Armchair Peregrinations

February 26, 2002

Last night I lay down to rest and took a longer than usual nap, so i am up again at this late hour. I just felt like lying down. I can't seem to call it a night at a reasonable hour. I wouldn't know what to do. Go to sleep? How strange. That would be a normal thing to do.

So, I put on the old cassette tape I have had for many years, Gabriel Lee's "Impressions," the one I used to listen to so much in Mississippi, so many years ago when I was a grad student and instructor. And I looked at the Magnavox Cubic Combo cassette player with radio that I have had for almost two decades. It still works quite well. I can't believe I've held on to it that long. It brings back a lot of memories and associations just looking at it. I took it with me on all my travels and had it in every apartment and living situation I've been in since 1984.

And, the music -- I always associate it with pending freedom. For I was just waiting until the time to leave the town I was living in and, reluctantly, Mississippi, as much as I liked the surroundings. Lee's music to this day signifies a feeling of better things ahead. New starts. Escape from the oppressive people and circumstances I found myself in.

It is also lonely music to me, as much as it symbolizes freedom, but I read the other day that to be truly free one must be alone. I have to think about that some more. It's too late at night for philosophical ruminations.

Anyway, I have to connect with my past like I did last night from time to time. To make sure I remember where I have come from to be where I am now.

February 21, 2002

It is very late at night, and I am up working at the computer, as is my customary pattern, reflecting here for a bit on the day just past. Last night, it was with immense gratitude that I sank into the rocking chair on the porch at the house in Charleston and let the tensions of a rather busy and not always pleasant day fade away in gentle rocking and idle reverie. After about an hour, I was so relaxed that I only reluctantly got up to go home. It is always nice visiting my mother and the cats, taking some time to see how everything is with her, and then heading off when I've had a good bit of quality time on that beloved porch.

The past hour it has been raining off and on, not much, but enough to hear distinctly outside my window. I wish it would rain all night, heavy, so that the dry earth could absorb as much moisture as possible in this long and dreadful drought. The weather has been beautiful, but it has been warm and springlike and so very, very dry. The little sprinkles of rain don't help much.

It is quiet now. I do indeed wish the rain would come back. But it is so peaceful at this hour. I treasure that sense of solitude that comes with the quiet.

February 17, 2002

Took a long hike around the rice fields, through woods and the cypress swamp on a elevated boardwalk at the nature preserve today. It was beautiful out there. Just a half hour drive and I am surrounded by water and trees -- massive live oak trees with moss hanging over their branches, trails that take me to all the different ecosystems. It is a very special place, a journey into habitats and marsh and waterfowl refuges. A place apart.

I felt rejuvenated as I always do by a visit there. The light of late afternoon in the woods is mellow and rich, the shadows on the trees, the skies overhead -- it's all as close as wilderness as we get near Charleston. I think I go there about once a month. I would go more often, too, if it were not quite so far out.

February 16, 2002

Folly Beach, 3:30 pm

Ah! The winter beach -- still very much with us as I write this listening to the modest sounds of surf in the distance at low tide. A cool breeze is blowing from the south. It feels like winter today by the edge of the ocean, whereas ten miles inland where I live, we have crossed the threshold of mid-February and have basically entered spring. It's like this every year about Feb. 15. That date seems to be some sort of magical divide or marker of time and season for me. I know that in a couple of weeks the azaleas will be blooming -- what's left of them left to blossom after so many have already appeared in the warmth of our unseasonable winter.

The trees are all still quite bare, of course, but if you look hard enough, you can see the buds and even the beginnings of new growth. I expect that during my next visit to the nature preserve, or the one right after that, I will observe the small, purplish-pink flowers of swamp maples in the woods, the tree that blooms briefly and is the first sign of spring in our swamps, just as the Japanese magnolia and daffodils are in the city's gardens.

February 11, 2002

It's become a nightly ritual in Sumter these past few days to listen to the long, wistfully sweet sounds of train whistles off in the distance around midnight as I lie in bed and read.

This particular evening as I write this, the trains have passed for the time being, and the silence has been replaced by music from one of my favorite CDs -- 2002's Chrysalis album, with the track "Dreams Come True" playing now. I wonder what that will be, if anything.

February 10, 2002

Walked out the door this morning and saw the first daffodils of spring. Beautiful! About eight of them slightly bent over from last night's rain.

This is really early for them, but no real surprise since the weather has been springlike for weeks now. Also, I watched a yellow-bellied sapsucker pecking at the undersides of branches on a maple tree. It's been a while since I've seen one of those birds. Spectacular coloring. Red patch on its head. Black spots on the back. I could be mis-identyfying this lovely creature, but that's what it looks like in my guidebook.

The air was mild and thick with humidity. It was a February morning when the seasons seem to mean nothing and winter, spring and fall all blend into one another.

February 7, 2002

Woke up this morning around 9:30 after staying up till 4. Fortunately, I don't have to work until this afternoon, so I knew I could push the limits at bit more than usual. Still, I don't like this missing the early morning. It's a tradeoff -- the late night hours are so quiet and peaceful. I am so used to being up late and reading, writing and thinking that I would not think my day completed if I turned in early.

It was raining off and on softly, then fairly steadily around 3-4 am last night -- welcome, much-needed rain. The skies are very gray out my window now, and winter-appearing, though the t emps are mild as spring. I can't get over how much this winter resembles our month of March in Charleston. Azaleas have been blooming here and there all around the city. At my brother's place at the beach the other day, I saw the first patches of fresh, sweet clover to appear in this incipient spring waiting in the wings. Clover, to me, is always the surest sign of winter drawing to a close. I marvel at clover, the first brave plants to come out of the cold ground when nothing else is growing, except for the errant blooms of the azaleas and Japanese magnolia. Those, too, have been convinced it is early Spring. And I guess it really is. After all, the calendar say Feb. 7. I am cheered by the sight of the new green of clover. Renewal.

February 3, 2002

It's 4 in the morning,and I certainly am not dreaming. It astounds me how I manage to seek out these late nights and become absorbed in the timelessness of deep quiet and solitude in the middle of the inky stillness of no-man's land. It is perfectly quiet. A car just passed outside, however. So there are other people up at this hour. I know that I will have to go to bed soon, but I never want to. There is always somet hing else to do: read a magazine, talk on IM, check favorite Web sites, read a book, listen to music, lie in the recliner chair and zone out with nothing but soft classical music on in the background. Anything but actual surrender to sleep.

Why is this? It is a mystery only when I tend to forget how I have had problems with sleep all my life. So, I try to stay awake until there is not much chance sleep won't come soon.

Yet, I miss out on all the early mornings when I could arise and greet the dawn. Day after day, I get up only with only enough time to hurriedly go through my morning routines before dashing off to work in the morning commute traffic. I forget how truly lovely and astonishing sunrises are. I often see magnificent sunsets at the ocean, but a sunrise at the beach -- now that is a miraculous event. It's been years since I have seen one there.

Okay. That is my resolve. Soon, I will go and greet the day there with my camera and notepad to record the momentous occasion.

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