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, August 13, 2010

Skywatch Friday--Full of Beans in Florida: Jack (Query) and the (Sword) Beans Talk

Looking at this sword bean, Canavalia gladiata, my former mystery plant, soaring up into Florida's summer sky, I make good use of that Wayback Machine on top of my neck and think of one of my favorite fairy tales from childhood, Jack and the Beanstalk. Since it features a plant that surpasses ordinary expectations, a youngster who--with a little help from some magical beans--overcomes his low station in life as well as total submission to a domineering parent, and a conflict with a larger-than-life ogre, I had to ask: what's not to like about this fable? Though there are many versions available in print and now online, the one I remember reading as a child must have been the one written by Joseph Jacobs because while reading it now, I recall how stirred my curiosity was then. Why, for instance, would a young boy be allowed to take his family's most precious asset, a milk cow, to market by himself? Where's the community support for a poor widow who would be desperate enough to sell her main source of sustenance and income? What kind of mother would scold and punish her son for negotiating a bad deal when she should have at least accompanied him to the marketplace? How did the strange man who traded Jack the magic beans for the cow know Jack's name? And, who could believe that a boy who stole repeatedly from another person--ogre or not--and then caused his death would be exonerated and then acclaimed enough to marry a princess? I still don't know the answers to the other questions, but I have decided that Jack's mysterious benefactor knew Jack's name because of the French connection. It is, after all, the Anglicized form of the term "Jacque" given to peasants from at least as far back as the mid 14th century. Apparently, it had something to do with the short coat that peasants wore to signify their station in life--the 14th century version of a blue collar. Did the French Revolution have its origins with malcontents epitomized by a short Corsican fellow who was often portrayed by 18th and 19th century artists with his hand stuffed in his jacket, or was there a precedent to that popular unrest? A much earlier revolt or clash between the classes in France took place in 1358 and is known as the Jacquerie. Accounts of knights being roasted by the peasants--Jacques--and served up forcibly to the knights' families were spread by chroniclers--journalists?--of the day. It's kind of strange that those chroniclers, also members of the ruling class, neglected to report a possible rationale for the revolt and its alleged butchery. You know, things like burdensome taxation of the peasant class, corruption and gross abuse of power amongst the elites, and a lack of government protection for ordinary citizens left to fend for themselves against invading marauders--unemployed soldiers and other bandits--from England, Gascon, Germany, and Spain. Now that I think about it, Jack's ogre's insatiable appetite makes perfect sense. He is a giant in the greatest sense of the word--a conglomerate representative of corporate greed, government corruption and control, and media malfeasance all rolled into one colossal eating machine, nourished by and living high above the means and heads of everyone else.

Getting back to the story, would the ordinary, late-19th-century-until-present-day consumer of light-as-a-feather fairy tales be able to stomach this rags-to-riches-by-murder tale penned by a scholar educated at St. John's College, Cambridge University? You can bet on it. Mr. Jacobs gambled and won on the premise that people all over the world were beginning to understand that, class standing notwithstanding, we're all cut from the same cloth. It's one of those timeless truths that, if given some consideration, topples all kinds of giant misconceptions about each other. I think that given the right opportunity and circumstances, there's bound to be a bit of both the trickster Jack and the giant in all of us. Of course, I could be full of beans. 

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment;
That this huge stage presenteth naught but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and checked even by the selfsame sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay
To change your day of youth to sullied night,
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I ingraft you new.

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet #15)

To "ingraft you new" or jog your memory on the glory of this former mystery plant's birth, I'll set Walk2Write's other Wayback Machine--the blog--to a day at the end of April. Its parent bean didn't have to survive a beating but did require a dose of vinegar to coax it into breaking through a tough seed coat so that it could begin its prodigious growth spurt. Though not full of beans yet, it has the potential for a long, productive life growing behind our pole barn. The soil there had been enriched for years by the cows that the original property owner raised. Not surprisingly, it's one of the few spots in my yard that has some decent soil.  

Since I'm not around to check on its daily progress, it's a mystery to me what happens to the rest of the beans that begin to form from these delicate pink flowers. So far, only the one bean that's pictured above has reached maturity. What could be preventing the youngster from reaching its full potential as an adult plant, full of beans? I'll enumerate and eliminate the possibilities:

  1. Adequate moisture. Even though I'm not able to water the plant when the rains don't appear regularly, it grows within the drip line of the pole barn roof, and there is enough evening dew from Florida's ever-present summertime humidity to keep it hydrated.

  2. Sufficient sunlight. The sword bean plant grows on the east side of the barn and receives at least six hours of direct sunlight, enough to satisfy just about any kind of veggie.

  3. Soil pH. I've checked the pH in this part of the yard and found it to be within the recommended limits for growing veggies, which are between 5.8 and 6.5.

  4. Pollination. If you have been following this Wayback Machine for a while, you will remember that Mr. and Mrs. Zucchini Blossom had some problems getting their act together with the bees, but beans are supposed to be self-pollinating and usually don't require much intervention besides a little help from the wind. Wouldn't it be nice if overcoming every other obstacle in life were that simple?   
Please visit Skywatch Friday for more sky perspectives from around the world.


  1. Interesting! I have not thought of that fable in a long time...
    I love that last shot, where you are looking straight up the pole!

  2. You're such a good writer and almost always make me think-sometimes too much. I agree all of us are cut from the same cloth. I almost died of shock when my real estate agent and college buddy told me she did not want to push an addendum on a house buy for my daughter to a banker because, "Well, he's a BANKER!He's too busy to worry about every little loan". I said "You've got to be kidding!!! It's their job and anyhow, they (the mighty bankers) put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else, I mean get real." Shock let me tell you. We have gotten that problem worked out hopefully but what a mess with this house and agents and the bank.

    Anyhow, have you considered the soil may be too rich for the plant to produce beans? When a plant is nice and healthy and there is ample nitrogen available in the soil the plant tends to put on leafy growth versus producing fruit or in this case beans. Some plants need a lean soil or all you get is leafy growth. Maybe that is it.

  3. What a pleasurable treatise! Eloquent (erudite, actually) but also great fun -- not to mention politically clever.

  4. For many reasons, the name Jack is familiar to me. In fictions and fairy tales, there were a lot of Jacks, like Jack n Jill, Jack Sparrow, Jack the Ripper and so the list goes on..
    Even I also called some characters of my childhood fantasies by that time, even though that name was somehow alien to the Indian culture.
    The Jack and Beans's story was somehow novel to me. If it is a so famous tale, I wonder how did I miss out it from my memories..

    I also like this episodes your poetry selection.
    From Bard of Avon

  5. Hello, Judy, and welcome! I stopped by your site a couple of days ago but didn't leave a comment because I was short on time. I'll be sure to stop by again.

    Tina, that's not good when people who are supposed to be in business to serve other people forget their mission. I hope things work out for your daughter's home purchase. As they say, "there's never been a better time to buy a home." Even the new homes being built around here are selling for practically builders' cost. I had to laugh when you said that about everyone putting their pants on one leg at a time. It was one of my dad's favorite expressions when frustrated with someone's uppity attitude at work. Thanks for mentioning about the rich soil, but I'm not certain that's the problem. It has been at least 20 years since any cows were kept in what's now our backyard, and the soil here loses nutrients very quickly because of the sand content. I should probably have a more detailed soil analysis done because I'd like to relocate the veg garden to the same area as the bean plant.

    Thank you, Elizabeth! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    Tomz, it's interesting that the name Jack was not a part of the Indian culture when you were growing up but that you found it anyway in your readings. The power of the pen is mighty indeed.

  6. Thank you for a nostalgic and fascinating reflection, W2W. I love the way your mind works--and the cool photos. I have enjoyed meandering through all your fun and thought-provoking posts since my last visit. Wonderful.

  7. Interesting thoughts on Jack, beans, bean growing (of course!), and reminding me of that wonderful sonnet as well.

  8. It is a mesmerizing and mysterious tale. So many questions are unanswered, yet we barely even think to ask them, if that makes sense. It's just sort of ingrained in us. Very interesting.

  9. Mary, the way my mind works scares me. Sometimes I don't know what direction it will take when I start writing a post. I'm glad you're not scared:)

    Ciss B, I'm still puzzled as to why that sonnet showed up in the post. It must have snuck in while I was looking up at the sky. Shakespeare always takes me by surprise. How could I refuse such a charming guest? There I go again, thinking these strange thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.

    Mr. S, you're one of those bloggers who inspires me to seek without ceasing. I'm always amazed at what you do with those tables of data. Very creative!

  10. The perfect post for SkyWatch Friday! And, as always, giving me pause and food for thought. ~karen

  11. Dear Walk2Write,
    what a geat post, thank you!
    I am not sure wether you saw on Hamburgmylovely that from now on I will only (?) write 2 blogs:, and (there are two brave men, too!) I would enjoy if you follow me on the one that suits you most. Otherwise: Toodlepip! Britta

  12. Wow, I never considered all the possible symbolism in this fable! Thanks for such an interesting analysis as well as the analogy to contemporary problems. It does seem as if the ogres are getting hungrier and bigger these days.

    Tina's suggestion about the soil makes sense for your beans; I was going to say it seems like it is putting all its effort into leafy growth instead of producing beans.

  13. Thanks, Karen. I think I'd better provide some lighter fare for a change. I don't want to scare too many people away from the table!

    Britta, I'm amazed at the people who can keep more than one blog running. I have trouble keeping up with just the one. I'll be sure to stop by and visit later. Thanks and toodlepip to you too!

    Rose, one of these days I'm going to take a fairy tale literature class and really have a go at them. You know, I'm not sure that the soil where the vine is growing is all that rich, even though it is darker in color than the rest of the yard. It has been many years since it's been "amended" by cows, and I certainly never add any fertilizer to the lawn besides the benefit from some annual rye grass in the winter. Here in NW Florida the soil tends to lose most of its nutrients quickly because of the sand content. The other morning I did notice quite a few ants making their way up and down the vine, and there were some chewed-up leaves. I'm wondering if they are stealing the blossoms before they have a chance to develop. I'll look at it more closely the next time I'm home.

  14. aloha,

    love your skywatch and narrative on this sword bean and the wonderful fable.

  15. I love these multi-faceted posts of yours. Your blog is such fertile soil for fairy tales, plants, Shakespeare and history.