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 3, 2009

'For There's a Kind of World Remaining Still'

...Let no man say, the world itself being dead,

'Tis labor lost to have discovered

The world's infirmities, since there is none

Alive to study this dissection;

For there's a kind of world remaining still,

Though she which did inanimate and fill

The world be gone, yet in this last long night,

Her ghost doth walk; that is, a glimmering light,

A faint, weak love of virtue and of good

Reflects from her on them which understood

Her worth; and though she have shut in all day,

The twilight of her memory doth stay;

Which, from the carcass of the old world free,

Creates a new world; and new creatures be

Produced: the matter and the stuff of this,

Her virtue, and the form our practice is;

And though to be thus elemented, arm

These creatures, from home-born intrinsic harm

(For all assumed unto this dignity

So many weedless Paradises be,

Which of themselves produce no venomous sin,

Except some foreign serpent bring it in),

Yet, because outward storms the strongest break,

And strength itself by confidence grows weak,

This new world may be safer, being told

The dangers and diseases of the old:

For with due temper men do then forgo

Or covet things, when they their true worth know...

(from John Donne's "An Anatomy of the World," 1611)

On our visit to Torreya State Park this past weekend, I must have remarked at least three times to SAM about the stillness of the place. We weren't the only people there, obviously, but when someone walked by, the silence swallowed up the sound of their footsteps and voices in a couple of minutes. Not even a Showy Rattlebox, Crotalaria spectabilis, found along one of the trails could disturb the peace. I figured it must have some sort of protective mechanism, as bright and pretty as it is, and it does. The pea-like pods it produces look tasty, but those toxic alkaloids can do a number on the digestive system. Therefore, it's no longer used as fodder for animals. Even so, herbalists have found a way to treat impetigo and scabies as well as intestinal worms and prevent wound infection using plant extracts. It's also used as a green manure crop and "nurse species" that nourishes the soil during reforestation.

Torreya Park has gained some renown as a botanical paradise, which stems from the diversity of its various habitats and plant species. Needle palms, Rhapidophyllum hystrix, not as prevalent in other areas of the park, must number in the hundreds if not thousands along one particular portion of a trail that begins and ends at the park's historic landmark, The Gregory House.

We were fortunate enough to finish up our walk in time for a park ranger guided tour of the house. Our guide, a nice young man named Rob, filled us in on some of the details about the home's original owner, Jason Gregory. Mr. G was a wealthy plantation owner once upon a time in this country when not all people enjoyed the same rights and expectations for happiness. He "employed" quite a few people to tend his crops, build his house, cook and clean for his family, and generally keep things at the plantation running smoothly.

After the War Between the States, Mr. G lost his fortune, and most of his family had perished from some sort of fever--I wasn't listening very closely to the guide to hear what it was. My ears did perk up when he started talking about Mr. G's daughter Atchafalaya, also known as Miss Chaffa. The only surviving child, she continued to live in the home as an adult and eventually died there in 1916. Rob the guide said she's reported to haunt the place. She moves things around, opens doors, and can even be heard playing the piano in the evening. While I was taking pictures of various objects in the home, Rob suggested that I inspect the photos later for anything out of the ordinary. I can't be certain, but there might be a rather elongated face peering out of the top left pane of glass in this bookcase. No one was standing in front of the case at the time, in case you were wondering.

I found Rob's description of the parlor to be enchanting. This room was used for courting, and the strange looking object on the table with the china around it is a courting candle. It could be adjusted by means of that metal spiral for a short or lengthy burn time, determined by how well a suitor was liked or accepted by the parents. The parents remained in the room to keep an eye on the young couple and prevent any shenanigans. I can't imagine that Daughter and the Gold Feller would accept this kind of arrangement.

A motionless sewing machine and cradle occupied one of the upstairs bedrooms. There was some movement in the room, besides the human kind, and it got to be kind of annoying. Millions of those beetles that resemble ladybugs--some kind of Asian beetle that's invaded--flew about and landed on the walls, the windows, the floor, and even on someone's head and down her shirt.

Our grandson has a rocking horse too. Instead of sitting quietly and waiting for him to make it move, though, it can rock at the push of a button and makes horse-like sounds. Not much is left to the imagination these days, not even toys.

The Gregory House as it stands today has an interesting "moving" story behind it. After the end of the Gregory dynasty, several other owners and squatters left it in a state of disrepair. I neglected to mention earlier that the house once stood on the opposite, much-lower-in-elevation side of the Apalachicola River that it overlooks now. Its final owner, the Neal Lumber Company, offered it to the Park Service. In 1935, members of the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, disassembled the house, ferried its pieces across the river, and reassembled it at its present location, where it has been gradually restored to its former glory. If Miss Chaffa does frequent the place, she ought to be thrilled that it's being well-taken care of. When I finally kick the bucket, I'd have many homesteads to choose from, just in case I get to revisit them. More than likely, you'd find me outside, walking the grounds, making sure my plants are tended.

All I can say is, woe to the people who neglect or abuse them. Miss Chaffa can see that her home and grounds are in excellent hands. She should be a happy ghost.

Torreya State Park gets its name from a rare tree, Torreya taxifolia, that used to thrive as large specimens here. After extensive harvesting--until the Forestry Service stepped in--and then a devastating fungal disease that attacked the survivors, these interesting trees now exist only as much smaller versions of their once towering ancestors. Maybe that Showy Rattlebox is nursing them back to health.


  1. How nice. A beautiful flower and a poem, then a tour of a ghostly plantation. I have to admit Florida is one of the few places in this country I've missed. I need to reconsider.

  2. There's something eternal about a rocking chair on a porch, or a rocking horse. The sound of the rocking to and fro brings back memories you didn't know you had.

  3. I love to tour these old homes. Always interesting stories associated.

  4. I'm mostly a stay-at-home type these days, so I particularly enjoy taking your tours with you. Your life seems so rich in experience and you seem to know the names of all the plants and flowers. I'm jealous.

    The poem you quote is another example of the richness of your experience. I had to read through it several times and kept finding new thoughts and phrases inspired by it.

  5. What a lovely tour you took us on and I do love a haunted house. I will have to post about one such incident in our family... I especially love the 'courting candle'. Why oh why can't we be more involved in our child's choice of a date..LOL... I enjoyed this post very much...Michelle

  6. W2W, you and SAM take the most interesting walks of anyone I know! I do love to tour old historic homes; what is especially nice about this one is seeing the difference in the photo from the 30's or so and the way it looks today. How wonderful that it has been restored to its former glory! Too often no one can afford to repair these grand old homes. We have a few in our area that have gone through different hands; even when donated or purchased by a historic society, they are sometimes too expensive to maintain. And yes, I did see that ghostly face in the bookcase!

  7. I'm happy that you liked the poem, TB. The entire thing is too long to have included it. I'm probably taking a chance including obscure selections like I usually do, but I just can't resist the impulse to do it. I hope you do get a chance to visit FL, especially the panhandle. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    Mr. S, SAM's familiarity with a rocking chair this past year got to be sort of tiresome, believe it or not. His yearlong stint at front porch occupancy is finally over.

    Marnie, I'm thrilled that we got to see the inside of the house. Last time we visited the park, we missed the tour by a few minutes and couldn't wait around for the next one.

    WS, my secret is field guides and a well-stocked library. Expert anything, I'm not, and I'm proud to admit it. A lifetime love of walking and history sure does help me too. Thank you.

    Michelle, the tour guide was fairly convincing with his "ghost story," and I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. That candle apparatus was pretty remarkable. I wonder if anyone manufactures them anymore. I'd buy a gross and give one to anyone I meet with a young daughter.

    Rose, I'm glad you enjoy our walks. It's great to share them. If I'd been born when the previous generation was, I'd probably be narrating a slide show at one of those natural history or historical society meetings and putting everyone to sleep. You did see the face! Great! SAM and I both see something else in the pic of the old man's portrait.

  8. I've recently been watching an old movie (from 1981, not that old!) called Ghost Story, in bits and pieces on youtube. So I'm already a bit jumpy. When I looked at your photo, I felt the hairs on my arm raise!

  9. That bloom is incredible! Looks like a little cartoon face.

    Thanks for taking us on the awesome tour.

  10. There's lots of stuff down there that I don't hear of up here. (How do you like that for sentence structure?)And that crotalaria bloom looks oddly phallic. But then I have an odd way of looking at things.

    I think the "elongated face peering out of the top left pane of glass" is actually a mini-depiction of a futuristic Armageddon.

    I don't think the metaphysical poets were very well understood. But Donne's sensuality made him more popular, or not.

  11. CM, you're right about 1981. It's not that old! I had a one-year-old child that year and another one "in the oven" by the end of it. I don't think I've seen that movie. I'll have to look it up. When I tried to read some of your latest posts, there was a message that you have limited access to your blog now. It's understandable. I removed your site from my bloglist not because I'm mad or anything. I'm just trying to preserve your desire for privacy. I'll miss reading your posts, you know!

    MBT, you really should escape the frozen north once in a while and see the sights here in person. Of course, this part of FL is not exactly frost-free either. Bring a warm jacket just in case...

    TC, I do like your sentence structure and odd way of looking at things. Funny you should say that about the flower. Daughter said the same thing. Naughty, naughty, both of you! Donne was a mite scandalous himself when he was younger--or at least his poetry was by certain standards.

  12. That' s a great essay, W2W, I especially like the interior of the home. When we went it was summer, there were red bugs, and it was hot. But, I still loved it and all of its history. It's sad to think about what happened to the gopherwood trees. We saw some very small ones deep in the woods along one trail and I was very disappointed to see they were so small. I hope they eventually recover.

  13. Paula, the last time we visited the park it was late spring and already hot. The mosquitoes were chasing us along the trails and prevented much picture taking. No bugs this time except for the beetles flying around inside the house. At least they didn't bite. Maybe the Torreya trees will have a fighting chance now that they're being protected and watched carefully for diseases.