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, December 24, 2009

Christmas Waits for No One in a Garden

...Being now at home again, and alone, the only person in the house awake, my thoughts are drawn back, by a fascination which I do not care to resist, to my own childhood. I begin to consider, what do we all remember best upon the branches of the Christmas Tree of our own young Christmas days, by which we climbed to real life...
--from Charles Dickens' essay "A Christmas Tree," 1850--

Who better to question the various meanings and memories of Christmas than Charles Dickens? I think he surely laid the foundation for the way many of us celebrate the holiday today or at least expressed it better than anyone else. Elaborately decorated trees laden with glass baubles and homespun merriment, gifts covered with paper and ribbons tempting youngsters to sneak a peek, and calorie-studded feasts shared with loved ones and friends manage to hold their own even in these days of economic effeteness. Real life takes a back seat, if only for a day or two, when Christmas comes around. With a new job in Tallahassee driving us on to new and different experiences, SAM and I slowed the real-life pace last weekend on our visit to Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. It's one of those places I'm sure that we will revisit now and again.

...Oh, now all common things become uncommon and enchanted to me. All lamps are wonderful; all rings are talismans. Common flower-pots are full of treasure, with a little earth scattered on the top...
--from Dickens' essay, as above--

SAM gathers strength from weekend visits and so do I, seeing him in better spirits against such a massive backdrop. I wonder how many storms this live oak has weathered over the years to achieve this stature?

Yes, on every object that I recognize among those upper branches of my Christmas Tree, I see this fairy light! When I wake in bed, at daybreak, on the cold, dark, winter mornings, the white snow dimly beheld, outside, through the frost on the window-pane, I hear Dinarzade. "Sister, sister, if you are yet awake, I pray you finish the history of the Young King of the Black Islands." Scheherazade replies, "If my lord the Sultan will suffer me to live another day, sister, I will not only finish that, but tell you a more wonderful story yet." Then, the gracious Sultan goes out, giving no orders for the execution, and we all three breathe again.
--from Dickens' essay as above--

I wondered as we walked the brick pathways through the gardens: where did these variously crafted bricks come from, and why did they all end up in this garden? One search led me to a Tallahassee blog and a helpful lady who apparently likes to walk here too. There is a story behind every block laid down on these paths, and I'm glad someone thought it worthwhile to preserve them for visitors in need of a respite from real life.

One path leads to a secret garden enclosed by leafy walls. It's beautiful even at this time of year, planted with succulents and frost-tolerant flowers. At this time of year, before the peak of camellia and azalea season, you don't pay extra to visit the Maclay estate. Six dollars admits a car-ful of people to the park and includes admission to the gardens as well as access to picnic areas and miles-long trails through the woods. What a wonderful gift!

Like silvery Christmas tinsel in the sunlight, Spanish moss covers just about every tree in sight. You see much more of it here in Tallahassee than in the Pensacola area. The air plants apparently take a long time to recover from hurricane damage, which is obviously not as much of a limiting factor in this landlocked state capital. Of course, the ambient air quality could be a determining factor in its growth habit, as some researchers have suggested. Paper mills and chemical factories in the Pensacola area could be contributing to the epiphyte's relative scarcity there. If Tallahassee's air quality suffers at all, it's probably from an overabundance of hot air, as its main industry is politics. The resounding echoes of real life--The Waits, if you will--warning us to note the change in time--or changing times--seem to fade away into Camellia Christmas beauty in this garden.

But hark! The Waits are playing, and they break my childish sleep! What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas tree? Known before all the others, keeping far apart from all the others, they gather round my little bed. An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travellers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a Cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice heard, 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do...'
--from Dickens' essay as above--


  1. Such beautiful places to go with the season. Childhood Christmas memories work for me as well. We are awaiting a big storm here tonight. I hope Santa can make his way through the blizzard.

  2. I would gather strength from such visits too...every garden is a place of enchantment but if they have those giant trees, more so. Would love to see more of this piece of earth in the future in your thought-provoking posts.

    Have a blessed Christmas!

  3. Childhood memories of our Christmas trees: Mom buying sequins of all sorts and foam balls and short pins! We children would cover those balls with sequins and then we always cut down a long needle pine here for our to hang the balls, we would simply stick a long needle from the tree into the styrofoam and it would hang! My Mom encouraged crafts...and I have such happy memories fo those silly, simple and joyous balls! Thanks for triggering my memory of this!
    You are also reminding me that I bought a book of all Charles Dickens Christmas writings years ago...but where is it???

    BTW...when do the Camillias start to bloom in full??? I would love to drive to Orlando or Ocala to see them. Seems I always miss them somehow!



  4. "Oh, now all common things become uncommon and enchanted"...the perfect way to describe the feelings of Christmas. I hope that you and SAM and your family have had a very Merry Christmas! Looks like your New Year is full of new beginnings and changes as well--wishing you the best.

  5. Do you ever get used to having mostly one season? It seems there's no respite, no gray, no white, no dormant period, no "relief" from knowing something is always in bloom somewhere; calling you to its presence, hoping you'll find it suitable for your camera. And you must go to it, mustn't you?

  6. TB, I hope the weather and Santa treated you right the other night. Let it snow--so glad I don't have to put up with it!

    Thanks, Kanak. I'm sure we will return to this wonderful spot many times. Even without the gardens, the trails and lakes in the state park will keep us coming back. I can't wait to take our kayak out on the water once it warms up a bit.

    Julie, what a wonderful idea to keep siblings busy for a while--as long as they don't try sticking those pins into each other! As for Dickens, you can find most of his work online these days. I do enjoy sitting down with a book, though. The camellias have already started putting on a show around here. It began several weeks ago. I think the peak for them is in January in NW Florida, and then the azaleas start in mid to late February on into April.

    Rose, thank you for the good wishes. I guess we're never too old for new beginnings. Dickens certainly was the best at expressing those Christmas moments.

    Why, TC, do I detect a note of envy? Sorry, old chap, for having to put up with the gray-and-white dormancy thing. There is a solution, you know. Move South! I happen to know where there is a lovely house for sale at this very moment. It's waiting for that special someone who can appreciate the care and love that have gone into its many and varied plantings. Actually, we do have a dormant season here, sort of. That sun will shine, though. Not too much gray and white to be seen.

  7. Hello

    What a fascinating garden and Charles Dickens' beautiful essay!
    To tell you the truth, I've never read his "Christmas Tree". O I'd like to read it!! Your camellia is very charming!! A half of my camellia flowers have fallen. Thank you for sharing all these!!

  8. It's interesting how tied Dickens is to that one holiday, and it is a nostalgic time. My favorite Dickens would have to by "Great Expectations."

  9. Was my envious tone that noticeable? I'll have to try harder to hide it next time. ;~)

    If I move south, it'll be the fire ants I'll have to deal with! No thanks! I'll take the winter seasons over them nasty things!

  10. Very nice post :) Wish you belated Merry Christmas and in advance Happy New Year 2010.


  11. Those bricks are really really special. I want to wish you, Sam, Micah and the whole bunch a very Happy New Year.

  12. Thank you, Sapphire. If you'd like to read the entire Dickens' essay, just click on the link in the first paragraph. It's highlighted in blue, I think. The camellia isn't mine. I saw it in the garden we visited. I'm not sure what variety it is, but it reminds me of a candy cane. The only camellia I have is "Yuletide," which is a sasanqua variety. I'm glad you stopped by because it reminds me to add your blog to my bloglist.

    Mr. S, that's one of my favorite Dickens' novels too. Of course, Oliver Twist tops the list somehow and always will, probably because it was the first one I read years ago and then had the chance to study again in a Victorian Literature class a couple of years ago.

    TC, I've decided that the fire ants aren't all bad. They speed up my chores in the garden and keep me hopping from foot to foot. They're great calorie burners, you know, and I can use all the help I can get in that area these days.

    Well, thank you, Bhavesh, for stopping by. It's always nice to see a new visitor here. I wish you all the best for the New Year. I will stop by soon to see your site.

  13. I have some wonderful memories of Christmas past. When we are children, it is a magical time when wishes are granted.

    Too bad bricks are no longer stamped with the maker or place of origin. Little things like that stimulate our imagination and curiosity.


  14. Thanks, Tina! I wish the same to you and your family.

    You're right, Marnie. Christmas is a magical time. Maybe the reason we as adults don't seem to get wishes granted anymore is because we've forgotten to ask or don't know who the grantor might be. Or maybe we don't see that maybe they have been granted, just not in the form or timeframe we would have liked. Talk about stimulating the imagination. You do a great job of it yourself!

  15. CONGRATS..I have to order that book. You are so talented....This is a beautiful post...Childhood memories are not good for me so I take my child's Christmas days and use them as my memories...sigh... Michelle

  16. Hi, Bhavesh again :) Thanks for visiting my blog. About your question on my Christmas post about my Bhangarh post, I really have no idea what the oil must be made from :( Maybe from some very special jadibuti [जडीबुटी] from the Indian forests! :)

  17. Thank you so much, Michelle. Again, I should have linked to your meme and failed to do so. When I started the post, it wasn't going in that direction, but somehow it ended up tugging my thoughts that way. It's funny how the blog seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. ;>) I'm glad your daughter enjoyed a loving childhood. You must have a remarkable strength of character to have broken that mold of dysfunction in your past.

    Bhavesh, thank you for your help and suggestion about the oil. I'm always interested in learning more about Ayurvedic and other alternative--really traditional--approaches to healing. If only more Western physicians would take them seriously and try to incorporate them into practice. We would all be a lot more healthy, and the cost of health care would not be such an issue.

  18. I have wondered if Dickens meant to redefine Christmas. And as for gathering strength, I can fully relate right now. I have had much too much stress in the past month and I have only begun to relax. Your gardens would be very helpful.

  19. Well, I suppose if you're not allergic to them, fire ants wouldn't be much of a nuisance. I am, and that's my main fear factor.

  20. Dsmcaron, I think Dickens was a genius at exposing the cracks in the Victorian ideal. His Christmas stories might seem a little schmaltzy, but he did manage to get to the heart of the crushing social problems of his day. Too bad there aren't writers like him now. I hope your New Year stresses are few and far between.

    You, a nuisance, TC? Not in my book or anyone else's as far as I know. You're one of the main reasons why I still enjoy blogging. You're a muse-ance if anything--you inspire.

  21. I love that Dickens excerpt and how you wove it into this post. My daughter just read and enjoyed A Christmas Carol at school. Good to see the classics holding on. It would be hard to imagine such a green Christmas without your gorgeous photos. Lovely post!