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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Skywatch Friday--Sinkhole Sunset at Lake Jackson

I'm especially fond of sunsets, and even more so these days. When I'm looking west, can you guess where my thoughts are headed? The apartment complex where we now live most of the time sits close to a park that's adjacent to a fascinating geological phenomenon--a sinkhole lake. Lake Jackson is on the rebound, filling up, regaining its depth and breadth in a cycle of drain/regain that usually begins every 25 years. I took this picture in early June, shortly after SAM and I moved to Tallahassee where he works. It looks like autumn has arrived already because most of the leaves on the trees have disappeared. Most of these trees, though, are not dormant. I think they are dying. They might not have a problem with "damp feet," but their roots will not survive being flooded. They started growing here when the main body of the lake lay elsewhere and the soil that it used to cover was at that time dry enough to support them. 

The native Americans who originally settled here called this place Okeeheepkee, or "Disappearing Waters." I found a fascinating account of one man's exploration of it that dates from 1842. You can probably guess from this excerpt what political party he favored at that time:
"...I think of nothing which will interest you more than our near neighbor Lake Jackson, which I shall prove to be as self-willed and unreasonable a body of water for a lake as the Whigs fancy they have proved its illustrious namesake to have been as a president and a man..."

Please visit Skywatch Friday for more sky perspectives from around the world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some Real Southern Comfort--Manatees, Mamas, Homemade Pies, and a Backyard Bouquet

I've been cooling my heels and soothing my spirit lately with some real Southern comfort. No, not that stuff in a bottle that some people think is whiskey. A few weeks ago, Son and his family visited us in Tallahassee, and we took them to Wakulla Springs. It was a hot day with intermittent rain showers, which is typical weather for Florida at this time of year. We wanted them to experience the boat tour we had taken this past winter, but the threat of thundershowers postponed the departure several times. When we finally got underway, we were treated to several manatee sightings, including this one of mama manatee with her youngster. As you can see, the water is much more clear at this time of year as compared to the last time we visited the park.

Micah didn't seem to mind the wait at all. He spent a lot of time building his own version of castles in the sand. At least on this little beach, the tide won't take them down. His mom and I kept an eye on him while Son and SAM tested the coolness of the water. According to our boat guide for the tour, it stays right around 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. 

...The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats. It was not always dry land where we dwell. I see far inland the banks which the stream anciently washed, before science began to record its freshets... (from Walden, Chapter 18: Conclusion, by Henry David Thoreau)

...Everyone has heard the story which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer's kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts--from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this?...

It might not be as naturally refreshing as spring water, but the pool at home lets us enjoy the outdoors at a time of day when we would normally be found inside keeping cool in the air conditioning. Son doesn't often get to savor moments like this one. I hope I don't sound too corny here, but I'm going to say it anyway. Son is one of my heroes. He works harder than anyone I know, outside in Florida's summertime heat and humidity, lifting heavy drilling augers, and toting sacks of Portland cement and bentonite. He started this kind of work ten years ago when his dad and I started an environmental service company. Son didn't know what he wanted to do with his life at that time, tried college and quit, so we took the plunge and invested our savings and borrowed money to start a family business. We had just bought our first drilling rig and began to find work in West Kentucky when 9-11 came along and knocked the wind out of this country and most of our prospects for business. State money--much of it from gasoline taxes--for testing and cleanup of contaminated sites was diverted elsewhere as the nation's fast-flowing economy began its slow but steady decline to a trickle. Private work at factory sites dried up too as companies began tightening their belts. We moved south to Florida because SAM and Son were traveling so often to work there. The work that seemed so plentiful at first on the east coast disappeared within a few months, and we packed up again to move to our home near Pensacola. With the state funding squeezed so tightly that it was gasping for breath within a couple of years of moving there, SAM and I decided it was time to sell the company. We needed to get out while the gettin' was still good. But what would Son do now? He had met his true love, gotten married, and acquired a mortgage. SAM found him a decent paying job with a company that had bought some of our equipment. Son has been working there ever since, but the work is beginning to take its toll on his body. Somehow, he finds the strength and time to take college courses after working 50-60 hours a week. He has some goals in mind, and he's taking the necessary steps, painful though they may be, to achieve them. Now do you understand why I admire him so much? I wish that we had sold our home earlier this year so we could help him financially. Apartment life isn't so bad, and I'm getting used to the Tallahassee area--meeting new gardening friends, hiking (when it's cooler), and paddling the many spring-fed rivers in the area. 
 Some of Nature's handiwork can be seen along the Chipola River.

A couple of weekends ago, we found a great blue heron resting from its fishing work at Wacissa. Wouldn't you love to have that job?

This past weekend, after some wistful remarks by SAM that he had not tasted a lemon meringue pie in a very long time, I decided to bake some Southern comfort for Sunday dessert. Along with a cheesecake baked by daughter-in-law, the lemon pie and a blueberry cream pie rounded out a meal of barbequed ribs, homemade macaroni and cheese and tossed salad. If not for the heat outside and the calendar reminding us that it's still July, it could have been Thanksgiving Day.

Between rain showers and right before dinner on Sunday, I threw together some hastily gathered flowers and took a picture so I could participate in Noelle's (Arizona Plant Lady) Monthly Garden Bouquet meme. What's blooming and otherwise showing its color in my backyard and other garden areas at this hot time of year? Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic,' Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm,' Spanish lavender, hydrangea 'Endless Summer,' and some unknown hosta. I also added some fern leaves to the vase. I hope you enjoy my version of Southern comfort. 

...Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society, deposited at first in the alburnum of the green and living tree, which has been gradually converted into the semblance of its well-seasoned tomb--heard perchance gnawing out now for years by the astonished family of man, as they sat round the festive board--may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society's most trivial and hand-selled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cacoethes Scribendi: It's Summer ('Bee'-hia Grass) Time in Florida

Cacoethes scribendi--scribbler's itch--has finally got my attention. It's as irritating as an overgrown lawn in the midst of a manicured subdivision. I might have been missing from the blogging scene for a couple of weeks, but our summer lawn never gives up--at least not while the rain falls on a regular basis. We have a mix of grass varieties in what passes for a lawn at our home near Pensacola, and the star of the bunch, at least in my mind, is Bahia Grass 'Pensacola,' Paspalum notatum. I think it's the perfect grass for our hot-summer-cool-winter, Northwest Florida climate. It's drought-resistant, going dormant when the rain doesn't come, has few insect problems, and--if left to grow for longer than a week--attracts those wonderful pollinators I can't get enough of in my vegetable garden, especially bees. Since we can't be home often enough this summer to keep the lawn mowed to a respectable height, the bees have been especially busy. Just look at the size of those pollen baskets on that bee's hind legs!
When I managed to sneak away from SAM for a couple of days last week, it wasn't so I could go partying with the girls, even though Daughter and I did manage to stop by Blazzues in Pensacola last Wednesday night, which is swing night. She's the swing dancer, and I don't do either one--swing or dance. I had fun watching her get swung around the dance floor while I politely rejected offers to dance, drink, and make merry with the menfolk. My excuses were genuine. I already have a full dance card--points to her wedding ring--and my left foot has been acting more sinister than usual since I whacked it against a concrete step while moving into the apartment. It's a good thing we have a riding mower to tackle this monster of an acre and health insurance for a visit to the podiatrist. At least it--the lawn, not the foot--seems like a monster in the summertime when the Bahia blooms and its seed heads sprout. Besides the seed heads, the only other irritating aspect of this grass that I can think of is its tendency to dull the mower blades. This UF publication recommends setting the blades to keep the grass height at 3 to 4 inches, which is higher than most turf grasses and therefore not attractive to most lawn lovers. It provides "a good low-maintenance lawn where slightly reduced visual quality is acceptable." In that case, it suits me just fine even though it's certainly not a grass cushion to rest on while reading your favorite summer-time scribe. I give it a "V" for victory. What's your favorite kind of grass--the lawn kind, I mean--and summer-time scribe? 
Cacoethes Scribendi

If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth's living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper were used up,
And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gleanings from a Blueberry Harvest

I lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
A something to have sent you,
Tho' it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang,
Let time and chance determine:
Perhaps it may turn out a sang;
Perhaps, turn out a sermon...
(from Letter to a Young Friend by Robert Burns, 1759-1796)

More moons ago than I care to count, my dad and I hiked into a German pine forest and emerged hours later with pails of wild blueberries. It was a ritual repeated each summer that we lived overseas and one that continued in a similar vein years later with my own children, though the later harvests came from a commercial operation rather than gleaned from the woods. The time we--my dad and I--spent picking the wild berries was interspersed with tales of hardship and bounty, sorrow and joy. I learned on those woodland walks to make cooing sounds like a dove with my cupped hands, to whistle with my thumb and forefinger as loudly as any boy could, and to cherish a father's childhood stories rarely shared outside of those special times.
...Ye'll try the world fu' soon, my lad;
And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev'n when your end's attained:
And a' your views may come to nought,
Where every nerve is strained...

Our few bushes at home haven't yet reached the age where we can harvest pails full, so Secret Aging Man and I went a couple of Saturdays ago to Lundy Blueberry Patch north of Milton, Florida. It's one of those commercial operations, but the people who own and run it are generous to a fault with their berries and free advice. Dr. Lundy is a Master Gardener, no less, and encourages the pickers to try as many berries out of hand as they want from the various varieties he cultivates. How else is one to know which of them is the sweetest and most flavorful? We tried Tifblue, Brightwell, and Powderblue. SAM thought the Brightwell was best, while I gorged myself on and picked mostly Powderblue.

 I'll no say, men are villains a':
The real, harden'd wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;
But, och! mankind are unco weak
An' little to be trusted;
If Self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted!

Yet they what fa' in Fortune's strife,
Their fate we should na censure;
For still, th' important end of life
They equally may answer:
A man may hae an honest heart,
Tho' poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neebor's part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.

Ay free, aff han', your story tell,
When wi' a bosom cronie;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to onie:
Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
Frae critical dissection:
But keek thro' every other man
Wi' sharpen'd, sly inspection.

The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th' illicit rove,
Tho' naething should divulge it:
I waive the quantum o' the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But, och! it hardens a' within,
And petrifies the feeling!

To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by every wile
That's justify'd by honour:
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Nor for a train-attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent...

The bushes at Lundy's farm are well-tended and drip-irrigated when necessary. As this University of Florida article suggests, blueberries are fairly easy to grow and maintain if a few simple guidelines are followed. After waiting for so long to grow my own blueberries--two major hurricane years in 2004 and 2005, wedding planning for Son in 2006, finishing English degree in 2007, moving to Illinois in 2008 and then back again the same year--I was eager to jump right in and get my feet wet. Being a little wet behind the gardening ears, though, I should have done some research when we planted the bushes early last spring. Then I might have picked off the blossoms last year and this spring to let the plants develop vegetatively and to encourage a strong root system. I also would not have planted several of them close to the pool discharge pipe because I would have read that they are sensitive to chlorine. At least I chose a few different varieties--though what their names are, I have no idea--from the farm in Alabama where we dug the suckers that we planted. I have learned something over the years: blueberry pollination is more successful if the pollinators have a choice of bushes to visit.

...The fear o' Hell's a hangman's whip
To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that ay be your border:
Its slightest touches, instant pause--
Debar a' side-pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
Uncaring consequences.

The great Creator to revere
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching can't forbear
And ev'n the rigid feature:
Yet ne'er with wits profane to range
Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
For Deity offended!

When ranting round in Pleasure's ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random sting,
It may be little minded;
But when on Life we're tempest-driv'n--
A conscience but a canker--
A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n
Is sure a noble anchor!... 

It seems that even universities not involved in promoting horticulture are jumping on the gardening bandwagon these days. The latest alumni mag from my alma mater proves that it is no exception. And why not? Gardening offers a rich source of marketing metaphors. Who wouldn't want to "grow success"? It can be a slow, arduous, painful, humbling experience, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you, Dad, for all of those blueberry-picking-time "letters" you wrote.

Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
Your heart can ne'er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, "God send you speed,"
Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
Than ever did th' adviser!