Armchair Peregrinations

November 29, 2001

Nearing the end of November, and it's still warm and pleasant, sunny and mild -- like an unending afternoon in May. This skewers the seasons for me. I feel out of sync, as if I have jumped ahead to Spring, bypassing winter altogether, and will soon be watching for the daffodils and azaleas to bloom. So, I will continue to enjoy it, this fine weather and confusion of seasons, waiting for changes but not expecting them, so that when they do come it will be a surprise and a delight.

November 25, 2001

Ventured out to Folly Beach both of the last two days, and as always, it is a place apart. It has been mild and not at all fall or winter-like for some time now. In town it was actually almost hot. The ocean's comforting sound was gentle Friday, and yesterday rough and roiled by strong low pressure systems and winds battling to push through. So instead of going out on the beach first thing, I walked on the deck toward the marsh and tidal creek, and looked at the cloud formations. A total contrast to the beach and ocean only a hundred yards on the opposite side. Folly Island is only a narrow sliver of land where we are, but it is part of two worlds, two ecosystems.

Later, on the beach, I sat awhile until near sunset, a cool wind blowing and my slight jacket not enough warmth because the winds off the ocean's waters are much more brisk than the winds off the land. I watched a lone surfer for awhile, then three small v-shaped formations of Canada geese, and a ragged rainbow appeared briefly.

About an hour later, while I was at the computer in the house, I noticed the winds had significantly picked up. The palmettos bent and swayed, the sky was dark and cloudy with a three-quarter moon peeking out to survey the scene from time to time. I wanted to go back out on the dark and deserted beach, for that is when the most surprising emotions and feelings come upon me, but that would have to wait. Perhaps tonight.

November 22, 2001

What a very nice Thanksgiving day with my cousins, mother, brother, and aunt in the tiny town of Holly Hill, about an hour from Charleston! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is the largest family gathering I usually ever get to attend, as our family is small and we don't usually gather on Christmas.

The drive through the countryside was pleasant, and not having to drive made it more so. I sat in the back seat and read my Ideals magazine Thanksgiving issue, always full of beautiful pictures and poetry. It is a feast. A truly beautiful publication that I treasure. The passing country scenes out the window made the pictures come more alive. It was a relaxing journey.

We had such delicious food: fried turkey, ham, dressing and rice and gravy, butter beans, homemade bread, asparagus casserole, whipped sweet potatoes, ambrosia, chocolate roll. I ate too much, as is obligatory at Thanksgiving. Then after we had sat around the table talking for awhile, I took a brief walk in the neighborhood, observing the red leaves of the Bradbury pear trees, looking up at the tall pines and blue sky. Feeling the quiet and peace of a holiday where everyone was most likely home and eating, resting and being with family and/or friends. I think it would be difficult to spend Thanksgiving alone, but I think I could do it if necessary. And I would hopefully have the inner resources and strength to draw upon at that time.

November 20, 2001

It felt so good early this evening after a long day at work to sink into my favorite rocking chair on the porch of the house in Charleston and let the cares of the day melt away in the waning light of afternoon.

It was mild and very pleasant, a continuation of the springlike weather we have been having for days. After a while indoors, I came back out to the porch. A few drops of rain were falling, the wind was picking up, and the air was discernably cooler. It was remarkable that the weather had changed so much in just a few short minutes.

The cats, Ginger and Sophie. kept coming in and out of the house. They like to sit on the porch or go out on the nearby ledge. It was so nice out there, as it is most of the time when I take the opportunity to sit awhile and rock. I could have stayed hours, it seems. Lately, I have been so relaxed after about an hour or so that I nod off frequently and almost fall asleep. Then I rouse myself reluctantly before going into the house, getting my things together, and leaving for home across the Ashley River on James Island.

November 17, 2001

I escaped to the nature preserve today, about 1:30, driving out of Charleston on a most perfect kind of Saturday afternoon. It felt so good to just get in the car and drive. The trees were showing the last of their autumn reds and yellows, for we really have had a Fall show of color this year.

Entering the sanctuary, as always, inspires feelings of great relief. It is like I am leaving the big old bad world and entering a pristine place of tranquility and peace. The entry road winds for a mile through thick woods and then I am at the visitor center and starting point for all the trails.

I chose to take the swamp trail to the upland settlement where the big live oaks are, and then continue in a big loop, hiking along the former flooded rice fields where the birds are always resting in the mud flats and grasses. I love to watch the blue herons take off in flight. Hawks were soaring on warm air thermals. It was very quiet. The sun on my neck was very warm. It felt like a day in late May. I hardly imagined it was the middle of November.

November 12, 2001

It was such a beautiful day today. The skies were filled with clouds. The light was Autumn pristine and clear, and the temperatures were just cool enough to make a light jacket comfortable. I walked to the college at lunch break and sat in my accustomed spot by the fountain and goldfish pond. I let the wind feel good about me, and I drifted off among many thoughts, some pleasant, some not so pleasant.

I walked back a little bit slower than I normally do, taking more time to enjoy the sights along the way, the people, the buildings and architecture of old Charleston, and the general ambience of downtown.

As I neared the place where I work, I passed the lantana bushes near the rose garden, full of small purple and white blossoms. And there flittering among them, in the golden light of afternoon, in the brilliant warm light that bathed the whole of my surroundings, were dozens of Gulf Fritillary butterflies, with their brilliant orange-red wings and black spots. I huddled down near the ground, stopping in my tracks, delighting in those graceful, resplendent winged crreated, sipping their nectar and darting in and among the flowers. Another moment that stopped in time for awhile and visited. Perfect.

November 9, 2001

I came in from work yesterday, stopping by the house in Charleston as usual, and sat out by the fountain and fish pond in back of the garden. I was keyed up, but it was a good "keyed up". I enjoyed what I had done at work and was happy about that. Feeling on top of my game in the profession I have at last settled on is always nice. But I was in need of slowing down, and the sound of the fountain, like that of a small stream over rocks, is the perfect tonic to the fast pace of life I lead sometimes. Sitting out there forces me to be quiet, settle down and pay attention to what is going on around me.

So I am sitting there, and I see this big, plump mockingbird land on the garden wall about 8 feet from where I'm sitting. Looking this way and that. Craning his neck to keep an eye on me. He was very fearless and uninhibited. Usually birds don't come anywhere near people, except those nervy little sandpipers at the beach who run aound you in cirlces on their little short spindly legs. They are rather comical.

This mockingbird was just having a wonderful time contempating the sweet, cool water in the fish pond, specifically, the water that flows into a little bowl or catch basin from the fountain before entering the much larger basin of water I call the fish pond. He darts down to the lip of the basin and primly slurps up water in his beak. Again and Again. Then he flies off to a nearby branch in a tree. Funny little noises. Signalling other birds nearby. Maybe. Then up to the wall again, and after long moments of looking this way and that (he's a very observant little bird), he flits quickly back down to the water and has another drink. All this is just a few away from me, so I get to sit there observing and enjoying the whole little avian display. Quite an intriguing little creature.

After a while of this I notice I am quite relaxed. The sky has never seemed bluer. The air felt perfect. It's just a nice afternoon. It is like being away from everything near a stream in the woods. I look up and see the wind blowing in the trees overhead. The leaves will be around for a little while yet. But soon, they will be bare. December will mean winter has arrived in earnest.

November 8, 2001

...For afterwards, a man finds pleasure in his pains, when he has suffered long and wandered long. So I will tell you what you ask and seek to know.


For me, I think after living half a century, I am not so much old, as prematurely wizened. I have to laugh to myself. It is not pleasure as such that I derive from the trials I have endured so much as a kind of world-weary relief that I have been able to endure so much and still be relatively intact. Such is the path some of us take in life. They take a journey through pain and psychic torment that is more arduous and prolonged than other mortals, or so I seem to think. But how I am to know? I can write about it. Maybe not talk about it. What about those who are wordless and still calm? I have been able to find words to tell my story here in this journal. I am grateful for that. But when I am asked, I find it harder to speak. Literally speaking, words spoken can fail me, but fingers on the keyboard allow me to tell you what you seek to know, if you ask.

November 4, 2001

What a beautiful drive through the South Carolina countryside yesterday. Took the Old Charleston Highway to Sumter and was astounded by the Fall colors. The sweet gums and swamp maples were brighter shades of yellow and red than I can recall seeing in some time. The hickories, though rare, were burnished gold. Gorgeous.

There was a mellow, timeless feeling in the air, the countryside, the woods and fields. Like time had slowed down or stopped. I expected to see little columns of smoke from burning piles of leaves and smell that sweet and nostalgic odor as it drifted over the highway.

Yellows, red, browns -- the woods were filled with colors. Not pherpas bright oranges and reds as in the mountains, but enough color to satisfy Autumn longings for leaf gazing.

Such a wonder, this season that begins its lingering farewell throughout the coming days of November.

November 3, 2001

The other day, to mark the beginning of the new month, I began what is a ritual of sorts, and turned the calendar pages on my walls: I have them on the bedroom, dining room, and living room walls of my apartment. I have more of them than I know what to do with. Some of them I just keep to look at as I would a fine book of photographs or paintings, for the calendars I buy each year contain beautiful works of art.

The one I see most often is to the left of me as I sit at the computer. This month it shows brilliant, golden-yellow cottonwoods lit up against a blue lake and mountains deep in the vast open spaces of Nevada. With their spreading crowns, the cottonwood is one of the most majestic trees I know of. They rustle in the wind, and their leaves flutter like thousands of silent wind chimes.

In back of me, the November scene in the Four Seasons series shows a farmhouse and barn, light patches of snow on last year's fields of crop stubble, and a graceful oak tree with some leaves still remaining on it. Very peaceful. I love to wake up in the morning and look at the scenes in that calendar.

Another page turned revealed an old brick house with a huge, bare beech tree in front of a small pond with ducks swimming there. In another calendar scene in the living rooom, an Amish father and two of his children swing out to a dirt road in their buggy, deep in the countryside of Pennyslvannia or Ohio, I would imagine. Next, I turn to a grand and powerful waterfall which I visited years ago in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in northern Washington State.

My favorite scene perhaps is of a long empty road leading up into the Davis Mountains in west Texas. There is a spectular sunrise with pink and purple tints. I can see myself traveling that road on an early morning in October, on some day in the future, for I have always wanted to travel in that part of Texas again and really experience the countryside, perhaps even driving down to Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande River.

On the last calendar I turn over for November, there is again a country farmhouse in North Carolina and the title of the painting is "Evening Retreat." The caption reads, "Sunset on the farm is the best time of day. 'Evening Retreat' captures the brief quietness [in which one] can enjoy the golden hues of the slowly setting sun, reflecting another perfect day." Idealized. Romanticized. Maybe. But that is what I need. A daily visit to these special places in reality and the imagination, that are presented in those calendar scenes.

My choice of wall calendars each year tells a lot about me, what I value, what to me has permanance and lasting significance. It's not that I always need to know the day of the month, or that I have to have a calendar, as such, visible in each room, but rather, it is the new doors that are opened each month as I turn the old pages over and see the new scenes, which unfailingly surprise me with their beauty and peace, and which offer steady reassurance that life continues on.

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