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, February 23, 2011

Almost Springtime Holey-ness in Tallahassee

A paper wasp's nest lies still on the ground

Magnolia tree hole swallows the sound

 Of footsteps approaching Trillium treasure

Twisted tree roots, untwisted, what would they measure?

 A woodpecker's flute flung to the floor

Leaf veins laid bare for lacy decor

A stream carves a bit deeper its bedrock of limestone

One violet we see, for now all alone

"We share a walk, a life, a love, a moment,"
SAM and I say--
Thirty-one years together,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Keeping It Short, Simple, and Sweet--Seriously--'Orchid' You Not!

Winter makes me long-winded. It must have something to do with those cold blasts of air sweeping out of the north and taking my breath away. I'm sorry! This short post will make amends, I hope. At the Gardening Friends of the Big Bend meeting last week, SAM and I had our first encounter with an orchid enthusiast. Mr. Jodie Shumaker of Florida Star Nursery and Supply Company in Marianna, Florida, presented a program that made me sit up and take notes. I'm pretty sure SAM enjoyed it too. What's not to enjoy about Red Velvet Cheesecake, among other snacks?

Wilsonara Lisa's Delight 'Rayna' Orchid
 As noted on a simple pad of paper, here are some of the things I learned (I hope I heard what was said and then read my chicken scratch correctly!):
  • Orchids have a lip or landing platform that attracts specific pollinators
  • There are only 4 pollen capsules per blossom but 25,000 pollen grains in each one
  • 100,000 seeds may form per seed pod and are carried by wind
  • Most orchids are epiphytic, meaning they live on other plants such as trees, often high above the ground
  • Some of them are terrestrial (the vanilla plant being one of them)
  • There is no food reserve stored in the seed as in most plants. A special fungus attacks the seed, sending its hyphae into the seed cell, which then acts like a guillotine, cutting the hyphae for its own consumption of the sugars and nutrients stored in the hyphae
  • There are even subterranean species living underground
  • A small clump of cells from the orchid's meristem can grow hundreds of plants, known as mericlones
  • Many intergeneric crosses may be created, and the Royal Horticultural Society keeps a register of the patents
  • It would be easy to get carried away with purchases when provided with as many choices as I had that evening. Good thing SAM was along. I bought one. That's it! Wilsonara Lisa's Delight 'Rayna' is a cross between Cochlioda, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium orchids

My Japanese blogging friend Sapphire (Through the Sapphire Sky) published a most interesting post last week to celebrate her upcoming blogiversary. She shared some of her favorite bloggers' sites, including mine! What a sweet thing to do. Seriously. She is kind, gentle, and modest. I love learning about Japanese art, culture, and just life in general through her eyes.

There is another special event taking place this weekend at the North Florida Research and Education Center. It's open to anyone with an interest in nature and gardening who lives in or might be passing through the Tallahassee area. A workshop on "Butterflies, Bees, and Bats" will be presented on Saturday morning. Here is a link with the specifics. I've heard there's to be a plant sale after the presentation. Do you think our porch at the apartment is full enough? Nah!

One more thing (I promise):  Mr. Hammons has provided a list of blogs where all of the clues to his mystery may be found. Click here for the list or click on the picture of the sailboat on my sidebar. Happy clue hunting and Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reading Civics in a Modern Novel and Trying to Solve a Whodunnit

 'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed
When not to be receives reproach of being
And the just pleasure lost which is so deemed
Not by our feeling but by others' seeing.
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?...

(Shakespeare's Sonnet 121)

Listening to various pundits on television and radio worry about the ability of Americans to hold their own in a global economy, I have to wonder. When and where did public education here begin its unhealthy decline? Whodunnit? And can anyone change its course this late in the game? A few weeks ago, I watched Richard Dreyfuss, the actor of Jaws and Mr. Holland's Opus fame, speak on Fox News about his dreams for America. They aren't farfetched or unrealistic. He has launched something he calls The Dreyfuss Initiative to get Americans interested in civics again. Civics? What's that? "The study or science of the privileges and obligations of citizens." Obligations. Hmm. That sounds like I gotta do somethin'. Somebody makin' me and my kids do it. Not sure I like it. Think I'll call a lawyer or my congress-person. Eureka! The trail of blood (money) is much easier to follow now.

Back when I was a freshman in high school--don't even think about asking how long ago that was--I opted for a sort-of civics class in lieu of U.S. History. (Note: by the time I was a senior we had moved to another school district, and guess what? I had to take that history class anyway.) At that time, I thought learning history was just a waste of time, memorizing a bunch of dates, famous names, and battles. Yawn! Apparently, some educators thought the same thing and came up with an alternative class. It was called "Contemporary World" or some such thing. We got to play board games like Guns or Butter and learned stuff like what Lieutenant Calley had done in Vietnam. Fun, huh? According to this PBS account of Calley's folly, his actions may have contributed a great deal to the notion that the draft (involuntary military service) wasn't such a neat idea.

The draft or military conscription actually ended in 1973 at the beginning of President Nixon's second term. He and his Republican backers pushed for it. Interesting. There was some talk last summer that the draft might be reinstated. Apparently, Rep. Charles Rangel (Democrat) from New York introduced a bill that would make military service mandatory once again. (It didn't pass, by the way). He considers that there is a disproportionate burden of military service falling on the backs of the poor people in this country. I tend to agree. Somewhat. With decent paying jobs so hard to find and the skyrocketing cost of higher education putting it out of reach for most people, there aren't many good alternatives anymore.

Military service guarantees food on the table, clothes on the back, a roof over the head, free healthcare, and a ticket (courtesy of the GI Bill) to earn a college degree. I should know. My family certainly received those goodies because of my dad's military service. Besides, the pay isn't so shabby anymore. The federal pay freeze being proposed does not apply to service members. And in December of 2010, the GI Bill education benefits were expanded. Remember the one side of the civics coin? Privileges. It's not often that we hear about the other side of the coin. Obligations. It's obviously a dirty word. No one wants to think about the cost of those privileges.

So what does all of that (above) have to do with a certain novel, pictured above? Whether I read nonfiction or fiction, I want to know what or who informs the characters and maybe even the author(s). What are they reading? Taking to heart? Immersing their thoughts in? Sharing ideals and dreams with? In the case of C. W. Gortner's The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, the MC and narrator of the novel takes her cues from a variety of philosophers, ancient as well as more recent. Plutarch and Machiavelli, for example.

Catherine de Medici, dispatched by her uncle, Pope Clement VII, to marry the heir to France's throne is still a child when she takes her wedding vows. Immature, yes, but not ignorant by any stretch of the imagination. The aunt who raises this orphan makes sure that the girl not only learns to keep her hands occupied with the art of embroidery but also engages her brain with academics. And what an education that was. It continued when Catherine was sent to become a royal French bride: "We spent six hours every day, adhering to a regimen of mathematics, history, languages, and music..." Private tutors, extensive gardens to walk in, lavish dinners to feed a growing body so the brain could do its work. Privileges.

What about obligations? In the MC's own words: "I realized being a princess of France was much like being a Medici; the king's daughters [her new sisters-in-law] dwelled always under the expectations of their rank. One day, they too would wed, leave for distant courts, where they would be strangers representing their nation..." A new world order was beginning to take shape even then in the sixteenth century, when alliances were being forged among nations. Wouldn't you know that women, as usual, bore the brunt of the burden for making it happen and the blame for when it didn't? Literally. The children born to those royal marriages of mixed heritage were expected to cement relationships between rulers and guarantee trade and understanding among their subjects. Sometimes that cement didn't hold, especially when differences of opinion respecting religion got in the way.

Strange, how that happens even now. And those conflicts don't always have to involve the major religions. Fascism, communism, radical environmentalism...You name it, there's a fanatic-"ism" ready to fly its banner over people who are ready and willing to listen. History and civics lessons fly out the window in those cases. Books get shoved aside and forgotten. Important ideas to be studied, remembered, and discussed are removed from curricula.

Take Machiavelli's The Prince, for example. It shows up in Gortner's novel not once but twice. The first time it appears, Catherine shows it off to a young man who will one day figure prominently in her struggle to maintain her family's control of France. He is Gaspard de Coligny, and when she shows it to him, proud of the fact that it was written for and dedicated to her great-grandfather, Lorenzo the Magnificent, he quotes from it. Takes it to heart, he does. Maybe. Sort of. 

The book's second appearance occurs many years later. She gives one of her grandsons his own copy, inscribed with his name:

I handed it to him. "The Prince by Machiavelli," I told him. "My favorite book. I think you are of age now to appreciate its wisdom."

He fingered the book as if it were a jewel. "Thank you," he breathed, his eyes glowing just as my own late son's, his namesake, had when given a new falcon or pet hound. Only this Charles was clearly a scholar; the veneration with which he retreated to the window to open the book demonstrated he would never find satisfaction in swords or armor.

Maybe not swords beaten into plowshares but certainly a hope for future peace. In books, of all places.

Before you sail away from this post, consider taking a look at one of those places where this writer informs herself. It's a blog called Cruising Altitude, and there's a golden opportunity in the air up there. Mr. Hammons has a contest going, and he's provided us with a mystery to be solved. Try your hand at it. I'm going to. In blogs, of all places. Clues abound. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teach a Grandson to Fish and Get Hooked on His Lines!

Walk2Write and I head to the far reaches of the western Florida panhandle for another much anticipated weekend at home. Son, grandson Micah, and I plan a fishing trip for Saturday morning. For me and the better half to get our weekend fix of the grandson, we offer to keep him for a while Friday afternoon. During our time together, Micah finds out it is my birthday next weekend and immediately proclaims, “Grandpa! I know what I want for your birthday! I want a party barge with brownies and cupcakes and lots of fish everywhere!” Who knows where he came up with that concept, but it sounds like a good deal to me.

Saturday morning, I meet son and grandson at our usual boat launch, where a nearby meandering tributary of the Escambia River flows into the bay. For the first hour, we do only fishing and no catching (my normal modus operandi). Finally Micah convinces his dad to bait his Diego fishing pole (a kiddie pole about two feet long with four pound test line) with a stiff, long-dead minnow, one of many saved by Micah from a previous fishing trip, and bagged in a zip-lock baggie as a precious commodity. After a few minutes of trolling, the pole jerks a few times and Micah starts reeling it in as quickly as his little hands can create a repetitive, circular motion. He cranks and cranks on the tiny reel, and within less than a minute we spot a giant redfish on the end of his line. It takes out line a couple times, but amazingly he hangs onto the pole and continues cranking. We see the fish about three feet from the boat; it’s large, estimated 22-27 inches (the fish, not the boat). The net is readied by son, and we think this river monster is destined for the frying pan just before the 4-pound-test line breaks. Grandpa and son are more disappointed than grandson. Micah just smiles and exhales a big “Whew!”

Another dead minnow is acquired from Micah’s zip-lock treasure bag and baited on a jig head. Son rigs the tempting morsel on a sturdier grown-up pole, equipped with 40 # braided line and 30# mono-leader. Within a few minutes of trolling, the pole starts its up-and-down dance and Micah tries to pull in the fish but can’t handle the larger rig. Grandpa takes over the task with grandson’s robust approval, and within a minute or so a 22+ inch redfish is ours for the keeping. After landing the catch, Micah excitedly exclaims “Grandpa we had teamwork!” and we give each other a high five. A few more nice size speckled trout are landed, but the redfish have gone back to sleep; no one is disappointed, especially grandpa.

Micah looks up at the sky and says, “Grandpa! I see a dolphin in the sky. Do you see it?” I scan the shapes formed by the clouds, but have to honestly reply that I really don’t. Micah says, “I can see his face!” I have to think we may have a little artist on our hands. The clouds dissipate, but Micah’s enthusiasm doesn’t.

After a long period of trolling, Micah puts his Diego pole down on the bow of our little plastic boat. Son uses his fatherly voice and says, “Micah, put it back in the rod holder. A fish could pull it right out of the boat and into the water.”

Micah matter-of-factly states, “No Daddy, they’re not so strong.”

Son reiterates with a little more emphasis, “Micah, put it in the rod holder. A fish could pull it in.”
“No daddy, they’re not so strong.”

“Micah, do it now! You don’t know what size fish you might get. It might be small or a really big and strong one that can pull your pole in the water.”

“No, they aren’t so strong, daddy.”

Grandpa interrupts the dialogue and addresses son, “You know that you are getting payback." Son looks puzzled.

“What do you mean, payback?”

“I mean, your three-year old son already knows more than you do. Sound familiar?” Son just grins.

Back at the ranch (house), Peanut enjoys a peek and a sniff at the catch-of-the-day. Can we keep it? From the way she licks at it, you'd think she's either made a new friend...or developed a taste for sushi. Paws up and step away from the fish, cat!