Armchair Peregrinations

Nov. 24, 2005

Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement.


If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.


Not long ago, a fellow diarist wrote this to me in a note, and I was deeply moved:

I am fortunate in that I have a best friend -- my granddaughter -- who in her everyday discoveries, has given me the gift of sights and sounds as if seen and heard for the very first time. A two-year old squats beside a flower and has to touch the petals to feel its velvety texture. She screams in delight when a ladybug takes flight. She lingers as long as it takes to fully embrace the moment.

This is perhaps why I am not embarrassed when I act "childlike" in expressing my enthusiasm and wonder for something. It does not happen enough.

As we get older, we have that capacity for astonishment at what can only be described as the miracle of life bleached out of us, so to speak. The texture of our perceptions becomes coarsened, familar, used, worn, comfortable, set.

This is not a bad thing, necessarily. We have to "age" don't we? We have to be seasoned and tempered by the trials, tribulations, joys and accomplishments of life so that we are not as "naive" as when we were young. Life leads to varying levels of maturity and wisdom.

What I miss, however, is that sense of being alive often enough to be never at rest in my waking hours -- always alert, youthful, ready for more life. A child has this until he or she is weaned of the capacity for unending discovery and delight by the daily regimens of school and, in later years, work and conformist-enhancing, mind dulling routines and institutions. We all go through years of this, mostly unaware when we are young, until we grab hold of ourselves at pivotal moments in life and ask, "What has happened to the child in me?"

I think the poets, artists, dreamers and idealists among us never go so far along the accepted paths that they need great awakenings and shake ups in their lives. Some of us, however, need to be jolted into awareness, and this is what gives us a new take on life, an ability to "see" into the heart of things once again.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote,

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower - but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Nov. 21, 2005

It's peak vacation season at Folly Beach now. Down where my brother lives scores of families are there for a week or two, renting houses on the beach and living the good life that only summer at the beach brings: lazy days sunning on the beach, swimming in the ocean, taking long walks, going to the Pier and to one of the numerous seafood restaurants for supper. It's great.

I love to watch the vacationers come and go from my comfortable chair on the beach during those evenings when I am out there, relaxing and letting cares and worries drift away in the steady sea breeze that is better than any air conditioning. It's nice to be able to drive 20 minutes from home and be worlds away from work and the city.

Last night I stayed out until just past dark, watching the stars appear and the few fleecy clouds light up with that very special bright, end-of-sunset glow. As the sky darkened, a magnificent half moon radiated light like a lantern directly above me in the sky. Oftentimes a full moon rises directly in front of me over the ocean, casting long, silvery strands of light across the waves and the surface of the ocean, far off to the horizon.

The moon in all its phases is so mysterious and beautiful, especially when it shines over the ocean and night is falling. Lovely.

Oh gentle Moon, the voice of thy delight
falls on me like thy clear and tender light
soothing the seaman, borne the summer night,
through isles forever calm;
Oh gentle Moon, thy cystal accents pierce
the caverns of my pride's deep universe,
charming the tiger joy, whose tramplings fierce
made wounds which need thy balm...

From Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley

(Written July 13, 2005)

Nov. 9, 2005

The Ashley River Scenic Highway (State Highway 61) from Charleston to Summerville, is a very special stretch of road. It's a very old and historic highway, running along the path of the Ashley River. For twenty miles, oak trees cover the road in a green and shady canopy. It is here that some of the great plantation homes and gardens of the South Carolina Lowcountry are located: Magnolia, Drayton Hall, and Middleton Place.

My sister, niece, nephew and I visited Middleton Place this past week, and it was a day to remember. I had not been in many years. I took a group of students to the plantation more than 20 years ago, and I went on a visit not long after that.

But Wednesday was a revelation. We walked a trail past huge live oak trees, around a reflecting pool, into secret gardens, and to the high ground overlooking the butterfly lakes. It was humid but with all the rain, everything was lush and verdant.

We also felt we were stepping back in time. Middleton Place is the oldest landscaped garden in America, laid out in 1741. The property itself was first settled in the late 17th century and was acquired by Henry Middleton through marriage in the year the gardens were laid out. For 125 years, the property was the family seat of four successive generations of Middletons: Henry, who was President of the First Continental Congress; Arthur, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; a second Henry who was a governor of South Carolina, and Williams, who signed the Ordinance of Seccession, five years before the Civil War came to Middleton Place, wreaking destruction on the original home. The gardens were restored in the early 20th century. In the 1970s, Middleton Place was declarerd a National Historic Landmark.

Here is an album of photographs I took on our visit a few days ago.

Middleton Place Gardens

Middleton Web Site

(Written July 2, 2005)

Hosting by WebRing.