprised you didn't ask why we were headed for Greenville.

    Julie, you would love Southern Illinois and KY. Rolling hills, pastoral artist's delight. I'm hoping that I'm immune to whatever creeping crud SAM has. So far the precautions are working.

    Please don't apologize, Rose. I've been slow to visit everyone too, and I don't even have a good reason. You're certainly right about the time factor. I hate it when people "in charge" rush things and make hasty, ill-informed decisions, especially when other people's lives are at stake. I'm so sorry about your former student and his family, of course. It's heartbreaking.

  14. Wow, that was some adventure. I agree about the boat ferry ride, especially to transport a vehicle. I did that across Lake Champlain a life time ago. I like that saying too: "a rock on a stick," I'd never heard of it, but now it makes sense. (I like it better than "bump on a log" by the way.)

  15. You are one of the few bloggers whose posts are so well done that you don't have to write a post everyday. In fact that would be too much. The war... I remember Viet Nam from a teenager's point of view, but my daughter's former boyfriend represented everything wrong with how we treat returning service people and why we shouldn't send them in the first place...I wish you luck with your business... Michelle

  16. Mr. S, the cave isn't terribly exciting--no bats or creepy things happening there. Except for the fact that my camera's batteries have mysteriously died both times while I was in the cave in the past year. And I'm fairly certain they were not set to expire for a while yet. Glad you like the phrase too. Maybe I should get it trademarked.

    Michelle, thanks. I don't think I would have the strength to post every day. I can't even bring myself to Tweet very often. I do write something every day, though, per my professors' advice and for sanity's sake. I agree with you on the poor treatment of war veterans. It's disgraceful.

  17. Thoughtfull and well written. Plato's cave, always a parable to contemplate. It now occurs to me that he must have divined the rise of Fox (I mean Fix) News. The darkness of lies and half-truths holding millions in thrall.

  18. I know the feeling, business has been off so long, you want something to happen. I hope you got some good news W2W. There's a glimmer of hope on our end, it's faint, but it's there.

  19. Troutbirder, thanks. You know, it ain't only Fox that needs fixin', and boy does it ever need it! Seems to me that the other networks would rather keep us entertained with the latest celebrity shenanigans and gossip than informed about what's really going on around the world. The news has become secondary or maybe even tertiary on television.

    Paula, I hope your glimmer starts to shine brightly soon. Same kind of glimmer going on here...

  20. Thanks for the opportunity to share your memories. Nice post.

  21. Thanks, Carolann! I read your post about the stadium in Sarasota. Things like that don't surprise me anymore. Somehow when someone stands to make a lot of money, especially in construction, environmental concerns tend to go by the wayside. It's not always the case, but when it does people get a bad taste of something corrupt, and then the ones who try to play by the rules get penalized too by association.