Monday, June 11, 2018

A fallen tree

Years ago, when we moved to Georgia, we first rented a small house in Decatur, east of Atlanta and then we bought a house.  But when the first grade teacher of our eldest daughter told us that she was gifted we decided to move to a county where the school system had a gifted class program.  In 1976 we decided on Cobb County because we had a friend who lived there.  On the map below, Decatur is on the middle right hand side and Cobb County, where we moved next, is on the upper left of the map.

This friend had a lovely garden with many roses and ornamental bushes in his 1860 era historic house off the Marietta square.  In 1980 or maybe 1982 he gave me a shoot from his fig tree.  We planted it on the side of our house.  It grew into a large tree, higher than our roof.  It provided us with sweet figs every summer.  I made fig jam for years.  The last bunch I made from that tree, shown below, was in 2014 because that winter an ice storm froze our fig tree to the ground, and it was gone.

At the same time our friend had given my husband a shoot of his black walnut tree.  We planted this shoot in the front yard and a couple of years later, two trunks developed from the base.  The tree grew well and my husband loved it.  The Black Walnut tree is native to eastern North America (Juglans Nigra) and produces nuts in the fall. After several years our black walnut tree gave us black walnuts.  I never ate them because their thick covering is so tough that unless you drive on top of them you can't remove it to get to the nut kernels.  I did eat black walnuts that I bought at the market.  They have a more robust and pungent taste than the common English walnut.  Below are two engravings from circa 1865 which show the tree, the leaves, the green outside cover and the nuts.

Below is a photo of a black walnut tree like ours - with two trunks.  The leaves of this tree are dark green, rounded at the base with a long point; they feel soft and hairy on the underside.  The covering of the new nuts on the tree is lime green.  In the fall the leaves turn bright yellow. It really is a pretty tree.

Some years we did get a good crop of nuts and they delighted the squirrels - the nuts disappeared quickly.  In December 2016 I gathered the nuts in a basket to show on one of my Chalkfest posts.  The nut covering had by then turned yellow and even black.  This hard shell is quite difficult to remove from the kernel and will stain your hands badly.

This was my husband's favorite tree.  Our yard has many trees, mostly pines, but this tree was special to him.  He enjoyed placing a chair next to the hydrangea bush and read in the shade, under the spread of the branches of his black walnut tree, like in the picture below.

Below is another picture of him reading again under his black walnut tree.  This photo was taken on 17 June 2016, on our 49th wedding anniversary.

Next Sunday is June 17, 2018, our 51st wedding anniversary.  Unfortunately he will not be aware of it.  About ten days ago my husband woke up with a pain in one of his feet and could not walk.  He was in the bedroom upstairs, in Nashville, and could not go down the stairs.  With my knee surgery I cannot go upstairs yet while holding a tray of food.  For his own safety and mine I had to admit him into a nursing home memory care unit, close to Nashville, on Sunday June 3rd, 2018.  By now his Alzheimer's disease has greatly progressed - he cannot say more than 4 or 5 words in a day, does not understand much and is unaware of his surroundings.  The nurses told me that they were surprised at how well he was still doing physically after almost 12 years with the disease.  When I returned home in Nashville that Sunday I received a photo in a cell phone message from our neighbors in Georgia.  There had been heavy rain and high winds all week from the remains of a tropical storm and a tree had fallen on our roof.  Below is the picture she had sent me.

So I had to drive to Georgia to inspect the damage.  The drive from Nashville was pleasant because it was a warm and sunny day.  I stopped at my usual little rest area on highway I-24.  It is a small rest stop for cars only, no trucks but the view of Nickajack Lake is peaceful and relieves the stress of highway driving.  Below is a photo I took last November when going to Georgia and the one, on top, I took last week.  I usually stop and drink my coffee, eat a cookie and watch the water.

I was hoping that the tulip poplar tree or one of the small oak trees in the front yard had been the one to fall on our roof.  However, arriving at the house I realized, sadly, that is was my husband's black walnut tree.  The tree was not dead, just uprooted.  It had fallen the day my husband went into a nursing home - strange coincidence.  No one now will read under its branches, for ever more.

 The next day, last Thursday, a tree cutter team removed the tree from the roof and took it away. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

I asked them to give me a small disk from the tree.  After they left I picked up a little branch on the ground that still had some immature black walnuts.  I wish I knew how to carve wood.

Walking back to the front yard it looked strange now without the black walnut tree.  Behind the hydrangea bush there was a large empty space.  Next to this bush, my husband's planters did not have the usual colorful annuals; weeds had grown into them instead, and the pots look forlorn.  A lone black walnut, its tough casing about gone, was hidden amongs the leaves.

The hydrangea had certainly grown and had many lovely blossoms.  We had bought it in a small pot in LaGrange, Georgia, during their Hydrangea Festival in June 2010.  (I still have to write a post on this.)  I need to find out when is the best time to transplant it so I can take it to Nashville.

The house insurance adjuster told me on Friday that a new roof is required as the strong winds have damaged other parts of the roof, and the roof is old.  I'll have to get busy getting estimates for this now instead of clearing out the house.  Driving on the roads around the house, it looks the same.  But when I come back to the house - it is not the same.  I am alone among the boxes, but still, Georgia feels more home than Nashville - I have been living here almost 42 years now; everything is familiar and gives me some comfort.  The years have gone so swiftly by, speeding by as I was busy working, traveling, blogging.  Now my husband will not come back to this house, and our two special trees have left as well.  With this harsh reality should I have depressed thoughts?  No, I won't go gentle into that good night ...

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  - Dylan Thomas

To warm up our thoughts here is a bright bouquet of hydrangeas by Japanese watercolorist Tsukiyo Ono.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Armchair traveling to ...Simla, India

Just a few more knee therapy sessions and it will be over.  It seems that this second knee surgery was easier than the last one.  But in the last few days I have developed more pain in my left ankle and foot - I had an injury there years ago and the ligaments are gone.  I'll see an orthopedist soon.  As the character of Gilda Ratner, Roseanne Roseannadanna, in the TV show Saturday Night Live used to say: "'s always something - if it ain't one thing, it's another."  C'est la vie!  I spent much time reading the first few weeks after surgery, not in an armchair, but in a sofa bed since I was not allowed to step upstairs to my bedroom.  (Below painting is "Reading Girl on a Sofa" by Isaac Israels (1865-1934) a Dutch Impressionist painter.)

The last time I went to our house in Georgia I gave about 400 more books to the library, but there are thousands more to go through.  For years my husband and I gathered books from book sales and second-hand bookstores.  Many are still unread and it is difficult to decide which ones to keep - of course my husband, because of his advancing Alzheimer's disease, cannot read anymore.  I brought several boxes of books to Nashville and while recuperating from my knee surgery I read "light reading" mysteries.  Then I decided to read a slim paperback I had bought in Monreal, Canada, years ago.  It is called "The Pool in the Desert" by Sara Jeannette Duncan.  It contains four novellas originally published in 1903.  The back of the book says "Sara Jeannette Duncan was the first Canadian woman to achieve international success as a journalist, novelist, and travel writer.  Born in 1861, she wrote more than twenty books during a career which took her to the Far East, India and England."

Sara Jeannette Duncan was a vey interesting and successful woman.  She was the first woman to be employed full time in a daily newspaper, the Toronto Globe, in 1886, and also worked for the Montreal Star.  She embarked on a world tour with a fellow journalist and while stopped in Calcutta, India, met Everard Cotes, a British civil servant.  She returned to India within two years to marry him.  She then spent the rest of her life in India, although visiting her family in Canada often and traveling to other countries.  Most of her books describe India in realistic local colors and her stories are in the setting of the manner of the Anglo-Indians of the British Raj, as the ruling party, the British Crown, was called in the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

The book The Pool in the Desert contains only 189 pages but it provided me with hours of research and travel.  The stories are set in Simla, India, as it was called then; now it is called Shimla.  I researched this city and its history.  It turns out that starting in the early 1800s the British took refuge from the summer heat in this western Himalaya town because of its cooler climate.  At some 2,100 m (6,889 ft) above sea level, Simla, surrounded by deep forests of cedar, oak, deodar and pine, was a cool hilly town with green pastures and snow-capped peaks.  In 1864 it was confirmed as the British imperial summer capital of India.  It was nicknamed "The Queen of the Hills."  Below are some old engravings of Simla (be sure to click on collage to see well.)

Every year close to 5,000 British civil servants (imperial clerks and staff,) viceroys, military attaches, wives, children and servants made the tiring 1,200 miles journey from Calcutta to Simla.  There they built houses, cottages and bungalows (bungalow is an Indian word) in timbered houses, in mock-Tudor architecture, flower gardens, etc.  They also established several schools, a theatre, art exhibits, a post office, a mall with exclusive shops and a big bazaar.  They played croquet on the lawn, golf, and took afternoon teas.  It became a popular British "Hill Station."  Here are some vintage postcards.

To serve the Anglican British community Christ Church was built in 1857.  Below is a vintage postcard of the church back then and the way it looks now.

The English novelist, journalist, writer and poet Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) visited Simla yearly with his family.  His father, Lockwood Kipling was asked to serve in Christ Church.  Kipling wrote often about Simla.  Other personalities visited and some built summer homes there, including Lord Kitchener, commander of the British Army.  Artists visited Simla as well, such as the English artist and poet Edward Lear (1812-1888) who drew a series of watercolors of Simla and the surrounding areas.  (Shown below courtesy The Houghton Library, Harvard University.)

During the era of the Raj Simla had a reputation for being exclusive and expensive.  It also had a naughty reputation because of the concentration of so many unattached men (civil servants, engineers, soldiers, merchants) bachelors and women visiting during the hot weather season.  Young single women came from England in search of a husband among all the single English men there.  Rudyard Kipling said in a letter that Simla was a place for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue."  An area in Simla is even called "Scandal Point" because of its improper past.  It is a small square between the Ridge and the Mall Road.

Because the British viceroys spent from early April to late October in Simla and ruled the entire Indian subcontinent from there an official residence was built 2+ miles (3.5 km) from Simla in 1888.  British Viceroy Lord Dufferin and Lady Dufferin were the first to occupy the lodge on the 331 acre site, on top of Observatory Hills.  It was state of the art for the time, the first building with electric lighting, its own steam generator, and running hot and cold water.  Below is a vintage photo of the Viceregal Lodge, Lord Dufferin (1826-1902) Lady Dufferin (1843-1936) and one of the dining rooms - photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons Canada.

This magnificent building was in the "English Renaissance" style with elements from castles of the Scottish highlands, and interior walls covered with teak wood from Burma.  Its gardens were a perfect setting for garden parties; the immense lodge could host 800 guests.  At the time it employed a staff of 700.  Notable personalities were its guests and even Mahatma Gandhi visited the then  Vicery in 1940.  Below he is surrounded by a crowd upon his arrival in a rickshaw in Simla in 1940.

After India independence in 1947 the Viceregal Estate went to the President of India who just spent a few days a year there.  In 1964 the building renamed "Rashtrapati Niwas" (Presidentiel Residence,) became the Indian Institute of Advanced Study with the support from the second president of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a scholar of comparative religion and philosophy.  Now the Institute offers 2-year fellowships for research and study of cultures, civilization and meeting of different viewpoints.  The building has been renovated.  Several rooms are still open to the public.  (Photo below courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

India is a large country with an abundance of diverse and beautiful sights to visit so Shimla is not on the regular tourist circuit of common Western travelers.  Shimla is now the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Owing to its romantic setting Shimla has become an ideal destination for Indian honeymooners in summer and also in winter, under the snow.

In 1903 to afford easier access to their summer capital the British built a narrow gauge 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) railway from Kalka, near Delhi, into Shimla.  Until then everything, including official documents, came to Simla via mules and porters.  This railway is still in working order and a great tourist experience providing dramatic view of the hills and villages of the lower Himalayas.  This toy train travels at a clunky 15 miles an hour through 103 tunnels and 865 bridges.  It is one of the steepest railways in the world climbing from 2,152 ft (656 m) and ending at Shimla at an elevation of 6,811 ft (2,076 m.)  The journey takes almost 6 hours and goes through 18 small stations and 102 caves, making 919 curves and turns where many monkeys appear.  Originally known as the "British Jewel of the Orient" the Kalka-Shimla Railway became part of the Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008.

Once in Shimla one can stop at an outdoor cafe on a hill and observe the mountain tops nearby such as the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, more than 19,000 ft high, the Rakt Dhar at 20,100 ft and the Badrinath at 23,190 ft.  Trekking circuits from Shimla are also popular - one day's travel will bring you to Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government are in exile (also in the state of Himachal Pradesh.)  It is a spiritual center for Buddhism.  Every year Shimla hosts one of the toughest mountain bike races in India - the MTB Himalaya biking race which covers 400 miles (650 km) in 8 stages and draws competitors from around the world.

After spending so much time with Simla and its history I was hoping to find other books with stories set there.  At the Brentwood library I found the whole 12 mysteries written by British author Barbara Cleverly.  They cover the adventures of Inspector Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard, after WWI, while on assignment in Simla.  Cleverly recreates the atmosphere of the Raj with wonderful descriptions of the area during the waning years of the colonial culture.  I kept my iPad close by to look up many of the Indian words she mentions.  One of them was "tiffin" as in a character saying "... will  you come and join me for tiffin ..."  Tiffin is an Indian English word for a type of meal, from a snack to a light breakfast or luncheon.  It is still popular today and usually is a packed snack or lunch.  A whole industry now produces tiffin boxes of different sizes.  In a Nashville Indian grocery shop I bought a small tiffin box to carry a snack when I'll drive back and forth to Georgia.  I even found a book of reminiscences and tiffin recipes from an expat from India.  I have read five books of the Simla mysteries and will read the next seven.  I'll be armchair staying in Simla for a while longer.

You could say I am immersing myself with nostalgia for the atmosphere of the old British Empire, but I am reading fiction.  In reality, I think that under the guise of helping faraway lands, Western powers plundered these countries like India on a huge scale.  Instead of being beneficial and humane colonialism robbed them of vast economic resources and wealth.  Imperialism had contempt for native populations, it was arrogant and self-serving.  The British were not benign and considerate, they were in India to exploit and for the benefit of their home country, not the local population.  For example India in the 18th century was prosperous with a 23% share of the world economy but when the British left in 1947 it was only 3% and 90% of the population was poor.  In 10 years (1891-1900) 19 million Indians died in famines alone.  I am just armchair traveling, escaping the realities from the pain of my surgeries, the stress of being a 24/7 caregiver for my husband and the difficulties of moving from Georgia to Nashville, TN.

I'll end this post with a quote from Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who, with Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru, registered in 1964 the Indian Institute of Advance Studies now located in the former Viceregal lodge of Simla, India.

"The greatest event of our age is the meeting of cultures, meeting of civilizations, meeting of different points of view, making us understand that we should not adhere to any one kind of single faith, but respect diversity of belief.  Our attempt should always be to cooperate, to bring together people, to establish friendship and have some kind of a right world in which we can live together in happiness, harmony and friendship.  Let us therefore realize that this increasing maturity should express itself in this capacity to understand what other points of view are."  - Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Le Carnaval de Nice (The Nice Carnival, France)

Because of my upcoming right knee surgery I won't be able to write a post for awhile.  I was going to wait until summer for this second knee surgery but the surgeon had a cancellation in a few days, and my knee is super painful now and prevents me from doing much.  I thought about writing a post but do not wish to talk about surgery, or my husband's Alzheimer's disease which is progressing - I may have posts on those subjects later on, but I wished to write about something fun, alive and French.  I have been unable to go back to France, my country of origin, since 2014, because of my husband's illness, and I miss it.  In 2012 we spent some time in Nice, one of my favorite cities.  Unfortunately, most of those photographs are still in Georgia, I just have a couple here with me in Nashville: a panorama, buying a souvenir, getting ready to take a picture of an old street and my husband eating Turkish sweets in our studio in Nice.

I have written about Nice in several posts.  Look at my July 20, 2013 post Nice and the Tour de France,  and at my addendum to my post of July 15, 2016 - here. The Nice Carnival is coming up and that is a fun subject!  First of all the word "carnival" is very old.  If you look for it in the American web, after you go through many entries on the Carnival Cruise Line, it will tell you that "Carnival is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent.  The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent.)"  Not quite, though.  As usual, the early Christian church took over the carnival festivities, as they did with many other festivals and holidays, such as the Christmas tree, etc., from the Pagans.  The carrus navalis was the boat on which Dionysos, god from the sea, entered the Greek Islands.  It is the oldest definition and pre-dates the Christian one.  It was in winter and was ritualized to bring back spring and thus the New Year.  Primitive men adorned themselves with animal skins.  Dionysos, below, from an early Tunisian mosaic.

This year the Carnival of Nice will be held from February 17 through March 3, 2018.  The carnival is opened by its "king."  The topic of the carnival is taken from the King's theme.  For example in 1890 it was the King of the Bicycle, in 1908 a Diplomat King, in 1927 King of Toys, in 1953 King of the Circus, in 1995 King of Movies, in 2010 King of the Blue Planet, in 2012 King of Sports, in 2016 King of Media and this year it is "King of Space" (Roi de l'Espace.)  It includes 6 carnival parades, by day and night, with more than 1000 dancers and musicians from all over the world along 17 made-up floats.  It also includes the traditional battle of flower parades with flower decorated floats and extravagant costumed models.  The Carnaval de Nice is the largest and oldest carnival in the world and the most important festival on the French Riviera.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

The Carnival of Nice was first mentioned in 1294 by the Count of Provence, Charles Anjou, who said he had "passed some joyous days of carnival in its good city of Nice."  The carnival of today started in the 19th century.  In 1873 a Committee for French Festivals re-organized the carnival of Nice.  They established the first street parades to provide a real spectacle for the community.  It became an annual celebration.  On various days throughout the Carnival, "Batailles de Fleurs" / battles with flowers, take place and thousand of fragrant fresh-cut flowers are thrown to the crowds from the floats.

In 2009 the carnival attracted 1.2 million visitors.  The carnival brought together 1,500 street artists and 1,800 people as security guards, escorts, trackers, etc.  It required 4,000 hours of work spread over six month, twenty tons of confetti, fifteen countries, 190 journalists, media from 19 countries and a lot more.  The Nice Carnival has been famous for a very long time.  Below are some vintage postcards on the carnival.

In addition to postcards, attractive posters have been created along the years, some by well-known artists.  The poster in the heading is courtesy Christian Estrosi, current Mayor of Nice.

Wouldn't you love to attend this famous carnival in Nice?  I certainly would!  How much fun to be there and watch the grand parade with all the themed floats and large puppets and all the attendants in outrageous costumes.  The floats parade around the streets of Nice, day and night.  On the last day of the celebration the King Carnival, who this year is the King of Space, and stands in the main float, is burned in the Baie des Anges.  This amazing spectacle is accompanied by a massive firework and music.  Oh la la!

Being France, they love to make fun at politicians, French and international.  This year the president of the USA, Donald Trump, will be depicted as a giant gorilla.  I read in a French newspaper that in one or more floats giant caricatures of Donald Trump, Theresa May, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin will be included as leaders of the "Planet of the Apes."  It is not surprising as in just one year the median global approval of U.S. leadership has fallen badly, according to a recent Gallup poll (the largest single-year decline.)  After just six months of Trump, confidence in the U.S. leadership fell 75 percentage points in Germany, 70 points in France, 57 points in Britain and 54 points in Japan.  So, no wonder they love to make fun of him, really all over the world.  Below is a worker making his final touches on the Nice Carnival puppet.  ( Courtesy of WAPO.)

This year's theme is drawing on real-life recent events that have been in the news, such as new solar systems being discovered daily, the upcoming sight-seeing trip around the moon, and events in science and education as well as news from world politics.  Some people may not approve of this, but this is untamed France with a long history of satire, as you can remember with the famous newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  (See my post of January 22, 2015 Charlie Hebdo and French Satire.)  This newspaper says "Charlie Hebdo is a punch in the face... Against those who try to stop us thinking.  Against those who fear imagination.  Against those who don't like us to laugh ... Charlie Hebdo has no need of God, nor any need of Wall Street.  Charlie doesn't need two cars and three cell phones to be happy.  To be happy, Charlie Hebdo draws, writes, interviews, ponders and laughs at everything on this earth which is ridiculous, giggles at all that is absurb or preposterous in life.  Which is to say - very nearly eveything.  Because life is so awfully short that it would be a pity to spend it whining in dismay instead of laughing it up a storm."  And more.  What better way to chase off the gloom of winter, health problems and disillusion in world politics than going to a fun carnival in beautiful Nice?  In Nissa la Bella! (shown below along the Nice hymn sung in the Nice dialect.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Another season another state ... and more

In the last 4 months I tried several times to start writing a post, but there were too many interruptions.  My choice for a heading photo kept changing.  I had decided on a photo of the solar eclipse in Tennessee, then fall foliage on our street in Nashville, then finally decided to post a snow scene I took today in Georgia - anothere state, and another season for sure.  My good camera is in Nashville, but luckily my Nikon D40 is still here so I could take the photos below.

I also looked out from each window: from the windows in the backyard where a little bird was taking shelter on the window screen, from the front yard waching the vehicles moving slowly along, and from the window I can see behind my computer. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

In July I had been staying in Brentwood, TN, at our daughter's house, during my post knee operation therapy.  My last therapy session was on Sepember 7, 2017.  I needed to have these sessions finished so I could drive back to Georgia to keep clearing our house there.  I had not driven anywhere since early July.  I read that Brentwood, TN, had been ranked the 5th best small city in the US out of 1,200 cities with a population between 25,000 and 10,000 people, but I saw little of it (Nashville ranks no. 13 out of the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas.)  Lots of people converged to Nashville from many states and from out of the country to see the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.  Our eldest daughter, who lives in Pittsburgh, PA, came down with her husband to view the eclipse.   This was a Total Solar Eclipse - see its path in the pics below.

A total eclipse is quite rare.  This was the first total solar eclipse to sweep across the United States in 99 years.  Most cities on the path of this eclipse organized activities around this unique event - Nashville, being the largest city on its path, assembled creative ways to entice people to come to the city, to the museums, parks, restaurants, cafes and more.  Almost 500,000 visitors came to Nashville and hundreds of millions of people watched from other places.

Armed with our special eclipse glasses we drove the 11 miles from Brentwood to Nashville shortly before the eclipse.  We thought the freeway would be jammed but it was almost empty, the streets too.  The sun was bright with few clouds around.  No other people were on our street - they had gathered at the park nearby.  Our group kept looking up, but I could not stand too long and sat on a rock by the front of the house.  There was a pretty Rose of Sharon shrub near me I had not seen before.

We stayed in our house driveway and waited.  First I saw what is called "shadow bands."  Seconds before the eclipse totality thin wavy lines appeared on the ground - ephemeral and rapidly moving as you can see from my pictures below.

Then it started to get darker.  The birds stopped singing, the street lights came on, and it became cooler and very quiet - a bit eerie.  It was not pitch dark, just a strange weird darkness.  I tried to take pictures with a couple of cameras, through my cell phone, my iPad and my eclipse glasses but they did not come out too sharp.  It was a very special moment, and then it was over.

Just a few days later, on August 25, 2017, Major Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast and the city of Houston.  It stalled over the area for several days producing devastating and catastrophic flooding.  Some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours, some up to 51 inches (1m30.)  Houston is a boom town of approximately 2 million people and spreading over 600 square miles (1,600 sq km.)  Over 40 people were killed, 100,000 homes were damaged and 500,000 vehicles waterlogged by flood waters - resulting in $190 billion in damages.  (Pictures courtesy CNBC.)

The images on television were terrible but my husband did not understand them, because of his progessing Alzheimer's disease.  By profession he had been an environmental planner and river planner.  I remember well how, years ago, maybe in the 1980s, he had told me that Houston was the example given as a city waiting for a major flooding catastrophe.  He told me it was not "if it happens" but "when" because he said that the city of Houston let developers build on massive flood plains and wetlands.  They refuse to institute any type of land use plan.  I wanted to tell him - "look, you were right, see what happened to Houston" but his eyes were vacant.  More deaths and property damages are caused by flooding than by tornadoes or hurricanes.  Lack of development control and sprawl contribute to flooding, but Houston is happy to proclaim that it is free of any control.  However, when a major disaster hits, they expect Federal Aid (meaning US tax payers) to come and pay for the damages (and they do...)  This will not change then.  In 1845 the Berlin Academy of Sciences sent geologist Carl Ferdinand von Roemer (1818-1891) to evaluate the mineral assets of Texas.  Roemer, called now the Father of Texas, said at the time that the Brazos River prairie close to the Houston area was an "endless swamp."  He did not feel it would be a good place to build a city... (below map from NYT and photo of Ferdinan von Roemer.)

I had planned to write extensively about Houston explosive population and lack of local control, but before I could there was another major disaster called Hurricane Irma.  Starting on August 30, 2017, Irma hit the Caribbean, producing winds up to 185 mph.  Ten trillion gallon of water of rain fell on Florida.  Irma was expecting to hit the state of Georgia by Septembert 10, and metro Atlanta by Monday 11.  I had finished my knee therapy the previous Friday and decided to drive from Tennessee to Georgia that Sunday, against the opinion of my family who thought it was dangerous - I just wanted to be home in case a tree fell on the house.  I thought there would be a lot of traffic on the freeway going south, but it was very light - the freeway going north was jammed.  It felt strange driving down the highway with hardly any cars but many first responder trucks.  There were convoys of ambulances, energy crew trucks, some coming as far as Michigan and Indiana - all driving south to offer help.

I had brought flash lights, batteries, water and some food with me, but in West Cobb County where our house is located it just rained.  Other towns of Georgia, including the Atlanta area, suffered damages.  (Pictures courtesy the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

Before returning to Nashville in September, I called the Smith Gilbert Gardens (I have written posts on it several times, look under "gardens" on the side of my blog) to offer them my beautiful philodendron.  It is about 20 years old and too large for me to move to Nashville.  I knew it would die in our backyard during the winter and was not sure what to do with it.  I was so pleased when a young man from the gardens came to pick it up.

Looking through my pictures since July and giving information about them would make this post much too long.  I tried to drive back to Georgia from Tennessee at least once a month and stay ten days to keep sorting, giving away and moving items, but it is going very slowly.  In October, by coincidence, I came back on the Sunday of the Chalkfest festival on the Marietta Square.  I went and took many pictures of the artwork on the asphalt and I'll show them in a future post.  In November when I came back to Georgia I found a bag with color prints I had taken in 1993 on a trip to Morocco, Paris and London.  I had not seen these photos since then (I'll show some of them in a future post, too.)  Then I drove from Nashville to Georgia again this past Monday, December 4th.  That day was very sunny and warm - 70 degrees F (21C.)  The weather changed quickly since today, three days later, we are having a snow storm.  I don't remember seeing snow here so early in the season.  It is very pretty.

As I write this, at 4:30 pm on Friday 8 December, it is still snowing.  It started this morning before 7:30 am and it has not stopped.  You can see from the bird feeder that there must be 3 inches of snow, at least.  The shrubbery is bent under the weight.

The electricity has been erratic, coming on and off all afternoon.  While the electricity was out I went back outside to take more pictures.  It is not often that we have that much snow here; we had none in early 2017 and just one day in early 2016, a very light snow.  I like the look of the brown pine tree trunks against the white snow.

Addendum Saturday morning December 9, 2017 - It must have snowed all night because at 8:30 am when I went out the accumulation on the bird bath looked like 10 to 12 inches high.

 I took some pictures, then as I was donwloading them I saw that the sun had come out; everything looked so bright through my window behind the computer.

I bundled up again and went out to take more pictures.  The snow is melting now but it is quite beautiful indeed and I can't stopped looking at this winter wonderland, so unusual here in Georgia.

Second Addendum: Saturday afternoon.  I just could not stay in the house and clean up when the sun and snow looked so tempting outdoors.  I fetched my Canadian fur hat and my down coat, which I had not moved to Nashville yet, took my cane and went for a walk with my old camera.  I'll place the photos in order in the collage below so you can go on the walk with me.  Please click on the collage twice to see well.  First, I took the path behind our house (you can see the back of our outbuilding on the right) and walked to the lake; a tree had fallen in the lake.  Then I came back to the road and walked carefully because packs of snow were falling down from the wind and branches were on the pavement.  I passed our neighbor's house that is for sale at $1.2 million.  Then went by the little white house across the street that has a red barn and finally went up the path leading to the Kemp Farm.  (It is a road with eclectic houses, McMansions near tiny houses then a farm.)  I saw no one else on the road but cars passed me; two even stopped asking if I needed a ride.
3rd Addendum (last one):  Monday December 11, 2017, 12 noon.  I drove around in the neighborhood and saw many branches and trees down; snow is melting but there is still much left.  The news on TV said that our area, West Cobb County, had been one of the worst hit by the snow storm.  Our road even made the news too yesterday with around 100 trees down (it's a long road.)  This morning at around 8:00 am the snow was still thick on top our cars and the bird bath.  The sun was coming up so I took a photo of our back yard with my cell phone.  Then later I played with it to make the photo more attractive.  I think our little old barn looks seasonal for the holidays, don't you think?

 I do not know if I'll be able to write another post before Christmas.  I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Joyous Holidays.

Anyway you celebrate them, enjoy yourself and be happy!

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