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, March 24, 2011

Counting Chickens: Superstitious or Intuitively Cautious?

Peanut "counting" Daughter's friend's chickens

Remember when mom or someone older and wiser used to advise against counting your chickens before they were hatched? I can't count how many times while growing up that I heard the warning. Or, "don't put all of your eggs in one basket. You never know what might upset it." More often than not, when I failed to heed the warnings, something did happen to alter my plans or tip the basket, sending those eggs crashing to the ground. And it's not easy for me to just go with the flow like so many people are capable of doing when something doesn't go according to plan. I tend to kick against the goads, so to speak. Stubborn, that's what I am.

I'm wondering if I'm also becoming superstitious. Lately, those old words of caution are reverberating in my thoughts. I am keeping certain plans and dreams for the future close to the chest or vest now. What I'm hoping is that superstition isn't playing me for a fool but that intuitive caution is taking over as I get older. I don't want to be pessimistic, just not overly optimistic. It's a delicate balance. Gardening is one way I keep things in perspective. I've learned to not say anything about planting seeds but wait until the harvest. And I'm certainly not going to spill any beans about writing works in progress (WIPs). How about you? Do you lay out all of your cards on the table or keep a few facedown?

Disclosure: The author had nothing to do with this chicken incident but can verify that no chickens were harmed in the making of this post. The cat, however, may have suffered some psychological or emotional trauma. She is being monitored and will be treated appropriately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

'Three Dimensions and If Possible Four'

We walked on a mountain last Saturday. You don't believe me? I've got proof. Some of it went home with us, stuck in shoe-sole crevices and trapped in trouser creases. That fine quartz sand drawing tourists to Pensacola and other beaches along the Gulf of Mexico has washed down from the Appalachian Mountains over millions of years. Tiny grains, eroded and deposited, not just once but endlessly by wave action and sea-level changes.

We had some tense moments last week...more than what we're used to these days. SAM and I drove back home last Friday afternoon to watch Grandson while his mom and dad went to a church retreat in Destin. The date was clearly marked on my calendar. March 11. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Wrong. On the surface, everything was smooth, for Grandson's sake. As soon as I turned on the TV to watch the evening news, SAM reminded me. Disturbing images and sounds. Turn it off. Okay, I will, for a while.

You see I'm trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across--not to just depict life--or criticize it--but to actually make it alive. So that when you have read something by me you actually experience the thing. You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful. Because if it is all beautiful you can't believe in it. Things aren't that way. It is only by showing both sides--3 dimensions and if possible 4--that you can write the way I want to. (Ernest Hemingway to Dr. C. E. Hemingway, 1925, Selected Letters)  

While Grandson made sandcastles on the beach, his other Grandpa who lives in Japan tried to get word to his daughter. Phone service was unavailable. Somehow, he managed to get a message to her on Facebook. "I'm all right," he wrote. That's more than I've been able to manage lately. Sometimes the words refuse to come out, and I can't even manage to call or send a simple e-mail message to someone dear to me. Or leave an encouraging comment on a Japanese friend's site. March 11--even before 2011--had already left its mark on me in "three dimensions and if possible four."

And life for a few years was pretty flat until this little guy showed up to hold my hand and make his mark on me--on March 11, in "three dimensions and if possible four." It's beautiful, don't you think? Life. Sometimes I need tangible reminders.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gardening Tastemakers--Are Consumers Losing Their Appetite?

Recycled from an older post: Invitation to a secret garden at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park 
I know this post won't win me any popularity points with the folks who live for and/or make their living by gardening. Oh well! With the steadily souring economy having forced belt tightening all around the world, lately I've begun to wonder if gardening tastemakers and the consumers they cultivate are getting a bad taste in their mouths. And, considering the changes they've wrought on the environment for hundreds of years by promoting unrestrained, irresponsible horticulture, is it really such a bad thing? I'm in trouble now, for sure.

One of many Camellias to be found at Maclay Gardens
When we first moved to Florida, I was naive about choosing plants to add to our property. Many, if not most of them, are considered exotics and even downright invasive. I found them in nurseries and big box store garden centers. So they had to be okay, right? After all, one of the first things I noticed on entering the state with all of our worldly goods in tow was an agricultural check station. We had to stop and have the moving truck and our drilling company trailer inspected for any plant material that might be considered a threat to Florida's environment. At least that was my initial impression. However, once I started gardening in earnest, I realized that there were other, rather powerful interests behind controlling the influx of plants to the state.

Having relocated from the Midwest, I still clung to my old favorites in the plant supply business. Park Seed Company, Wayside Gardens, and Jackson and Perkins Roses continued to wow me with their seasonal catalogues, and I was thrilled to finally be able to grow some of those Zone 8 plants I had always wanted to try. And then there were palm trees and citrus trees to consider. Could I order citrus from the companies I had trusted for years? Uh-oh. There are rules regarding the importation of citrus into Florida. It's a big, big monoculture in this state. What's monoculture? The dictionary defines it as "the use of land for growing only one type of crop." According to the bee guy who spoke at the recent Butterflies, Bees, and Bats seminar we attended, some of the latest research being done on honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder indicates that monoculture style farming may be greatly contributing to the pollinator's decline. But that's another story, and this post is already getting out of hand and running away!

I've learned a lot about gardening since we first moved here, and that education is due in no small part to becoming a Florida Master Gardener. Does the designation mean I'm suddenly an expert or will it ensure my progress on a path to everlasting fame and glory? I'd rather eat dirt than become an "expert" in anything. That title and a few dollars might still buy me a cup of strong coffee, if I'm lucky. I have discovered a few interesting things along the way, like where to turn for valuable, research-based information on landscaping and related topics: EDIS--the Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS (University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Services)--has over 4000 articles to help guide consumers. One of the more interesting ones I've found regarding invasive plants details quite a bit of the history behind Florida's and other states' growing problem.

It's nothing new, this introduction of plants into a once-pristine environment. According to the article referenced above, "welcoming non-native species into our landscapes for centuries [emphasis mine] has created a multi-billion dollar ornamental plant industry and a gardening public that takes this largesse for granted, selecting primarily on the basis of color, shape, and size. Today's public is unaware of the origins of most ornamental plants and of the danger some species pose to natural areas." And I've always thought the farming industry was to blame for ruining nature. Ha! John Q. Public and his cohorts are in on it too. That means me--and you, if you like to garden or golf or shop or even just admire those beautiful urban and suburban landscapes where you work and live.

So, is there any hope for recovery or at least respite from this constant assault on the environment? It's doubtful, considering the 2.5 billion dollar annual wholesale trade in plants alone here in the U.S. The Great Depression in the 1930s slowed nursery sales somewhat, but we know that slump didn't last long. Sluggish economies always rebound, and a public hungry for lovely ornamental plants will clamor for satisfaction once more. I just wish that public (including me) would exhibit better table manners by learning as much as possible from reliable sources of gardening information like EDIS. We all should be taking smaller bites and chewing slowly--thinking critically--if Florida or any other state in this union has any hope of retaining a shred of its true, natural identity.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Nature of Ephemerals--Disappearing Gold in Georgia--Trout Lilies and Other 'Miracles'

Trout lily, Erythronium umbilicatum, seen at Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve on Feb. 26, 2011
Seeing is not believing. For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience.--C. S. Lewis, Miracles
 I don't blame you for not believing me when I tell you there is gold in Georgia. It's almost gone, though, so don't drop whatever it is you're doing, grab your gold pan, and head for the hills. By the time you get to Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve--unless you live nearby--chances are the trout lilies will be done blooming for the year. That's the nature of ephemerals: here today and gone tomorrow. Like the balance in the checking account after paying the bills each month.
Remember that anniversary last Wednesday that SAM and I celebrated? He, sweet man that he is, stopped on his way home from work on Tuesday, February 22, and bought me a potful of calla lilies, a bottle (or two) of wine, and a balloon.
The lovely balloon that he brought home to the apartment in Tallahassee on Tuesday was not the one he had originally chosen and purchased. He said that one was snatched away by a gust of wind just as he was putting it in his truck. Well, guess what? We find it on Saturday, waiting for us in the woods in Georgia. Spirited away there one day and discovered here four days later...

After touring the trout lily preserve, we decide to visit Birdsong Nature Center, another Georgia treasure. At the conclusion of the Butterflies, Bees, and Bats seminar the week before, the couple sitting in front of us compliment me on the banana muffins I have brought to the event. That reminds me! I need to e-mail them the recipe. Better yet, I'll add the recipe to the blog under a new tab and send them a link. The more readers, the merrier! Anyway, after introductions all around and some pleasant conversation, we confess that we are walkers through and through. They think we might enjoy visiting the lily preserve and checking out some other trails in the area. Birdsong, a former plantation full of history and mystery, is high on a list of favorites.

Now, I ask you, what if I had brought store-bought muffins to share and not those homemade ones? Would those nice people have been so helpful and forthcoming with their suggestions and directions? Maybe so, but I think that making a little extra effort butters the serendipity pan, so to speak.

Speaking of buttering the pan...Somewhere along a Birdsong trail, just before we find that errant balloon, we spot these mushrooms growing on a rotting log. SAM convinces me that they are edible. He says his dad used to find the same kind in the woods in Southern Illinois while deer hunting and brought them home for SAM's mom to batter and fry. The ones we find are fresh and tender and, in the nature of ephemeral things, not likely to stay that way for long. So, I figure, why not? We pick one cluster of many that are growing on the log. Cross my heart, that's all we take! Only problem is, we have nothing to put (hide) them in except my camera bag. Would anyone notice? Or care?

Honestly, I don't take plants from their natural setting. The trout lilies were safe with us, notwithstanding the manhandling pictured above. Mushrooms, on the other hand, aren't plants. Here today and here tomorrow, thanks to their mode of reproduction. To my way of thinking, they are suitable game for bagging or snagging, or whatever you want to call it. All's fair in love and spore!

SAM wants to try them grilled, and I prefer them sauteed in butter along with some garlic, wine, and heavy cream, served atop a piece of toast. We divide the haul in half and try them both ways. All of the evidence--if you can believe it--in the nature of ephemerals, disappears without a trace.

The "bird window" designed by Betty Komarek, one of the nature center's founders

 Our impressions of Birdsong, however, will remain with us forever.

One of many well-tended walking trails at Birdsong
The Listening Place, a screened pavilion which overlooks Big Bay Swamp

Some artwork to admire while relaxing in front of the bird window