Armchair Peregrinations


July 28, 2001

It has rained much of the day. The ground is saturated, but it is so green that I can't get enough of looking at the grass and the trees. Everything is so alive and healthy looking outdoors. It has been ages since we have had such a wet and normal summer.

Took my mother shopping today and then had supper at the health food store where they have an excellent hot bar with a good selection of pasta salads, vegetables, tofu, rice and beans, fresh fruit, etc. I go a lot now and take my meals there as it is so much better than popping frozen dinners in the microwave. I am getting spoiled.

After getting back to the house in Charleston, I had a big cinnamon raison roll from the health store bakery while I sat on the porch, feet propped up on the rail, ceiling fan whirring, and evening settling over the historic district. It was so quiet. No wind. No loud cars or traffic to speak of. Just a peaceful time. A few birds calling to each other before nightfall. The rain had stopped. The first sunlight of the day was visible.

I enjoyed rocking on the porch for some time, looking at the cats, talking to my mother, and just taking it easy. We were mostly silent. We usually are when we sit on the porch. After a busy week at work, there is nothing like a long stretch of free time to laze about in the rocking chair on that wonderful porch. Ah....


July 23, 2001

Just came in from the beach a short while ago, driven in by a fast-moving storm coming up from the south. Just minutes before it was beautiful with deep blue skies, big, elongated cottonball clouds, and a rough, boisterous surf. The atmosphere was as clear and sparkling as I've ever seen it out here.

I looked to the right at one point and saw the black line of thunderstorms dropping torrents of rain over the ocean right offshore and out to sea a ways. I could see it falling from the black mass in the distance. I thought it might pass out to sea.

I looked up to the billowing clouds in front of me and saw a partial rainbow, so rare and spectacular. It was still nice, a normal day. Magnificent.

But I only had to wait a few minutes more until the winds whipped up in front of the advancing storm cell. I quickly gathered up my things and made for the house. A couple of minutes later, drenching rains washed over the beach.

It's gone now. The crickets are chirping, and the night has settled in.


July 20, 2001

Today has been cloudy, very cloudy, and it has rained off and on all day. Tonight we had a torrential downpour that flooded the streets of Charleston and made me take all kinds of detours to get home. So I am home now, and the rain has stopped, and it is quiet again as if nothing has happened of great moment weatherwise. Perfectly normal. The ground was drying up again, and the rains have revived the grass and shrubs yet again in this once-in-a-decade normal summer. We've had drought most years.

But the rain tonight was sort of scary, it was coming down so hard and for so long. Earlier I had sat on the porch rocking and listening to drizzle on the tin roof, feeling the slight spray from the rain, and enjoying a bit of cool air going round and coming out of the ceiling fan. Gently whirring, silent.

Yesterday was just the opposite, a study in contrasts. It was a hot, partly cloudy summer-sky day, and a perfect day for the beach. I went there on my day off and tried to set up the beach umbrella, but it gave way in the wind to a mass of spokes and flapping canvas. No good.

It was the type of day that reminded me of summer vacations in that same spot so often in the past. Hot, but with just enough salty fresh seabreeze to keep things very nice. I waded in the water, enjoyed breathing in the air, and then sat for awhile before going back to the house. I could not stay out long in that direct sun. It was about 2 pm and the heat was intense even with the wind.

But how many times in my youth have I sat and baked in that sun, swam in the ocean, diving in and out of the surf, slathered on Copperton SF 4, lounged luxuriously in the chair soaking up the radiant warmth and energy and feeling so wonderful and carefree, even if we had only a week to enjoy it all.

Now I live in Charleston and I can go to the beach any time I want to. I still feel the irrestible pull of that particular beach, decades later. It is just as strong, that attraction, or else I wouldn't go out there so often.

A favorite memory of the beach on vacation in the late 60s: eating a tomato and cheese sandwich with mayonaise on John Durst Lowcountry bread with an ice cold Fresca soft drink. I have been drinking Frescas again to revive some of those memories. Now I have to get the ingredients for that memorable sandwich I used to love to make after coming in hot, wet and slightly sun-burned after an afternoon on the beach. And when you are 17 and 18 years old, you have an appetite to remember as well. It was great being young and at the beach.


July 15, 2001

The sunset was just beautiful over the marsh tonight at Folly Beach. An orange-red ball descended slowly toward the back of Long Island. The evening was cool for July. The late afternoon on the beach had been soothing and peaceful sitting out for awhile, reading a book, and looking up occasionally as vacationers walked to and fro at mid tide.

The beach has been very crowded this month, more so than I can remember during any previous summer. It is a testament to the growing popularity of Folly with both visitors and Charleston residents. Traffic is now backed up on weekend afternoons going out of town. Such a contrast to years ago. I don't like to see these changes, but there is nothing that can be done. Some call it progress.

It's all a matter of when you choose to go out there. Late in the day it is nice and not so crowded, and this is when I usually go. I will be staying out past sunset soon to enjoy the beach at night, especially when there is a full moon. There is nothing quite so spectacular in our part of the world than the moon over the ocean on a cloudless night. And when there are clouds, it is magic to see that bright orb floating in and out of them. So I am looking forward to going to the beach as often as I can since summer is about half over now, and the remaining days of daylight savings are limited.


July 13, 2001

The greatest revelation is stillness.

Lao-Tzu


It was fairly quiet until a few moments ago. It's nearly 11 at night on a Friday in mid-summer. The crickets sing steady and low outside. But there are cannon-like sounds going off in the distance, like fireworks of some sort. Some event is likely transpiring which is allowing this hideous noise to disturb an otherwise peaceful night. That is the way it is in this society -- someone has got to shatter the peace, individually or collectively.

At work in a quiet, open space, two teenagers ducked in the elevator and had to yell at the top of their lungs to shock and startle us at the elevator doors closed. Noise, chaos. Interior disruption of the calm, smooth surface of life by people who dread and loathe stillness. Kids, you say. But who are they fooling?

Why do people leave radios, televisions, videos, and other chattering appliances on constantly but to blunt the sounds of silence which they cannot bear?

I think to find and know deep in your bones what true stillness is means you have risen a level about mortal, sensate reality. You have left the ceaseless round of activity that is your life and ventured elsewhere, to other realms of being, purer and deeper -- the places we often long to be when we take the time to seek quiet in Nature or elsewhere and flee from what binds us to Earth.

It is only when I am still, and the world around me is still, that I can hear myself think, and what I hear is even greater stillness. I achieve a relaxation of my fears and anxieties. I can believe that things will be alright.


July 8, 2001

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Gandhi


Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much. Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.

William Cowper


I need some words of wisdom today because I feel so unwise. I have need of some simple sentences that contain profound truths because I find myself in that endless regress that takes me round and round the pretty lake of my desires time and again, observing the scenery and meditating on peaceful things, but returning to the old self as if nothing much of a transformative nature had occurred.

You see, I like to think that one day I will return from one of my walks at the nature preserve, or elsewhere, and have a moment of epiphany and suddenly achieve the superhuman resolve I need to live the life I keep meaning to live. But I deserve this, I deserve that, I say to myself. I am this way. I am that way. Nothing can change it. I say and do things that are quite different from what I am thinking, and this is how I survive. This is how I think I keep my sanity when it is really just the opposite. I am courting the opposite of sanity. If I went out and did what I really wanted to do, and if I had succombed to this often enough in my past, I probably would not be here today, or else I would be on the road to not being here. Or, I would be a very different person today. There is something to say for fear of consequences and holding on to your pride and dignity, even if inside you sometime feel you have very little.

I have learned a lot over the course of my life. But I have achieved a degree of wisdom that is still rather superficial because my actions and thoughts are not in synchrony. Not harmonized. Sometimes they are, and when that happens I feel more at peace with myself. I experience little bits of what we call "happiness," although I have to say it is a term I am not too well acquainted with. I have been at peace with the status quo often enough, but I have not been discipliined enough to effect lasting change. Maybe I need to really ask for that change, and seek it much more ernestly, even if it causes me to confront some fundamental things about myself and my identity, and learn finally how to live at peace with myself. I keep resisting this, and that is because it is very, very hard to achieve.


July 6, 2001

Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.

Maya Angelou


This past Monday night my computer went down with a system crash. I rebooted and got the same error mesage. I did it again. Same thing. I stared at the screen in disbelief. The machine, this sleek, pretty iMac, is never suppposed to fail. What is going on? I tried everything I knew. Nothing. It was as if there had been a power outage, the phone line had gone dead, and the sun had set at sunrise.

For three days I was without my computer. I could not e-mail and IM, read journals, or write journal entries -- I felt cut off from the world. And all because of a mechanical failure. Is this what it's all come to? I asked my self in mock disbelief. I looked for the start-up CD-ROM to reboot from that, but it was lost in one of the piles of clutter that dot my apartment. I sat on the recliner chair in frustration that night, not wanting to do anything.

The next night after coming in from wherever I had been, I did the same thing. I sank in the soft, comfortable chair that I rarely use and sought out nothingness. There was nothing I felt like doing. I didn't want to read a book or a magazine, or look at TV, or watch a video. Nothing interested me. I was completely shocked and startled that I have become so set in my routines that I am miserable and dejected when everyting is suddenly upended -- not a real disaster at all -- just not being able to do what I do day in and day out.

I looked around the living room and the study at all the good books to be read. They must be read, I said. Now is the time to re-direct my life. Take a leave of absense from the virtual world and join the real world.

As I listened to a CD listlessly, three nights into the ordeal, it slowly dawned on me that I had even forgotten how to do nothing well. I had lost the fine art of happily daydreaming while listening to music. And doing nothing else. Why do I have to be doing something every minute. The world of the Web and the Internet do that to you. They give you this false sense of security and connectedness, busyness and pre-occupation, an escape from reality, as if your total well-being depended on it, when in reality it is only a slice of life, a major distraction and a giant gobbler of time and energy. That's all. But has it ever sliced into my life!It is late Friday night now, and I am back online, but I think tomorrow I will go somewhere and just sit for a long while, thinking idle thoughts, and looking up at the clouds and the sky. Yes, I'll probably go to the beach and do that because it is now a st eamy, sticky mess of a July in Charleston and there is not much likelihood of doing anything strenuous, such as hiking, outdoors. I'll try to be lazy and forget about the allure of the Internet. I'll yawn as I think about all the fascinating Web sites I'm missing out on. The conversations. The e-mail writing. I'll... I'll probably be right back to where I was before. How much wiser? I really don't know.


July 1, 2001

It was July when summer came alive for me that year -- late July when the days gear down to a lazy drowsy harmony and heat waves shimmer on the meadows. Even the breezes were hot.

Marilou Trask-Curtain



It's the kind of Tennessee afternoon that causes iced tea glasses to sweat profusely. Neither tree nor bird seems to move.

Carrie Ferguson



During our visit to Sumter this weekend, my sister and J__ and K__ walked over to Memorial Park. My sister had never been before, to my astonishment. Never visited this green oasis in the small historical district of the city where my mother grew up, and where we spent so many of our vacations, and where I have returned countless times over the years to visit my aunt.

So we trooped over to the park, guarded at the entrance on the N. Salem Street side by two enormous oaks and an old-fashioned lamp post which illumines a small area at dusk. The sand on the path was streaked from rains. The air was still, very still. It was a day that epitomized summer. We are now approaching that time of year when everything sighs with heat weariness in the middle of the day, and by evening is sighing again with relief that the bold and searing sun of July is down for the evening.
We walked by the bandstand and rose garden and over to the tennis court where the children played badminton. They run and sweep up the birdie (I think is what you call it in badminton), and seem to care not one whit for the steamy, sullen humidity that hangs like a wet sheet in the motionless wind. ( I played for a bit that afternoon, and then again Saturday morning with my nephew. Before long on both occasions, I was wet with perspiration and feeling the coils of mortality bending and stretching, tightening their grip on me. "One more rally, I said to the immortal 8-year-old boy who was dashing about the court. "Why do you get so hot and sweaty?" he asked in all seriousness. "Because I am not as young as you and I am tired of this heat," I replied with some exasperation, but more with amused chagrin.)

Friday afternoon after supper when we first went over to the park, I made for my favorite spot, a very uncomfortable bench under the giant tulip tree that is the tallest tree in the city, I do believe. Or the biggest, anyway. The grass was mowed, the leaves motionless in the trees, and the neighborhood as quiet and soundless as the surrounding air. Where was everyone? The park was empty except for us and a couple of other people with children who were using the swings and slide. We didn't get over there.

It's a nice little rectangular park of about 10 acres, I am guessing. It's the type of green space that every town and city should have scattered throughout their neighborhoods. Very few towns set aside parks like this. Or else, they're much smaller. Sumter created this park decades ago. My mother and aunt remember it when they were young.

This is a sanctuary. I love to go there in all seasons of the year. There is a walking/jogging path around the perimeter, and a lone jogger was making his rounds Saturday morning. He stopped to exercise and stretch. Only in youth, I thought, can you exert youself so casually in this heat and humidity.

There have been frequent rains and thunderstorms the past three weeks, so everything is green and fecund. All the shrubs and grass and trees look revived from the drought days of a month ago.

I came in from the park and had an ice-cold Fresca and fanned myself in the air-conditioned living room. It took a while to cool off.


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