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, December 25, 2013

Help Wanted: Special Delivery; No Heavy Lifting; Beautiful Feet Required

Jack Frost's Christmas Day handiwork on SAM's Dodge truck

It was quite chilly outside when I woke up this Christmas morning. The windshield on SAM's truck parked in the driveway became Jack Frost's canvas. Old Jack painted some interesting shapes for our enjoyment. Do you see the yin-yang heart figure at the bottom left corner of the glass? Then again, maybe it's not a heart shape. It could be that Old Jack was giving his backside a break from all the havoc he's been causing with my plants. Thanks a lot, Jack!

After a breakfast of sweet roll (recipe here), Havarti cheese, and strong coffee, I was ready for Christmas morn to begin. Wait, though. No stockings were hung by the chimney with care. No children or grandchildren were wiping the sleep from their eyes to find presents under the tree. It was just SAM and me present and accounted for this Christmas morn. It felt weird, I have to admit. Son and his family have moved back to Illinois. Daughter and her husband are spending Christmas with his parents. SAM and I are still recovering from a flu-like respiratory illness (stubbornly resisting going to the doctor). We've stayed home for the past nine days or so, trying not to infect anyone else if at all possible. Friends and neighbors know that we're sick so we've not had any visitors except for the package delivery people, God bless 'em. The Fed Ex man even brought a package this morning. Poor fellow, having to work on Christmas Day.

Peanut wonders if there will be any Christmas present for her?
Thinking about people who deliver things, I read a Christmas story that Charles Dickens wrote called The Chimes, in which a delivery man (known as a "porter" in Dickens' time) is charged with delivering more than a letter or a package. He falls into a reverie of sorts, is haunted by the spirits of the local church bells (sound somewhat familiar?), and encouraged (or rather scared witless) to change his sour attitude about life and his circumstances. Those footsteps have been followed before, I think, in other Dickens' stories and the like. They're amusing, I admit, but not life-changing.

 After finishing up Dickens' story this morning, I turned to another book that I've been neglecting, which could account for my own recent sour attitude about life and circumstances. I wish I'd looked into it sooner rather than later.

Now here is a present that doesn't need any special packaging. No cardboard, packing tape, or postage stamping is necessary. A few instructions for use, though, might come in handy for those not familiar with it or needing a refresher: "Handle with care"? Nope. No kid gloves necessary. "Do not immerse"? Well, that's not a bad idea after some use and much contemplation. How about "Take to heart on a daily basis and get those lovely feet in motion"? Yes! That's the ticket!

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"
(Isaiah 52:7)  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

'Gone Girl': Reading Saudade for Gen-X in Landscape

Gone (v.) 1. past participle of go. --(adj.) 2. departed; left. 3. lost or hopeless. 4. ruined. 5. dead; deceased. 6. past. 7. weak and faint; a gone feeling. 8. used up. 9. Slang. a. pregnant: two months gone. b. great; outstanding. c. exhilarated; inspired. --Idiom. 10. far gone, in an advanced state as of love, exhaustion, or illness. 11. gone on, Informal, infatuated with; in love with.

Saudade (n.) A Portuguese and Galician word that has no direct translation into English. It describes a deep, melancholic longing for someone or something that is loved but is absent. A repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return tends to increase the nostalgia or melancholia.


After learning that Cape Girardeau, Missouri, was serving as the backdrop for filming part of Gillian Flynn's novel and screenplay Gone Girl, I decided to purchase the book and read it. I don't usually care for murder mysteries, especially when a husband is the prime suspect--too much of that sort of thing going on in real life--but I had heard from a reliable source that this one would surprise me. Boy, did it ever.

While someone else who has read this as well as Ms. Flynn's other novels recently gave me her opinion that the ending of this one was disturbing or unsatisfactory, I had just the opposite reaction. For some reason (maybe it's the gardener-in-me), the moment near the beginning when Nick Dunne (husband-suspect) comes home from The Bar (his business in a fictional Missouri town) to find his wife Amy missing, the mention of "red peonies along the border looking fat and juicy, asking to be devoured" stops me dead in my reading tracks. Why? Because when he wakes up that morning, it is to the glaring sun "revealing its full summer angry-god self." Peonies do not bloom in the middle of summer.

Green Lynx spider guarding her egg sac and babies

Naturally, I'm intrigued by this seemingly awkward intrusion of peonies on the scene. Is it just authorial or editorial ignorance or clumsiness? Ah. No, I don't think so. This is a New York Times bestseller, after all, carefully crafted and edited, and soon to be a major motion picture. Red peonies out of time, out of place are there for a reason.

Before the red peonies appear and the husband-suspect discovers his missing wife, before he gets out of bed that morning to face the glaring sun, he remembers what brought him back to his roots: the impending death of his "indomitable mother" with the expectation that his "nasty"-minded, "miserable"-hearted dad would soon follow suit. And if that weren't heart-string tugging enough, he has a twin sister, Margo or Go as he calls her, who needs his help caring for their parents.

A word of advice to the potential reader/movie-goer: Think critically. Don't be fooled and don't feel sorry. The main characters in this novel are Gen-X-ers, a generation caught in the throes of a midlife crisis.(A.O. Scott, a writer for the New York Times, established the presence of this phenomenon in an article published May 9, 2010.) Nick, Amy, Margo. They're all goners. They're over the hill and done (Dunne?) been sold down the river--unemployed--by dot-com washouts and various financial meltdowns. They have become Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. Their new-found poverty takes them from The Shiny Big Apple (New York City) to one of the unlucky buckles of the Rust Belt--Missouri....

When SAM and I were newly married and he was fresh out of college, back when the last of the Gen-X-ers were still toddling around and filling their diapers, we considered that we were relatively fortunate. We were debt-free (college tuition was cheap), one income was enough to pay the bills, and there were years ahead of us in which to work hard, have several children, save money for retirement, and eventually watch our many grandchildren grow up, in between long vacations to various far-flung, exotic places. New York City? Yep, maybe that too. It'd be nice to see what imagination can build with other people's money. The Rust Belt, though, would keep its grip on us for more than two decades while the dreams mentioned above slipped away. Life was a struggle, up and down, mostly down. But we stuck together and muddled through because that's what Rust-Belted Baby-Boomers are supposed to do....

Floodwall in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, overlooking the Mississippi River
The river that Life is takes its toll, I guess, on most people and their dreams. This past week saw the death of Nelson Mandela. As so many public figures have proclaimed, he has gone to a better place. His spirited fight against apartheid in South Africa was subdued by 27 years in prison--not vanquished, just subdued, but something else too. It was refined, like gold by fire, made brilliant like diamonds by heat and pressure. If he hadn't been caught and imprisoned, South Africa as a nation might have collapsed or been torn apart by a fiery uprising out of control.

With all of the media hoopla that has gone on surrounding his death, you can definitely sense saudade surrounding an iconic figure from a bygone era. According to a program I watched on PBS, Mandela belonged to a group of people bent on destroying the government of South Africa. His fellow political prisoners recall what life was like during those long years of waiting for change to happen. Theirs was a progressive movement, informed and inspired by communism. It was tired of the status quo and wanted change in a hurry, never mind the damage or loss of life. The river that Life is slowed them down, made them think, ponder, consider. Apartheid eventually crumbled, but the nation of South Africa remains intact. Blacks and whites alike mourn the man who is gone.

Now, going back to the book, Gone Girl. It has done a lot lately to "trouble the waters" of my mind. I guess that's what a well-written book is supposed to do. Now, I won't say that it's flawless, and I'm sure that a good critic can really pick it apart and expose the flaws. It's unsettling, maybe even disturbing, as my fellow reader mentioned at the beginning had decided. Isn't that what a well-written book is supposed to do? Unsettle. Disturb. Make you think, ponder, consider. Let's hope the movie does justice to its namesake.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Train Up a Child: In the Garden of the (Ferry's) Gods(mother)

Early Fall view of Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

The imagination that stretches farther than the eye can see, into the sediments that were laid down under heat and pressure and then fractured, now constantly eroded by time and the elements of nature, this imagination becomes fertile ground. SAM has just such an imagination, and he doesn't mind sharing some of it with Grandson (peeking over Grandpa's shoulder) on a sunny day in early October, sitting on a rock formation in the Garden of the Gods.

Where will this imagination take them and us (Son and I were along for the ride)? To the great Ohio River dividing two states, Illinois and Kentucky, the same river that carries raw materials for a great nation to build itself up can also carry currents of destruction.

Looking inside Cave-in-Rock

Storms of discontent grow the river into a wild, frothy, water-breathing dragon. It leaves its boundaries and carves a cave for pirates to hide in. They lie in wait for the next unsuspecting victim to come along, someone who will listen to a Grandma's story about a ferry...and its god-smother.

The ferry takes the family safely across the river this time, but it wasn't so lucky on one particular day. On that unlucky day, the ferry's chain that ties it up so that vehicles and their passengers can safely load and unload was broken by the weight of a dump truck carrying rocks from a nearby quarry. The steel from which the chain was made was imported from another country, one which didn't pay attention to quality but was only concerned with selling lots of chains. Now our ferry wasn't about to let a broken chain keep it from its appointed rounds, back and forth across the mighty Ohio River. So it calls on its god-smother.

"God-smother," says the Ferry. "You've been sitting in the backseat, breathing down everyone's neck on this trip and slobbering too. What do you suggest that I do?"

Well, the all-knowing god-smother thought for a while and then came up with a solution. "Use that thick, well-made, American rope to hold the two ends of the chain together. Tie them up nice and tight with one of those knots you learned in the Navy. And from now on, don't buy any more chains from that country that doesn't care about quality. Buy a chain made from good old-fashioned steel crafted right here in the U.S. Now let's get across this river and go to Marion, Kentucky, so I can show you one of the key ingredients for making that strong steel."

"Here it is, fluorspar, once mined in Illinois and Kentucky, now imported from that other country and showcased at the Clement Mineral Museum." The godsmother could have talked all day about the risks and benefits of imports to this nation's economy, but Grandson's attention span wouldn't stretch that far. Besides, he had lots of pretty rocks to admire and a grandpa nearby who could tell him all about them if he had any questions. And what little boy doesn't have questions?

The family left the museum, drove back to the river, and boarded the ferry once more for the trip over to Illinois. End of story? Not until this imagination runs out of ideas, and that won't happen...

...unless the rocks cry out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blast-from-the-Past Whirled Series: Will the Cardinals Taste (and Smell) Victory in 2013?

Satsuma ball, waiting in my Florida garden for a Cardinals' victory so it can finally ripen
An interesting conversation with a friend the other day revealed that baseball fan (at least male fan) habits are universally similar. The friend recalled that her male relatives (all Cardinals' baseball fans) used to watch the World Series of baseball as a matter of ritual, gathering together in each other's home for every game, visually glued to the TV set (now quite small by today's mega-size standards), while simultaneously listening to the play-by-play radio broadcast. Now these are dedicated fans, I thought, raised on Jack Buck's voicenot quite trusting what they saw on those television screens, and needing something more emphatic, something with verve. But wait! What's missing from their sensory-rich experience? They're watching, listening, and (if I know anything about males, I'm pretty sure I'm right about this one), nervously gripping some kind of ball. Of course, I'm talking cheese here. You know, the kind that baseball wives dutifully serve with crackers or crusty bread. Anyway, the missing sensory elements in this Blast-from-the-Past baseball series could only be...Yes, the smell of baseball. You've already got the taste of cheese in your mouth. Now focus on the smell. It's sweat, covered by after-shave and perfume, covered by popcorn, covered by peanuts, covered by beer, covered by hot dogs, covered by puke, covered by....unwashed, left-in-the-locker-too-long Red Sox. So now consider them all washed up for this year. Go, win this 2013 World Series, Cardinals!

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Almost Halloween: Reach For 'The Long Hand of Twilight'

Remember when fantasy and science fiction books were fun to read? Silly instead of sinister, they didn't leave you with an uncomfortable chill in your spine or a brow-knitting blight on your spirit. Instead, they brightened your outlook on life as well as your face by turning the tables on things that go bump in the night. Laugh them away, those monsters that keep you awake when you should be sleeping. Send them to their eternal rest so you can enjoy a temporary version of it. Hmm. Maybe that's why so many people these days have trouble sleeping. Watching and reading too much horror, fictional or real, their minds can't relax. They are stuck in perpetual "fight or flight" mode. The autonomic nervous system's sympathetic response to the horror stimulus is unsympathetic to the body's need to rest.

If laughter is the best medicine, then The Long Hand of Twilight, a novel by Justin Bayne, will be an easy pill to swallow. It's a delightful book written by a native Floridian, someone who doesn't care for social media or self-promotion. He prefers to hide in the shadows so he can work on dispelling them. A prolific writer, he will, I know, forever dispel those shadows, those awful fears and doubts that haunt our thoughts and dampen our spirits. His book (someday soon to be plural!) will lead them by the hand and send them flying back to wherever it is they belong.

Fearlessly and shamelessly, I proudly promote Mr. Bayne's work for good reason. A recent addition to our family, he works hard at his day job and writes when he can find the time, something we all know doesn't grow on trees. If only it did.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Unvarnished Truth About Gardening

Argiope aurantia, way past her prime, off the Web, with chamberbitter weed in the foreground
In the midst of some volunteer work today, I had a lively, you might even say tit-for-tat, discussion with someone I'm not likely to associate with in the non-volunteer realm. Why should we be so far apart? Well, for starters, we come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. And what brought us two disparate souls together? Gardening, of course. We both have a passion for it, you see, though we sometimes find that passion difficult to reconcile with our diametrically opposed points of view. Or, maybe not. Death, you see, is the great equalizer. We dance around the subject, as delicately as we can. But there it is. You can't escape it, and neither can I. And so we joke and dance as long as we can-can. And then, we go our separate ways.

Punica granatum 'Nana'

But we both embrace life. We hang onto it for all we're worth.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hic Sunt Dracones: Pulling Dragons from the Ground and the Air

Rhionaeschna multicolor (Blue-eyed Darner)
If you're feeling blue now that summer is almost over--if you're in Florida, you should be kicking up your heels to a lively tune--stare into the blue eyes of a darner dragonfly. They are sure to make you smile. And if that doesn't work, then take SAM's advice and listen to the song by Corb Lund in the video below. Here be dragons--in the ground, in the air. Here be dragons everywhere. Okay, so maybe my paltry attempt at poetry falls flat on its face like a map of the world. Here Be Dragons, a poem that I came across while looking up the term, stands on its own as a model of great poetry.

Hic Sunt Dracones. Before they knew exactly what was just over the horizon, before explorers could bring home the good news of gold and other rich stuff in them thar hills, cartographers would warn of possible dangers in uncharted regions of the world. (Pointing) Here, here, and here be dragons. There, there, and there you can expect to travel safely--or at least without fear of encountering dragons. These days I think I'd rather take my chances with dragons than visit certain spots on the globe. Alberta (where the video was filmed) might be a good place to visit. At least the natives look and sound friendly. "Power to the People." Yeah.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Another Whirled Piece: Gardening in Days of Awe

Malvaviscus arboreus 'Dwarf Pink' Turk's Cap

When night temps can get raw
And politics can get steamy,
You stop by the less-traveled road
And drop your travel-less load,
Returning to life, garden-dreamy

Argiope aurantia near the end of her days

In days of awe
Argiope draws short straw
Of life and so shall we
If taking the Road to Damascus
Causes the world to task us
With rebuilding the whole Middle E

Love Bugs Make It On the Big Screen

In days of awe
A red-line faux pas--
Does a line in the sand really make it all right?
If truly we care for the future--we do have choices--
Let’s unravel each stitch of the suture
That’s bound up our voices
And so end this fight

In days of awe
Imagine the law
That captures the world’s attention
It frees us to act
With love, mercy—not blindly react—
Finally, at-one-ment(ion).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whirled Piece: Ginger or Mary Ann? Julia or Lucetta?

Costus pictus, spiral ginger
The ginger that does grow
In tropical garden isle
Makes its way onto the blog
And so the garden file

It traveled here all potted up
Last year from lakeside yard
It grew but didn't bloom 'til now
A spiraling upwards guard

With gaze that grows from inward out
To focus on a whirled
Piece on Earth, on entwined fates allowed
To mingle here, so gradually unfurled.

Hedychium coronarium, butterfly ginger

JULIA: What is't that you took up so gingerly?

LUCETTA: Nothing.

JULIA: Why didst thou stoop, then?

LUCETTA: To take a paper [blog] up that I let fall.

JULIA: And is that paper [blog] nothing?

LUCETTA: Nothing concerning me.

JULIA: Then let it lie for those that it concerns...

(from William Shakespeare's The Two Gentleman of Verona, Act I, scene ii)


I never dreamed I would become such a ginger gardener. But who can resist the tropical allure of these beauties? They grow so effortlessly, with so little care and attention, quite unlike a blog, I'm afraid. I never dreamed I would become such a "gingerly" blogger. If a blog is let go, allowed to drop out of sight and mind, it might just die on the vine, so to speak. And the entwined fates (faithful readers/followers/thinkers) will stop mingling here and remain unfurled. Impressions either never arrive or quickly leave, unseen and unspoken.

If you're wondering what Ginger or Mary Ann have to do with this whirled piece, blame SAM. When he saw the ginger unfurling its flower bracts, he suggested that I ask the question. Are you a Ginger or Mary Ann? Gilligan's Island fans will know what I'm talking about. You might even remember dramatic Ginger as Ophelia in this episode. There, now. Shakespeare>Ginger>Tropical Landscaping>Gilligan's Island. Everything comes together in this whirled piece. Oh. What about Julia or Lucetta? Read the play and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thunder Smitten: The Idea of This Garden-Life

Black-and-yellow Argiope aurantia

"Tell me," said the spider, "why do you garden? Why do you toil in the heat and bake yourself brown under the summer sun while countless others of your kind are cooling themselves in pools of water or at the beach or sit all day inside their offices and houses made artificially cold by large, noisy boxes? I have to be outside to catch small things that fly so that I can feed myself and my babies. They're coming soon, you know. And then I will die. As I sit here day after day, I notice that you don't have many mouths to feed. How will your species survive with so few young ones to work and gather food to feed you and take care of you when you're very old? I've heard (on the Web) that your kind lives for many moons, more than I care to imagine. So, why do you garden?"


The author needs great faith in his[her] reader's sympathy; else he[she] must hesitate to give details so minute, and incidents apparently so trifling, as are essential to make up the idea of this garden-life. It was the Eden of a thunder smitten Adam[Eve], who had fled for refuge thither out of the same dreary and perilous wilderness into which the original Adam was expelled. 

(from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables).


Life cycle of Argiope aurantia: The female fills a spherical egg sac, up to 1" (25 mm) wide, with a tough, brown, papery cover. She attaches it to one side of the web close to her resting position and then dies. The eggs hatch in autumn; the young overwinter in the sac and then disperse in spring. The male builds a web in the outlying part of the female's web, making a white, zigzag band vertically across the middle.

This spider seems to prefer sunny sites with little or no wind. It drops to the ground and hides if disturbed.

(from The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Which One Would You Prefer? A Morning Kiss or a Witch's Tongue?

Clerodendrum incisum
Here's a novel gift for your sweetie the next time your romance hits a sour note or you somehow manage to strike the wrong chord in conversation. It's commonly known as a musical note plant, although I've seen it referred to as the "Morning Kiss" as well as a "Witch's Tongue." Which name do you prefer? By the way, it doesn't smell bad, so I don't know how it got saddled with those particular names.

If you're into chasing small balls around for hours and trying to get them into holes from various angles and distances, you might even think it looks like a club of some sort. What I'd like to know is where do teeth enter the picture? As in "dendrum" and "incisum?" I'll leave it up to you to figure that one out.

Although most sites I've searched recommend this plant for more southern zones, it has tripled in size since I planted it here in the spring of 2012. The leaves fall off when winter arrives and the temps drop, but it slowly emerges from dormancy around the beginning of May and continues to bloom regularly until the first touch of frost. It's one of those plants that shines in the evening when the moon rises above the horizon.

I missed seeing this month's full moon (July 22) because....

It's been raining again!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

H2uhO: Be Careful What You Say or Think, Especially Around Water

Pensacola Beach By Moonlight
Why is it that, more often than not, I am apt to say or write something I shouldn't before I consider the consequences? You would think that after nearly 53 years of life on this earth, I would know better. Unfortunately, that's usually not the case. A couple of posts ago, I said something negative about mammograms and health care and then gloated about certain body parts of mine still being present and reporting for duty. Did I stop to think that some people reading this blog might not be so fortunate? No. Oh dear!

I think I'm afflicted with foot-in-mouth disease, or, in this case, foot-on-keyboard disease. Clumsy, careless, at the very least I've shattered or disfigured a few billion water molecules (see video below). I didn't intend to, but there it is. And to think that the adult human body is 70%, more or less, made up of water--a dynamic, living, breathing, feeling, hot-or-cold, in-the-flesh trope, if you will, for the earth itself. Maybe anthropomorphic climate change isn't a far fetched idea after all.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
                            --Proverbs 18:21

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
                            --Proverbs 25:11

Sunday, July 14, 2013

But Soft! What Twilight Garden?

Peanut by twilight garden

"But soft! what [Twi]light [Garden] through yonder window breaks?"

The gardener softly shuts off the light and out of doors her way she makes.

Daylight fades and night begins to fall but just before it does,

The gardener takes the cap from off the camera lens and blows away the Peanut fur and fuzz,

'Cause camera obscura is not the tack she wants to take
as flowers show their peak.

The gardener's figure softly hides in twilight's cloak,
and softly does she sneak

To savor and to archive twilight's bloom for future garden plan.
Whilst present, pleasant, daytime life is fat and full and may be whipped up cream,

"O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all [that] this is [we've learned from life thus far may be nothing]
but a dream..."

(Words in quotes, it's true, are gathered from bits and pieces of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet,
but those in brackets and all the rest come from Walk2Write, direct to you, via blog and Internet.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

These Boobs Are Made for Walkin'

When I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, go-go boots were all the rage, and, as you might imagine, quite irresistible to a nerd like me who wanted to fit in. I wanted to go-go places, see the world, walk 'til I ran out of road, and then make my own path through life. These days, I am content to just have my own body parts intact, thank you very much, boobs included. I am also certain that the people who dreamed up high-heeled shoes must be in cahoots with the ones who invented mammography machines. They both have a monopoly on torturing women with a back-handed sort of kindness: Want to look good? Wear high heels but pay the price in back pain and sprained ankles. Want to be sure your boobs aren't rotting away with cancer? Get an annual, painful mammogram (or two) and pay the price your insurance policy won't pay for (the second one). It's too bad there's no bank to dole out the money once you make it so far around the game board, or at least there won't be by the time SAM and I are old enough to qualify for Medicare, if we live that long.

This morning, much to my surprise and delight, I was given another chance to Pass Go. (No cancer!) Instead of collecting $200 from the bank, though, I was asked to pay!--several hundred dollars for the follow-up mammogram and possible sonogram even before I was subjected to them. Boy, was I steamed! But I didn't lose my cool at the gal entering my information in the hospital computer. She was only doing her job and a fine one at that.

Instead of losing my cool at the hospital help, I started looking for errors--in the Right to Privacy brochure I was advised to read while I waited to be examined and in the ancient magazines stacked on side tables in the waiting room. I noted quite a lot of them (errors) in one issue of Southern Living, but they were nothing compared to the one on the front page of the brochure:

"This notice describes how health information about [   ] may be used and disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please review it carefully...."

Oh, you can bet I did, West Florida Hospital. Notice anything missing? You! Of course! (I put the brackets in for effect.) I can only imagine what the Powers-That-Be are thinking behind our backs:

If You were paying any attention and had any backbone, You poor schmucks, You would feel outraged that the health care system in this country is a sham. It's not health care. It's overpriced, Mismanaged Disease-Care, and it's about to get even more overpriced and mismanaged (Affordable Care Act). Do You get it, You boobs (schmucks/fools)?

Got it. Now I really need a walk....

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quiet, Blueberry Blessings for Early Morning Gardening

If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning,
It will be taken as a curse.
(Proverbs 27:14)

When SAM and I first purchased our property, our neighbors to the south had a rather ugly wire fence that separated their mostly empty lot from our narrow side yard. Back then, we owned a small environmental drilling company. The drilling equipment was mounted on the back of a large truck with a loud diesel engine. We also owned (still do!) another large, diesel-powered pickup truck that hauled a heavy-duty trailer loaded with supplies for drilling. In order to access the supplies which were stored in our backyard barn, SAM and our son, our only employee at that time, needed to drive carefully along the edge of our property so as to avoid running over the septic tank and drain field as well as the ugly fence. We asked the neighbors if they would be interested in selling their extra lot, but they declined. Over a period of a couple years--although it wasn't pleasant for SAM especially because he had to trim along our side of the fence--we learned to live within our narrow boundaries. The neighbors, for their part, learned to live with our early morning "blessings" of diesel engines running as SAM and son prepared to head out for work.

Blueberries on our bushes, the new fence line
Eventually, the fence came down. I'd like to think it happened because we developed a warm regard for our elderly neighbors as they did for us. The old man had made his fame and fortune as a heavy equipment operator when this area was first being developed, so I guess he understood the value of those noisy vehicles and early morning work mobilizations. He also loved to garden, though he had pared down considerably the size of it from his former glory days of gardening. His gardening triumphs and failures were shared along with the abundant produce he still harvested. We ate so many collard and turnip greens then that I swore I would never plant them in my own garden. Once the old man passed away, of course I got to missing those greens. I miss the stories too. Gardeners can usually think of some dandy ones.

Casualty of an obese and greedy mockingbird

For instance, I'm imagining one right now involving what I might do to "dispatch" a certain mockingbird that likes to rest itself on and peck at the top of fruit-laden branches. To Kill a Mockingbird? No, that title's been taken already. I'll have to think some more on that one.

Peanut, in a rare moment of garden guarding
Remember Mars, the garden guardian, who was supposed to keep an eye on things for us in the garden? Turns out, he only shows up when he's hungry for a hand-out. He must have discovered that Peanut is spayed and not interested in his affectionate attentions so he usually doesn't stick around for longer than it takes to eat a bowl of dry cat food. It's a shame because the birds are getting bolder and Peanut is getting older. She prefers to either lounge by the pool or stay inside the air-conditioned house on these hot summer days once early morning is past. Guess what? So do I.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Callaway Gardens: A Place to Dream of Transformation

Butterfly emerging from chrysalis at Callaway Gardens
The Butterfly's Assumption Gown
In Chrysoprase Apartments hung
This afternoon put on--

How condescending to descend
And be of Buttercups the friend
In a [Georgia] Town--

(Emily Dickinson, c. 1873)

Although the weather forecast this past Sunday and Monday was looking rather dreary for much of the southeastern United States, SAM and I decided to travel north to the Atlanta area anyway. We managed to dodge rain drops long enough to see much of the extensive Callaway Gardens located in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was a much better day than I had expected. We spent Sunday night at a local inn and started our garden walkabout early Monday morning.

It was a good thing we started early because it took us a while to find specific places in the Gardens that we wanted to see, like this Butterfly Pavilion. I had left the reading glasses in the car, the writing on the map was tiny and difficult to see, and the signs along the winding roads were confusing at times. At least they were to us, which isn't at all surprising, considering that we are both "directionally challenged." Wouldn't it be nice to metamorphose into someone with a better skill set? Maybe an artist with the talent to transform a dead tree into something beautiful?

I wouldn't even mind making a fortune out of gardening like the people who came up with the Victory Garden idea. All I ever manage to do when it comes to gardening is spend a fortune--on plants, tools, books, and, of course, trips to famous gardens like Callaway. Well, we didn't exactly spend a fortune on this particular trip, but if I had my way, one of these days we would travel around the world and visit gardens in every corner of it.

For now, I'll have to dream about those other places while I putter around in my Florida garden. Do you wish you could visit other gardens around the world, and if so, which ones?

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry--
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll--
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.

(Emily Dickinson, c. 1873)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Semper Fi and Hands Lifted High for All Members of The United States' Armed Services

On Sunday morning of this Memorial Day Weekend, 2013, we were honored to witness something very special. A decorated Colonel in the United States Marine Corps offered his blessing over one of our own church members, our pastor's youngest daughter, who is leaving soon to join an elite group of men and women at the Marine Officers' Candidate School in Virginia. I know that she is well-prepared for this, perhaps the greatest challenge in her life. Brought up with proper discipline and belief in Jesus's unconditional love to keep her steady, she has for many years shared a special gift of music and faith with us. She is not afraid to use her hands (enemy combatants be forewarned!) as she leads us in worship, strumming the guitar and our hearts with her fingers, singing every Sunday, barefoot in the presence of God.

May God bless her and keep this wonderful country, the United States of America, safe and free, forever and ever. Semper fidelis. Amen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Land of Milk and Honey Again

I know that pictures usually tell the story on this blog, but this time I will let the words do it. And there's not a word of truth in them, or at least I hope there's not...

Land of Milk and Honey Again

                To say or to sing “this land is your land, this land is my land” would now land you in trouble with the law—or rather, with the ones who make and manipulate the law. Do you think I’m kidding? They outnumber ordinary citizens 3 to 1. This land is their land. They control everything and everyone under the guise of justice, but there is no justice, no true government, nothing but perpetual court and lawsuits. Folks don’t work anymore because there is no place to work. Every productive industry has been shut down and shuttered. People have to grow their own food or steal it from someone else; it’s that bad now. How did this great country of ours, LOMAHA, end up in this predicament? Sadly, I have to lay the blame at the feet of my grandfather, God rest his soul, because he was the farmer who kicked the bucket, which started the un-tar-ball rolling, so to speak. He was fifth-generation owner of Golden Calf and Honeybee Farms. I would be seventh-generation owner if not for the day that Dazey the cow sprung a leak.
                The day it happened started like any other day. It was springtime. There were devastating tornadoes in the news, gun control legislation was being hotly debated in Congress, and life on the farm was increasing exponentially. Twin calves had been born the night before, and the night before that, my mom had given birth to me and my twin sister. Grandmother was not at home with Grandfather. She was with us, watching over the nurses in the county hospital to make sure they did not screw up anything. One of her grandchildren had already died two years earlier in that hospital from “complications at birth,” and she was making damn sure that did not happen again. The nurses were not happy about her constant surveillance of the nursery through the viewing window, but there was nothing they could do about it. Nothing in the new healthcare law prevented constant family observation, at least not yet.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Grandfather had stayed up all night with Dazey, his oldest heifer, to help her through a difficult birth. He had cleaned up as best he could with a garden hose and was driving his ATV back to the house for breakfast he would have to whip up for himself when he heard Dazey bellowing. It sounded like all hell was breaking loose in the barn. Before he could open the latch on the barn door, a mother-lode of milk burst through and knocked the door down on top of poor Grandfather. He was crushed by the weight of the door and all that milk, flattened like one of Grandmother’s Pfannkuchen. He laid there for at least 24 hours while Dazey’s milk continued to flow over and beyond him.
Old man Hodges who had a farm about two miles away was the first one to notice a stream of white stuff filling the ruts in the dirt road that fronted his property. As the stream became a river, he decided to call the police. By then, the river had picked up its pace and began spilling over its rut-banks to cover greening fields of winter rye and wheat, its powerful current uprooting everything in its path, including a two-acre patch of strawberries. Most of the milk eventually found its way to Lake Sosuemee, a good five miles downstream of Grandfather’s farm. Weeks later, folks were saying that the lake was nothing more than a soggy cereal bowl, what with all that wheat, rye, and fruit bobbing about on its sour-rotten-smelling-by-then surface. When the smell got really bad, they started chanting, jokingly at first and then seriously, “Let’s Get Mikey!” in front of television news cameras. Only they were not interested in trying Life™ cereal. They were interested in trying to pry open Grandfather's (whose name happened to sound like Mikey) estate in court. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know how much he was worth. He had owned a “Golden Calf,” after all. It was the one that continued to flow milk day after day after day, while webcams captured the whole thing in real-time, and people around the world could watch it via the Internet.
Experts were brought in to discuss how to cap it, and soon afterwards, activists arrived by the busload to protest the cruel treatment of animals on farms everywhere. The activists tried to enlist the help of some famous talking swine named Snowball, but he was tied up in litigation over movie rights to some book he had written, a sequel to the first one written nearly 68 years earlier without his permission. Not that he really minded the original text, of course. He was perhaps more famous and wealthier than any other pig in history. He certainly could not spare the time to help a cow. With all of the now-unwanted attention focused on them, the experts realized that things would have to be handled delicately. No nipple clamping, as they first proposed, would be allowed. And Dazey could not be put down (gassed) as some of them had suggested.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Grandmother was fuming over the whole thing. She could not give her husband a decent burial because his body was being held by the government for investigation. Besides, no funeral home would touch it with a ten-foot pole, sour milk smell notwithstanding. There were rumors floating about in cyberspace that he had planned the whole thing as a home-grown terrorist plot. “#SpilledMilkforMoney,” they, the blogging, tweeting rumor-mongers called it. He must have been planning to control the dairy market by flooding it with easy milk, making the alternative-dairy market (soy, almond, coconut…) unprofitable and unsustainable. If successful, he might have been able to bring the whole thing crashing down, but he got his just desserts. CREAMED BY A BARN DOOR!—was splashed all over the news in print, the networks and the cable news. Now, in the wake of all that milk and these rumors, the door itself was being held as evidence.
Grandmother had to leave the farm because of the media circus. She went to stay with my parents in town and tried to help mom take care of sis and me. One day as she was taking us, the babies, for a walk in our stroller, the media people surrounded her and bombarded her with questions. She was so startled that she blurted out something about needing a vacation from it all. The news people pounced on that and suggested that she would soon be taking a luxury cruise with her newfound milk wealth. The next thing she knew, newspaper and Internet-newsfeed headlines were screaming: OWNER OF GOLDEN CALF AND HONEYBEE FARMS NOW LA LECHE-ROUS GRANDMA.
Of course, the child protection people would not let mom and dad leave us kids alone with her anymore. She disappeared one night while everyone else was asleep, taking only a clean pair of underwear, her toothbrush, and a picture of her holding sis and me the day we were born, the day before Grandfather died, the day before the beginning of the end of LOMAHA—Land of Milk and Honey Again. Oh, I bet you’re probably wondering about the honey. The bees were already disappearing at an alarming rate due to Colony Collapse Disorder. Most of the hives on Grandfather’s farm were empty by the time Dazey’s infamous spill happened. The investigative reporters who thought they should follow the honey-money did find that at least a dozen of the hives that had been active with bees were missing about the time Grandmother disappeared. After all, she was the family beekeeper.
Grandmother, if you’re out there somewhere, I hope you and your bees are okay. We need you and them more than ever. As mom said you were ever fond of saying, “this LOMAHA really has gone to hell in a hand-basket!” 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mars to Men: If You Think Venus is Hot, Try Gardening in Florida!

From Wikipedia: Mars in a Garden , from a wall found at Pompeii
It is only the middle of May, but things are already heating up in the garden. It certainly is, if you garden in Florida. Gardening in Pompeii must have been a little steamy, so it's no wonder that Mars figures prominently in the buff in a wall mural that survived the volcanic devastation. Now why would Mars, Roman god of war, look so at ease, leaning on his spear instead of aiming it, perched on a pedestal in the middle of a garden? Did he get fed up with his image as war-monger? More likely, someone on the home front who was thoroughly tired of war (aren't we all?) decided to promote him as having another set of skills, if not as gardener then at least as garden-guardian. After all, why should any self-respecting god be pigeon-holed? He deserves an avocation like anyone else. Gardening is as good a one as any.

SAM my man even lends his hands and strong back in the garden. He has graciously agreed to arrange many, heavy blocks so that I can convert my veggie growing spot to a new, almost completely containerized version of it. So far, I have grown peas and lettuce (both of which are almost finished for the season), tomatoes and peppers, as well as herbs. With Cliff's Organic Wonder Soil as a growing medium, the plants have been performing wonderfully, as expected. Am I crazy for putting so much confidence in dirt? Call it Mars Madness.

I was confident enough in Cliff's soil to purchase a very expensive tomato plant at a nearby nursery. You would cringe if I told you how much it cost. We'll just say that it probably cost more than I paid for a whole bushel of tomatoes a few years ago. If you think I'm foolish, then blame it on Mars. He's not afraid of anything, so why should I be?

First tomato on Grafted Early Girl tomato plant, 5-18-13

Here is the first fruit of that Early Girl. Pretty, ain't she? Pay no attention to the hair on her legs. She's not old enough to shave yet.

I did not pay too much for some pepper plants, which were purchased at one of the big box stores. This one is a red-hot cherry pepper. Only two plants were bought and planted because a little goes a long way with hot peppers. SAM is not overly fond of spicy food, so I may end up giving away quite a few of these peppers.

Mixed romaine lettuce grown from seed, 5-2013
Lest you think me scandalously "squanderous," I will say that I grew lettuce and peas from seed early this spring. It's easy and cheap to do so.

It's also easy and cheap (free!) to grow pass-along plants like this NOID daylily. One of my massage clients who also likes to garden gave me some of her excess plant divisions. She didn't name it so I will call it Flame(n) Martialis. It does look rather priestly. You can imagine it brandishing its spears (stamens) to ward off any potential enemies of the garden veggies--garden-guardianship at its best.

Mars, the NOID, bob-tail cat

Speaking of garden-guardians, a kitty that's been hanging around our garden for several weeks has a new name--Mars. It's a NOID, bob-tail cat that seems rather sad and waits patiently to be fed twice a day now. At first, he (at least I think it's a he--I haven't been allowed to lift up his bob-tail to make sure) would only come around once or twice a week. We're thinking that someone nearby moved away and left him to fend for himself. He's welcome here anyway. We can use all the help we can get with guarding the garden.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What is the Grass?

"A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?....I do not know what it is any more than
he..." (from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, 1855)

I walk along the beach and smell the salt air
While Midwest soil
Makes my heart-sack boil--
With longing for wronging to bare?...
(Walk2Write, 5-14-2013)
It may be that I've waited too long to write about a recent turf-grass field trip to WFREC in Jay. I think the simple words that were forming about my impressions got lost somewhere along the road to Illinois and then back again to Florida.

I wanted to write something easy to read, something "out of hopeful green stuff woven," but the checkerboard plots of different grasses being trialed remind me of people I have known and will know.

They grow. They struggle. They reach for light while their stolon-like efforts at reaching out to the world get stifled. Trouble comes along. Sickness, pain, soul-drought, attacks, and setbacks follow. Weeds take over. Truth rings hollow--no longer filtered by a healthy root system. It washes away and takes nutrient-rich, toiled-for soil with it.

Nearby streams will grow turbid with dreams of a better life washed away in a flash flood of dashed expectations.

Then, something hopeful happens. Someone comes along and tends the leanness, the meanness of the soil. It is amended. Healing earthworms move in, leaving their castings behind them, cleaning the wounded, bruised, and battered dirt.
And the grass grows and grows and grows, making rich the soil again, supporting trees and life and filtering. Truth again.
"I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and
Remark, and say Whose?" (Leaves of Grass)