per·i·pa·tet·ic
ˌperēpəˈtedik/
adjective
  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.
    Aristotelian.
noun
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Monday, March 30, 2009

SAM's Rock Garden


Hello! This is Secret Aging Man posting as a guest, for the first time on W2W's blog. My dear W2W insists I do something productive and join her blog as a periodic “guest blogger” and share wonderful tidbits of knowledge about rocks. Well, I’m not sure if anyone out there really cares much about pretty rocks and minerals or if joining in a cyber-conversation is really the kind of productivity I need. Given my recent layoff (first time in 29 years), perhaps remembering and recording some of my past hobby experiences will indeed provide a creative release and reduce the stress of living in these troubled times.

Maybe a little background information is appropriate to include here. I am 51, married for the past 29 years to Walk2Write, parent of two grown children and grandparent to one rockin' 2-year old boy (hereafter called "Pebble Pup"). My professional background as a geologist has see-sawed from environmental professional to oil exploration geologist. I used to joke that I could go out and find the oil deposits, then switch hats and charge for cleaning up the mess we made with all the oil contamination! Really – I’m kidding here. Please don’t take everything said too seriously. I am all for being a good steward of the environment, but there are always at least two sides to every story.

My love for rocks all started when I was about six years old and just couldn't stop picking up shiny stones from the family driveway and stuffing them into my pockets. The obsession got so bad and the pile in my bedroom floor so big, that my parents finally found a fellowship of rock-lovers (our regional rock club) to train their young son in proper rock collecting techniques and identification. We found out that the shine and color a lot of the driveway rock was because it contained the minerals fluorite, sphalerite, and galena. Seems our home in Southern Illinois was paved with limestone aggregate from the "spar" mines, located about 60 miles to the southeast, in Rosiclare. My first rock collecting site turned out to be a pretty good one, if only ten feet from the front door!

The photo shows what I have left of the once vast family mineral collection. About 95% to 98% of our collection was sold back in the early ‘90s to pay for a necessary home foundation “prop-up”. Seems my Mom’s house was situated directly over the underground workings of a Southern Illinois coal mine and the surface of the ground slowly sank, or subsided, in response to the sloughing of the old mine pillars. This is a common malady in areas where subsurface coal mining is prevalent and can be compared to “sinkholes”, for those not familiar with mining, but perhaps living in areas of cave topographic expressions. I will discuss fluorite at greater length, in my next post.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waste (a Crisis) Not, Want Not



In between babysitting Micah a couple of weeks ago and suspending our ADLs this week because of the flu, Secret Aging Man and I kept fairly busy. Early last week we traveled to Lower Alabama to dig up thirty blueberry bush suckers. We (SAM, actually) dug a trench and replanted them along one edge of our property in northwest Florida. I soaked them in a bucket of water overnight before planting to mitigate some of the shock they must have received. The guy who sold them to us said he has managed to make a tidy sum of money in the past month (selling them to suckers?). He estimates he has sold 3200 of them at 2 bucks a pop. If these suckers end up thriving here, that guy may have some future competition in the local blueberry bush market. He called them rabbit-eye bushes. If he's correct, these specimens of Vaccinium virgatum should be quite prolific and productive for us here in the Deep South.


The steady rain we've been experiencing the last couple of days should help these youngsters get established in their new home. Before he planted them, Secret Aging Man checked with our neighbor about planting them quite near the property line. Since they can grow quite large, we didn't want a crisis cropping up in the future over possible encroachment issues. You know what some people say about good fences. On the one hand, they "make good neighbors." On the other hand, though, "something there is that doesn't love a wall." Some people don't like obstacles in their way and find creative ways of overcoming them. Take a "crisis," for example. Now there's a word that keeps cropping up everywhere you look and listen. It's the kind of word that makes you sit up and take notice and maybe even get a little (very?) nervous if you're so inclined. You look for direction, help, comfort, and some kind of solution to this crisis so you can get on with your life. Where have I heard this word before? From the pen of Thomas Paine, I think.


"These are the times that try men's souls. . .'Tis surprising to see how rapidly
a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been
subject to them: Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French
fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [actually, the fifteenth;
jeez, Paine!] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of
France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was
performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc.
Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen,
and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!" (from Thomas
Paine's pamphlet, "The Crisis," No. 1)
Joan, old girl, where are you when we need you? We could use some spiriting up right about now, from what we hear every day about the current crises (plural!) threatening our very existence as a nation. Don't worry too much. I don't. I'm encouraged to hear that nothing gets wasted in Washington, not even a crisis. After all is said and done, "it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before." Attaboy, Rahm! Carpe diem!


The Deep South is not only full of blueberry bushes but also plenty of history. We found one of the meccas for Civil War buffs practically next door to us in Lower Alabama. Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, south of Mobile, can hold your attention for a few hours as you explore what another crisis did to this country. At least in that crisis, people knew exactly who the enemy was and what all the fuss and fighting were about.


Something there is in me that likes a ship's anchor. This particular one belonged to the Hartford, a Union ship commanded by a man who defied the odds against him and tempted fate. "Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!" You can almost hear old man Farragut's voice echoing throughout the place.


A fortification this elaborate and large, built to withstand attacks that might come from enemies domestic and foreign, required the use of many bricks. The bricks were fashioned using slave labor, but the skilled masons who constructed the buildings probably hailed from surrounding communities like Mobile. If conditions on the island were not ideal--and they probably weren't if you consider its primitive state at the time--you can bet those craftsmen did not complain. They built to impress the officials who had hired them. They anticipated more work coming their way from those Confederates and wanted to do a good job. You can tell that they did.


We didn't spend all of our time on the island pondering fortresses and history lessons. Still, we found some relics from the past sprucing up the place. I'm not sure, but it looks like these pieces of wood have been here for a long time. Mobile Bay must have changed over the years to encroach on the habitat of what I believe are the remnants of a bald cypress tree. As you can see in the video below, some things never change, like the tools and tasks of a blacksmith. This guy was busy during our entire visit to the fort. He looked like he was enjoying himself, engaging with the audience even while hard at work. I wanted to know but was too shy to ask in front of all those other people standing around. Does it pay more than minimum wage, and where do we sign up?

video

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pied Piping through Arcadia Mill, 'A Pleasanter Spot You Never Spied'


Flora and fauna like azaleas and bees easily win favor with me at this time of year in Florida. They both seem to understand their places in a delicate dance of beauty and utility.


Last week, the Secret Aging Man, Daughter, and I took some time out from our busy (or not, as the case may be) schedules to visit a fabulous tribute to Florida's history located quite near our home. The name of the place stops you in your tracks. Arcadia Mill. It evokes images of Pan cavorting about the rivers and forests, having a fine old time chasing nymphs and exploring nature. That is, until he meets up with a woodcutter, intent on having his own way with the trees and rivers.

The University of West Florida, Division of Anthropology and Archaeology, has done a fine job of coordinating the preservation of Florida's first industrial complex. You can tell that a lot of thoughtful interpretation and hard work have gone into building this place, for which "no maps, drawings, or photographs that would provide clues about the site layout or methods of operation are known to exist." The preserved site exists as a bridge--tenuous at best in this land of hurricanes and shrinking budgets--to span that fluid river which connects the past and the present.

Swaying bridges will keep generations of visitors like us intent on maintaining their balance. I can't wait until Micah comes of age to join us on this trail. When he is old enough to be trusted to follow the path without constant redirection, his voice will be heard ringing through the woods, just like ours were last week. Residents of a nearby posh neighborhood might not be too happy about the whole noisy business. The road to the site passes by a whole slew of fancy dwellings.


As for me, I prefer a fancy slough, complete with blooming shrubs like this wild blueberry bush. I hope I can return in mid-May to find a few berries left on it. The ones I planted in our garden a month ago have a few blooms too, but they aren't old enough to provide very many berries yet.



You don't have to worry about getting stuck in the muck at Arcadia Mill. Brand-new boardwalks keep you high and dry, unless you prefer straying from the main path like we do to find blooming bushes.

Timelines like this one fascinate me. I do wish, though, that they would start at the end (present) and work backwards (past). Robert Browning, it seems, favored a similar approach in his poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." In his travels, he came across the German town of Hameln by the river Weser and found some artifacts around which he constructed his elaborate poem. I suppose that he found something significant in the fact that Germans refer to a town-council chamber as a "Rathaus." The thought of politicians gnawing away at citizens' hard-won earnings (a common scenario in any society) must have inspired lines like these:
"Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cook's own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats,
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats..."


I find beauty even in things that have chewed up our resources in the past. The UWF experts have had to contend with the fact that "very little of the site complex is above ground," precisely because of the chewing and gnawing that has taken place in Arcadia. Termites know their purpose in the scheme of things. Nothing goes to waste where they thrive, and it's a good thing that they do. Otherwise, all of us would be buried under a mountain of carefully constructed and contrived mistakes and regrets.
"...At last the people in a body
To the Town Hall came flocking:
'Tis clear,' cried they, 'our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation--shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you're old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, Sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!'
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation...."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Morning's Due


"Cyriack, this three years day these eyes, though clear
To outward view of blemish or of spot,
Bereft of light their seeing have forgot,
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun, or moon, or star throughout the year,
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not
Against Heav'n's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, friend, t' have lost them overplied
In liberty's defense, my noble task,
Of which all Europe talks from side to side,
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask,
Content, though blind, had I no better guide."
--Sonnet 22, John Milton, 1655--


Cyriack, according to one of the treasures on my bookshelf, The Annotated Milton, worked for John Milton as an "amanuensis," a recorder of the poet's thoughts. Dedicating himself as Milton's personal scribe, he stood in various roles as student, friend, and confidante. He chose to be privy to the genius's inner turmoil regarding progressive blindness, personal errors of judgment, deaths of two wives, social and political injustice, and impoverishment. Cyriack Skinner witnessed firsthand an incredible outpouring of expression. A poet's spiritual re-birth and subsequent growth generated an Artesian well of expression, and Cyriack must have worked long hours to write it all down, by hand. And I doubt if he made much money for all of that effort.


I have been waiting weeks for some sign of growth in one area of the garden. Can you guess what this plant is and what it will produce? A hint: James Joyce's writing was influenced by a profound lack of it at one time in his homeland.


Perfection has never entered my garden, and I don't intend for it to start now. I intend for that touch of eclectic chaos I enjoy in my literary studies to inform my work outside.


This morning before Daughter left for class, she popped back inside and told me I needed to take a look at something. She said it would look good on my blog. The fog outside had gradually subsided and left behind it a dew-drop strand of pearls on the still-dormant Japanese maple. A spider had abandoned its handiwork for catching food, and the tattered web now provides a framework for something new and wonderful.


Gerbera daisies are something new and wonderful in the bed facing east. As you can see, they get chewed on by something (I wish I knew what critter is responsible!) and still manage to glow with color and bloom with abandon.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

CO2 Exchange--Nature's Solution to Ennui


When anniversaries must be celebrated in economic downturns, the celebrants should perish the thought of considering pricey options like staying in Seaside. From slumping oil prices and home values to disappearing paychecks and savings accounts--these signs of the times all require scaling back of personal economies. Seaside, you may recall, is the idyllic town where parts of the movie The Truman Show were filmed. Lunch at Bud and Alley's in Seaside and a long walk sufficed to help two celebrants this past week put a few things in perspective.


First of all, celebrants of twenty-nine years of marriage find it satisfying enough to watch someone else put his or her life/limbs at risk, catching the wind to ride the waves. We can be there, up in the air, in our minds, fighting ennui right along with whoever that is, taking chances. And our wings of wax will remain intact.



Secondly, fruitless job searches do not steal joy from celebrants in search of secret passages through dunes.


And, finally, signs in secret passages remind celebrants that nature has a way of breathing new life into old problems. If "time keeps on slipping into the future," then life should get better and better, or so we have been told, as long as we watch our steps and keep our noses to the grindstone.

Watching your step requires lowering your gaze.

Lowered eyes usually find treasures abounding in the woods and on nature trails. Cladina evansii may be one of the few secrets Florida has left, so this celebrant will keep a valuable CO2 exchanger's specific whereabouts a mystery. It's a delicate lichen which is easy to pick up and tempting to take home. There are no roots keeping it earthbound, and it is light and small enough to put several specimens in a pocket. Conscience and respect for nature/others keep this visitor (celebrant) from cramming her pockets full of these goodies. If you Google "CO2 exchange," you may find that other kinds of minds are hard at work trading futures for dreams of substantial wealth. And those dreams could leave the rest of us life-celebrants with nothing more substantial than the air that we breathe.



"Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,
Designing futures where nothing will occur...."

--from Sylvia Plath's poem "Ennui"--