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, April 29, 2010

Here I Sit, All Broken-Hearted...

Here I sit, all broken-hearted.
I thought I was done, but, no, I've just started.
Fifty hours of service (at least!) to give,
And ten hours in plant clinic--
Will I live?
I'll know in December if they think I'm okay.
After reading this post,
What would you say? 

From a gardener's perspective, how in the world could I be broken-hearted when the Knockout roses are blooming in synch with this Oenothera (showy evening primrose) in my garden?
Well, there's this seed experiment I participated in. We received these large beans to plant in various growing media, using different methods to induce germination. The beans have a very hard seed coat, and the only two that have sprouted after two weeks are the one that was soaked in vinegar (all the way on the left)...
...and this sorry specimen, which was beaten severely with a hammer. Mechanical manipulation of the seed coat in this case went terribly wrong. I literally beat the daylights out of it. To make matters worse, I can't remember what these plants are. Yesterday was my last MG class, and I left my notebook with the name of the plant written on it in the classroom. At least I think I did. I might have left it outside when we were looking for mole crickets amid signs of armadillo damage to the turf grass. Somewhere between the soap flush test for mole crickets and the goodbyes to fellow classmates, I set down that notebook with four months' worth of notes and forgot it, along with the name of this plant. Oh well! I may never find the notebook, but I will see those classmates again. We have a project to complete by mid October and much planning to do before it's done. I may be mentally rapping myself in the head with my knuckles over the mangled seed and misplaced notebook, but I'm not broken-hearted because of them.

If I don't get these trees in the ground pretty soon, one of those classmates may not speak to me again. She gave me these native swamp chestnut oaks and bald cypress trees last week with the understanding that I would plant them ASAP. It was beautiful outside yesterday, and those trees should have been planted. What did I do after class yesterday morning? I sat on the front porch swing, noting the drive-by snooters--people who stare, stop to pull a spec sheet from the "For Sale" sign box in the front yard, and drive on by--and kept on looking at the trees in the bucket. I was imagining what they would look like twenty years from now. You see, I can do that now without regret. We haven't sold the house, and we are taking it off the market, at least until the market is more favorable. If it takes a few years, so be it. At least I'll get to see these trees grow and thrive. So I'm not broken-hearted about having to leave my home for good.
We sold the kayak after that last trip on Lake Talquin. It wasn't because we don't like it. On the contrary, it's been one of the best boats we've ever owned--no fossil fuel required!--and we have enjoyed every minute we spent pedaling and paddling it. It's just that it weighs more than two aging people can easily handle without injuring themselves. I'm not sure if I'm broken-hearted about selling the thing or the fact that my back ain't what it used to be. No; I'm not exactly broken-hearted about the kayak.
Last weekend while I was visiting SAM in Tallahassee, probably while we were enjoying ourselves on a hike, Son was having his "best friend" put to sleep. Rocky came into our family about 15 years ago when he showed up at Son's workplace. He was a stray, and I resisted adopting yet another pet for a while. It didn't take long, though, for Rocky to wriggle his roly-poly self into our hearts. This love for the mutt somehow developed despite the fact that he loved to dig, uprooting many of my plants, and also managed to kill several trees over the years by urinating on them. He was especially fond of evergreens for some reason. Over the past decade and a half, I must have walked Rocky enough to go at least halfway around the planet. Then a few years ago, he developed a dog's version of arthritis and lately several painful tumors on his legs and feet, making it difficult for him to walk at all. He became anorexic. It was time to let him go. Yes; he was just a dog, but he kept me company on all of those walks. Even in mostly flat Florida, it was uphill all the way for him, listening in silence and wagging his tail while I griped, grumbled, and complained about things, sometimes even out loud! He never judged me, not once, not at all.


Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

--a poem by Christina Rossetti, 1858--

Friday, April 16, 2010

NN/SOTS: Romance on Lake Talquin

Kayaking on Lake Talquin, 4-10-2010

Three weeks ago while I was asleep in Tallahassee, in the RV beneath the towering, pollen-laden oak trees, a dream slithered into my mind. It coiled itself around my consciousness and hasn't let go since then. I am watching a man on a flat-bed car speeding down a long, winding track. The scene looks like it belongs in an Indian Jones movie. The man is hanging on for dear life to the sides of the car as it hurtles towards the end of the track--a massive, double wooden door that belongs in a cathedral. Just before the car bearing the man crashes into the door, it swings open, and the man is discharged onto a giant water slide. I watch as he spirals downward, out of sight, and presumably into a body of water. A faraway splash seems to confirm that he has reached the end of his terrifying ride. But the dream and the man's ordeal are not over yet. A few seconds later--or so it seems in my dream--I see him again, dripping wet this time, yelling the whole way down the track. "I won't go again, I won't!" He grips the sides of the car, and as the door looms closer he draws up his legs. I know what he will do. He's going to kick the door open. Close enough to me that I can see the fear in his eyes, the man communicates to me that he has made up his mind. I understand that he can't bear the thought of being smashed to smithereens against the door. He is afraid that it won't open this time to let him pass through. The door does open, though now there is no slide, only emptiness on the other side. Once again, he is pitched off the car. I can't see his body as it enters the emptiness. The sound of his screams goes on for a long time, growing ever more faint. Finally, I hear another splash. It's morning now, time to go hiking if the weather is nice or to a museum if not. The dream goes with me, and I've told it to SAM. He says "I hope it's not me on that track!" Of course not, silly man. Would I just stand by in my dream and watch you suffer? No. If I couldn't derail that car, then I would leap onto it and hold onto you for dear life. So who is that man, and why don't I help him? The dream won't let go.
Double-crested cormorants, Phalacrocorax auritus, as seen from the kayak.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of those stories that won't let go of me. It's an Arthurian tale written anonymously sometime around the end of the 14th century, a romance, but not as many people today would understand the term. An adventure takes place, and it involves a journey. I think what stirs my imagination the most about the story is its structure. A mythical quest begins from within another myth--a tale of King Arthur and his "doughty knights." Only this time, Arthur and his knights don't do much except sit around the dinner table. Almost all of the action takes place within the central myth. The story has a wannabe spinoff quality. You know, like those shows in the 70s and 80s were apt to do--Rhoda from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Laverne and Shirley from Happy Days... In a nutshell, Sir Gawain lops off the Green Knight's head at the GK's invitation and then must travel a year later to find GK and allow his own head to be removed. The Green Knight doesn't suffer any ill effects from the decapitation, and one hopes that Gawain will also come through the ordeal untouched. Does he, though? You will have to read the romance (click on the link above) to find out.
Turtles and cormorant sharing a sunny spot on Lake Ella

When SAM and I went kayaking this past weekend, we couldn't have been more pleased to find the weather warming up and plenty of critters enjoying that warmth. I'm not sure, but I think the cormorant was telling these turtles that no matter what people might say, he's still the King Fisher in these parts. He and his kind very well could be, after having been nearly wiped out by DDT in years past. Now, though, cormorants are facing a cool reception by fisher-people. The birds have made such a comeback (prolific breeding, few predators, opportunistic feeding and nesting habits) that they are threatening the survival of aquaculture in several states and could be upsetting the delicate balance between other aquatic bird species and their habitats. The biggest problem seems to be that the darn things are just too good at fishing! Maybe that's why SAM's catch over a period of two hours consisting of one nice sized crappie and a small bass didn't add up to a meal. He gave the crappie to an old man at the boat launch and returned the bass, still alive, to the lake.
Of course, there are other piscivores making themselves at home on Lake Talquin. We witnessed several sizable fish being caught and carried back to osprey nesting sites. Unfortunately, my skills with the camera--and maybe the camera itself--don't allow for spectacular captures like that. I'm lucky to somewhat focus on the birds at rest in their nest. We also saw the ospreys chasing cormorants a few times. I think those pesky cormorants were getting a little too close to the nests for comfort. We were being watched carefully too, and when we stayed in one spot for a while so I could try to focus on the nesting pair, one of the birds would take off and circle around for a few minutes. It must have been trying to distract my attention away from the nest. Now that I think about it, SAM's scanty catch was probably due to my insistence on constantly doubling back to try for another, better shot at the birds. I kept him so busy maneuvering the boat with the rudder that he didn't have much time to cast.

He shouldn't have pointed out this critter to me. I was not afraid of it; I was fascinated by it and made him circle around time and again to get just one more picture of it. At first I was convinced that it was a cottonmouth. After checking my field guide (National Audubon Society's Field Guide to Florida), though, I can say with certainty (maybe?) that it's a Southern water snake, a Florida Race, or Nerodia fasciata.

...And each season ensued at its set time;
After Christmas there came the cold cheer of Lent,
When with fish and plainer fare our flesh we reprove;
But then the world's weather with winter contends:
The keen cold lessens, the low clouds lift;
Fresh falls the rain in fostering showers
On the face of the fields; flowers appear.
The ground and the groves wear gowns of green;
Birds build their nests and blithely sing
That solace of all sorrow with summer comes
ere long.
And blossoms day by day
Bloom rich and rife in throng;
Then every grove so gay
Of the greenwood rings with song...

(from the Modern English translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Marie Borroff, lines 501-515)

Please visit for this week's Nature Notes/Signs of the Season post and links to other bloggers' nature posts.

Note: When SAM came home this weekend, he informed me that the pic of the cormorant with the turtles was taken at Lake Ella during one of our walks around that park in Tallahassee. Oops! The fact that the cormorant was seen in town on a small lake at a local park just goes to show you that the cormorant's range has widened beyond its usual, more wild habitats. Odd birds, those. They are opportunistic with a capital "O" and depredatory with a double "d."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NN/SOTS: Observe What Happens When Country Girls (and Guy) Go to the City and Let Go

Yesterday, before the forecasted rain fell (?!), Daughter suggested that we take a walk in the neighborhood. She sighed just a little when she observed me heading outdoors with the camera in hand. It tends to make our walks last a little longer than originally planned. So what? I take a casual approach to walking, among other things. Our home is "in the country," at the edge of a growing community that I'll bet doesn't qualify as a city for all intents and purposes. We don't even have a real post office, just a counter tucked away in a discount grocery store! There are very few zoning restrictions here. Some of our neighbors take a more casual approach to landscaping--once planted, let it go and grow...
Whilst others work for hours to sculpt their properties into showplaces bursting with magnolia and azalea opulence.
My approach falls somewhere in between the two extremes. I don't care much for perfect lawns, and I'm perfectly happy to let wild verbena grow in this soil that grows things in fits and starts. If verbena was good enough at one time to be considered holy and carried by priests--really! it's in my dictionary--it's welcome to bloom religiously and take over my lawn if it wants to. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think it might be Verbena tenuisecta that greets my feet when I walk around my yard.
Most of the blueberry bushes that SAM and I planted last year have survived a sweltering Florida summer and are now blooming to beat the band--something we hear practicing again, by the way, on the high school football field nearby. A soil sample I took to MG class last week for analysis showed a pH of 6.54, a bit high when the recommended range is 4.0 to 5.5. I was hoping for some gentle rain to soak in some more acidizing fertilizer with sulfate to the row of shrubs. Somehow I miscalculated the amount of fertilizer necessary to bring these bushes up to speed when I applied it just a few weeks ago.
Oh well; they're blooming and leafing out just fine for now. Besides, the soil they're growing in has been amended with mushroom compost, and our Fearless Leader (Extension Agent and Teacher) assured me that the compost itself may be what is skewing the pH level. Not to worry, though. A little acidizer will balance things. Now if only that rain would have come as promised...
The pink grapefruit trees that I thought were goners for sure are showing signs of life now. We put some corrugated, perforated plastic pipe around the trunks to keep the cat and the weed trimmer from wounding the tender bark, and I guess it saved the trees from freezing to death. I actually did something right for a change. Will wonders never cease?
Wait a minute, though. Just as you begin to think that this walking family has all of its ducks in a row, it goes to Tallahassee--two weeks ago--and makes a spectacle of itself. We visited Florida's Historic Capitol building on a Sunday afternoon when another threat of rain dampened our plans for a hike. As you can plainly see, we country people tend to let go when we visit the city. Can you guess who the three fools are behind the cutouts? They change positions, so observe carefully.
The devil is in the details, as they say.

Careful observers may foretell the hour
(By sure prognostics) when to dread a shower:
While rain depends, the pensive cat gives o'er
Her frolics, and pursues her tail no more...

From now on, maybe I should pay more attention to tell-"tail" signs like the cat's level of activity than the official weather forecast. We made that trip to the old capitol building on a day when the showers were few and scattered, and today the rain made a very brief appearance. A high pressure system has now taken over the weather pattern, and the sun is shining brightly again. The cat took a brief nap inside when it clouded over, but now she's out and about looking for a natural scratching post or something to chase. Well, at least SAM and I should have some good hiking/kayaking weather this weekend in Tallahassee.
A View of the Ceiling at Florida's Historic Capitol in Tallahassee

Please visit for this week's Nature Notes/Signs of the Seasons post and links to posts by other bloggers who write about their latest encounters with nature.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Brassicaceae, Formerly Known As Cruciferae: Why Did the Name Change?

Taxonomy takes a curious turn at times that is hard for me to follow. When and why, for instance, did the cruciferous plants suddenly find themselves in a family now known as Brassicaceae? The crucifers, those minikins of towering mustard descent--cabbage, broccoli, and kale among them--are easily identified by the cross shape formed by the four petals of their flowers. Other characteristics, such as the number and arrangement of stamens (male part of the flower), six in all--two short and four tall--also serve to set them apart from other plants, as you can see hereCruci-, the Latin prefix meaning cross, helps me to remember where a plant with cross-shaped blooms belongs in the scheme of things. Somehow, Brassica, derived from the Celtic word bresic (meaning cabbage), doesn't tickle my memory in quite the same way.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same;
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves--goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came...

(from the poem "As Kingfishers Catch Fire" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877)

I think I'm a politically incorrect gardener at heart. Those pretty yellow flowers will not be lopped off any time soon just to make the garden look uniform and boringly green. I am still harvesting and enjoying the leaves of this cruciferous veggie. Do you know what it is? What's your favorite recipe for it? I have been experimenting with different ones. Last Thursday for supper, I prepared a bed of chopped whatever-it-is, onions, celery, and various herbs for baking a quartered chicken in the iron skillet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. I removed most of the chicken skin to cut down on the fat content, and a little olive oil on the bottom of the well-seasoned skillet prevented anything from sticking to it. Sliced carrots would have been a good addition to the dish, but I was out of them. A trip to the grocery store would have to wait until the next day, Good Friday, and so would a visit to the bank and making some bill payments by mail. Yes, you can do all of those things and more on what used to be a holiday. All of the schools locally were closed last week for "Spring Break," and county officials had Friday off. It's no wonder the beach was so crowded when SAM and I decided to go there Friday afternoon. He had the day off too, but he had to redeem one of his precious few vacation days to claim it. We avoided the crowd and drove west to Fort Pickens.
Here, you can see where the Gulf waters mix with those of the Sound in the Pass. You can observe the tide changing from ebb to flood here, twice a day, every day. We watched a man in a kayak coming into the Pass from the Gulf of Mexico just as the tide changed to flood. He struggled against the tide for a few minutes, paddling like mad without much progress as the change began to occur, and then the tremendous momentum of the water streaming landward helped him move forward without much effort at all.

Yesterday we watched our grandson hunt for the chocolates-filled plastic eggs that Grandpa SAM had hidden around the yard. It didn't take long for him to find two dozen of them. He only needed to be pointed in the right direction, occasionally redirected, and he was off and running to fill his basket. Some traditions are just too good to change or forget.