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--

Friday, October 9, 2009

Juniper Creek Trail--A Chuck-Norris-Yet-Curious-George Kind of Place

I don't advocate eating wild mushrooms, but finding some with eerily familiar shapes on Juniper Creek Trail last week sent my imagination soaring to new heights. The first one you see here looks a lot like a meringue, don't you think? It's only missing those glistening drops that form as the meringue cools after baking.


"To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said

'I've a sceptre in hand, I've a crown on my head.

Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be,

Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!'"

Daughter and SAM spotted this one before I did. It could be a veritable feast in the eyes of a survivalist slowly running out of provisions after weeks in the forest. A chicken for every pot, you say? Who needs meat when there's so much soul-food to find along the trail? As Steinbeck's Lennie would say, you could "live off the fatta the lan' " right here.

And hundreds of voices joined in the chorus:--

"Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,

And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran:

Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea--

And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!"

Angling for the right to be noticed, this wild Blazing Star, Liatris tenuifolia--a member of the Aster family--grows abundantly along the sunnier meadow portions of the trail, not far from where it begins at the tiny parking area. At this time of year, be sure to douse yourself with insect repellant. Once you leave the more open meadow environment and enter the close woods, the flora begins to change, and the fauna with an appetite for human blood will start to annoy you. Actually, there is no "off" season in Florida for those pesky things. You've got to really love the heat--and bugs--to stay in this kitchen. Of course, there are silver linings to every cloud of mosquitoes. Once in a while, you'll find a delicate wildflower like the Climbing Butterfly-Pea, Centrosema virginianum, to take your mind off your troubles.

Then followed a confused noise of cheering, and Alice thought to herself "Thirty times three makes ninety. I wonder if any one's counting?" In a minute there was silence again, and the same shrill voice sang another verse:--

" 'O Looking-Glass creatures,' quoth Alice, 'draw near!

'Tis an honour to see me, a favour to hear:

'Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea

Along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!' "

You might think the water here is made out of iced tea. It's certainly cold enough, and the tannin that comes from the native oaks gives it a warm gold color, especially on a sunny autumn day. The first inhabitants and then the white settlers who came later found tannin to be quite useful for preserving animal hides and maybe even their own. Mixed with animal fat and some other useful, stinky ingredients, it protected them from stinging, biting insects and too much sun exposure. I wonder what the SPF might have been?

Then came the chorus again:--

"Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink,

Or anything else that is pleasant to drink:

Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine--

And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!"

It's kind of sad to think that part of the trail is slowly slipping away, steadily eroding into the river and eventually washing out to sea. On the drive down to the wilderness area, we passed some construction (destruction?) workers cutting trees and removing their stumps from a parcel of land nearby. I hope that whatever they're building is worth the price, and I'm not talking about money. It's hard to say if Florida will ever do a "180" (degree turn) on land consumption. Construction around where we live has almost ground to a halt, which isn't too good for the local economy, but at least the land gets a much-needed shabbath, or rest.

When I zoomed in on the eroded hill, I saw that someone had left his or her mark behind for the whole world to see. I wonder how many years "BJ" will be around for future hikers to find?

"Ninety times nine!" Alice repeated in despair. "Oh, that'll never be done! I'd better go in at once--" and in she went, and there was a dead silence the moment she appeared. Alice glanced nervously along the table, as she walked up the large hall, and noticed that there were about fifty guests, of all kinds: some were animals, some birds, and there were even a few flowers among them. "I'm glad they've come without waiting to be asked," she thought: "I should never have known who were the right people to invite!"

After a long stretch of trail, even iced-tea water starts to look inviting. Not too far past this sand bar where we took off our shoes and waded in, a shelter--built by Boy Scouts--awaits the weary walkers, and there are surprises to be found inside it--no, not the Man in the Yellow Shirt and the girl in the blue shorts.

Curious-George bloggers like to read what other people have to say about this place. What did they see, and what were their impressions of it?

Some thoughtful people are trying to encourage a conversation here.

I hope that Chuck Norris enjoyed our little corner of Florida. I'd like to think that you "Go with God" too, Mr. N--whoever you are--when you walk the trails.