Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pine Trees, Fir trees, Old Happy New Year and more ...

Last December I only wrote two posts and, because of several events happening here, such as health issues, therapy, surgery, chemotherapy sessions to be scheduled and other matters, I almost decided to stop writing my blog or place it on a very long pause.  But, I enjoy the blog and most of all, reading all my blogging friends' blogs and comments.  Instead I'll try to write one post per month until I can return to a more regular schedule.  I had already written the post for January but then the tragedy in Paris happened.  I decided to shorten this post so that I could write about France and more, but once finished I realized it was way too long, so I am cutting this post into two parts.  For Christmas we drove to Tennessee.  There was heavy fog in the North Georgia Mountains, but it dissipated in the valleys.

I usually avoid driving on the freeways around Chattanooga, Tennessee, as there are so many large trucks.  Instead we drive through John's Mountain Wildlife Area which is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, and also along Cloud Canyon State Park.  There is hardly any traffic, just a few houses along the way ... and churches.

I gave our little granddaughter a hand-knitted hat I had bought in Tallinn, Estonia, last May.  She liked it very much.  It was hard trying to take her picture with the hat as she moved so much (she is below near the au-pair lady from China.)  Our second grandson was waiting to eat a slice of the Buche de Noel I had bought at the French bakery here.  I received some nice boxes of chocolate and several books.  (Please click on collage to read the titles of the books.)

We purchased our house in Cobb County, Georgia, in the mid 1970s and for our first Christmas we bought a live Christmas tree (we thought it was a cedar tree) then planted it in the front yard by the mail box.  We used to decorate the tree every year but it became too tall.  It is a lovely tree, not a cedar but a hemlock, a coniferous evergreen - it keeps its foliage year-round.  We also have a cedar tree along the road and the foliage is different.  The hemlock has smooth, shiny and small needles, and the cedar has flat, dull scale-like foliage.  The hemlock has dainty cones as well.  The cedar foliage is on the left, below.

We love our hemlock tree and our daughters do too.  It has been standing by the driveway for decades now and it is like a friend greeting us as we enter toward the house.  I like to take pictures of it whenever we have snow.  Here are some snowy pictures I took last January.

Well, around the holidays we received a letter from the Cobb County Water Commission telling us that they were going to lay down a large water main and needed to obtain a permanent easement along our land.  To do this work, they announced that all the trees on the property along the road, a piece of land 30 feet wide (9,14 meters) by about 250 feet long (76 meters) would have to be cut down - including our lovely hemlock and cedar trees.  I just went out to take more pictures of our hemlock tree as it is such a sunny and warm day for January - 65 degrees (18 C.)  I took pictures also of the sky above the trees.  Since working for decades in the aircraft industry, I always look up as soon as I walk outdoors.  An aircraft had just passed over the cedar tree but I missed taking its picture.  Below, the photos of the hemlock and sky above are on the top, and the cedar and sky above on the bottom.

"There is a certain feeling of courage and hope when you work in the field of the air.  You instinctively look up, not down.  You look ahead, not back.  You look ahead where the horizons are absolutely unlimited."  - Robert E. "Bob" Gross, Lockheed's Chairman/CEO 1932-1961

We cannot fight against the county to stop the cutting down of our trees as they tell us it is for the "common good."  Although I have found out that it won't be for our own good, since this water main is only to transport raw water from the Chattahoochee River for processing at a water cleaning facility west of us.  The direct route for the water main was along the big highway, but there are several businesses there.  It would have been expensive for the County to get clearance from them and they said it would have disturb their business.  The County decided it was more cost effective to take a "loop" into the residential area and cut all the trees down that are in the way.  When I look up I won't see the sun filtering through the pines any longer ...

"Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money." - Cree Indian Proverb

We are desolate really because we have so many tall trees along the road.  They provide a barrier from the house - we barely see the road and vice-versa, the house cannot be seen.  My husband walked the land and figured out that they will cut about 80 pine and assorted trees, most of the trees you see in the pictures below.

It will be sad not to see all these tall pine trees from my window, behind the computer as I type - watching the sunset, or the golden leaves, the fog or the snow.

People have loved bringing trees into their homes for centuries.  During the winter solstice Pagan cultures brought cut boughs of evergreen trees into their homes to decorate them. The tradition went down to the present Christmas trees.  Did you know that in Russia, New Year is celebrated with a fir tree?  It is called a "yolka" tree.  The Bolsheviks banned Christmas celebrations after the Communist Revolution in 1917.  But on 28 December 1935, a Soviet Politician, Pavel Postyshev, published a letter in the newspaper Pravda, asking schools, children's homes, orphanages, clubs, cinemas, etc. not to deprive children of the wonderful joy of having a decorated fir tree for New Year.  The tree lost his religious association and the night of December 31st became an important holiday in Russia.  This is when "Ded Moroz" or Grandfather Frost (with a red or blue cape) delivers gifts.  During my first visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, I bought a small hand carved Ded Moroz.

Ded Moroz, Grandfather Frost is often accompanied by his beautiful granddaughter "Snegurochka" the Snow Maiden, well known from Russian popular winter tales.  Her picture is often painted on the matryoshka doll (Russian nesting doll.)  Here they are below painted by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) considered to be the co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic modernist painting.

For the last 79 years New Year's Eve "Novy God" has been the biggest party of the year for everyone in Russia.  For most contemporary Russians whether non-believers, Christians, Jews or Muslims this is the traditional national holiday they look forward to for celebrating and exchanging presents.

Actually, this has created some problem for the one million Russian Jewish emigrants to Israel and even those settling in the US.  They wish to celebrate their secular New Year's "Novy God" with the yolka tree and Ded Moroz, but Israeli rabbis do not accept this New Year celebration.  Since 1998, they have forbidden Israel hotels and banquet halls to disply the trees and other reminders of this Russian celebration.  The views of these decorated trees in windows of private Russian homes have enraged many Israelis - some reacting with aggression and even with violence (they say it insults the religion.)  But it was the shocked Russian emigrants who felt insulted and deprived of their rights.  I even read a story last year on the web written by Natasha Gross, a Russian Jewish emigrant to New York, saying that she would have a yolka tree in her house that year, but I understand it was hidden because her in-laws find it offensive, even though this is a secular Russian tradition.  It is a poignant story in a way, you can read it here: : https://parenttoparent.kontribune.com/articles/4100 , it is not very long .  Below is a cartoon by Makhmud Eshonkulov from Tashkent, Uzbekistan (born in 1958.)

I looked at several of Makhmud's cartoons and am surprised that he is able to draw them in Uzbekistan, many countries do not approve of this freedom of speech.  New Year is over now - completely.  As I have written before, in the majority of Orthodox Christian populations there are two Christmas, one on December 25 and one on January 6/7 and two New Year celebrations, one on January 1st and the second, calculated according to the Julian calendar, on January 13/14.  Millions of people celebrated New Year 2015 as "Old New Year" on the 13 or 14h January, such as my father's people the Armenians as well as people from the Balkans, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Orthodox Christians in many other countries.  Below is an Armenian poster for the Old New Year.

As I showed in my top collage, Paris celebrated New Year with lovely fireworks and general happiness.  In France we can wish a Happy New Year till the end of January, so I am wishing you all a very happy 2015.

In the second part of this post I'll talk about what happened in Paris about a week after the New Year.

25 comments:

rosaria williams said...

So good to read this update.
Saddened by the news about those beautiful trees the city will cut down, disturbing your dear privacy. May your new year be full of love and cherished moments.

Carol Crump Bryner said...

I was happy to see your new post, Vagabonde. But so sorry to hear about health problems, etc. and the potential loss of your beautiful trees. You will surely miss them. There's something about the space between branches and limbs of trees that becomes so precious.
I'm looking forward to part two of this poignant post. And I loved your description of Russian Christmas celebrations. I married a Russian, and we always left our tree up until after Russian Christmas. It's good to celebrate many customs. Welcome back!

Kay said...

I love that gorgeous photo of the mist in the trees.

Santa is Satan? Wow! That's harsh.

I'm glad you're continuing with your blog. You write such amazing posts!

Kay said...

And your granddaughter is absolutely adorable!

Kenza said...

Très bonne et heureuse année chère Vagabonde!
Même si je me fais rare ces temps-ci, cela ne m'empêche pas de penser à toi souvent et avec tendresse. Merci encore pour tes fabuleux billets, toujours riches et largement illustrés, un bonheur!
Bisous, bisous et très bonne semaine

Elephant's Child said...

I am so sorry to hear that you and your family are facing health issues.
And grieve for and with you about the loss of your trees.
Happy New Year. Happy, healthy New Year.

bayou said...

Dear Vagabonde, une Bonne Année pour toi! Je ne sais quoi penser- I would be devastated by all this tree cutting and terribly changing environment around my house. We had the TGV built some years ago and in the distance, hundreds of trees were cut for that purpose. However, we are under 'Ardennes' law and therefore for every single tree which is chopped, they have to plant a new one. Actually I find something positive to report about Belgium ;-).
So sorry that you have to deal with all these health problems, I hope the chemo is going to fight back. I am a bit shocked about that church picture you took in Tennessee which says Santa is Satan. Why can there be no tolerant religion in this world? Me too, I would not want to be without blogging and I hope you will always look forward to a next post as I will look very much forward to read every next post from you. Wonder what you are going to post about Paris. I already found Paris very close to where we are but actually Verviers is 8 km from here. J'admire ton courage, je t'embrasse bien fort, Anke

biebkriebels said...

What a terrible decision of the authorities to take all the trees down. It is all about money nowadays it seems.

DJan said...

I would be devastated to see all those trees cut down. I know what you mean about being unable to fight the authorities. Here we see trees cut down all the time, and sometimes "trimmed" back to almost nothing. But they do grow back eventually. BTW, I will be traveling through Amsterdam on my way to Turkey and am now excited about the trip! Thanks for all your help making me feel better about it. :-)

DJan said...

Did my comment disappear? I am saddened to hear about the trees, VB. And I'm also glad you are on the tail end of all this uproar. I hope anyway. Sending you lots and lots of love! :-)

Mary said...

I'm truly saddened at your news of the trees having to come down - I love trees so much, all they stand for and what they do to make our lives healthier and more beautiful.

Good to see you here dear - and I pray all will go better for you this year.

Mary -

David said...

Vagabonde, Glad to see that you're going to continue to blog from time to time. Your blogs are always interesting and informative with quality writing and photos. Love your cute granddaughter in the hat... "Santa is Satan" YIKES! I'll skip that church...

Your collection of Christmas books is much like your blogs, eclectic and interesting! Really sad about your trees... $$$ and politics rule! We love our trees so we understand your grief! We have forested and undeveloped lots on 3 sides of our house and we dread the day when someone decides to build on them...

Best wishes and prayers re: your family medical issues. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

La Table De Nana said...

Hope this year is kind to you..Sorry to hear about the health issues..

Get well soon..Bon Courage...

Votre petite-fille est croquante.

Retired English Teacher said...

It is so good to see your post, and it is even better to read it even if it does contain such sad news. I am so sorry to read about the loss of these beautiful trees. It just does not seem right, but who can fight city hall?

Frances said...

Vagabonde, I have been missing your posts, and so was glad to see a new one today.

The photographs of your grandchildren at Christmastime are adolorable and filled with happiness.

I am sorry that you have been having a collection of less happy issues filling your days. I hope that this still new year will also bring you and your more happy days.

The news about your magnificent trees is maddening. Particularly when other options were discarded by the authorities making decisions. Argggghhhh.

You were wise to take many photographs of these trees in varying weather so that you will have a way to still "visit" them in future years. Having read Bayou's comment, I also wonder if your county will be doing some remedial landscaping, including trees, along the borders of this missive project.

I knew a bit about the significance of trees in old Russian tranditions, but it was a pleasure to read your wonderful explananation of how this tradition has evolved, and not always had an easy time migrating.

Of course, I have thought of you when watching or reading news coverage of the Parisian attacks. I am sure that your next post is going to provide me with much more to consider.

Lots of love to you and yours. xo

Bonne annee, aussi!

Things and Thoughts said...

Combien de jolies photos pour ce retour a blogland!Desolee d'apprendre que des problemes de sante encombrent la vie quotidienne...La petite fille semble heureuse avec le cadeau de la grand-mere.On etait a Paris juste avant les attaques, quelle horreur...
Je te souhaite chere Vagabonde, une nouvelle annee pleine de sante et de prosperite.
Olympia

katy gilmore said...

I am so sorry you have to deal with health issues Vagabonde, and send you all good wishes for the new year. I thought of you after the terrible shootings in Paris. Je suis Charlie.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Oh my, you have so much on your plate.

How very sad about your beautiful trees; I hope that construction will not happen for a long time so you will at least have them for one more summer. From what happens here, government runs slowly and imminent usually means a year or two.

Nadege said...

OMG, I am so sorry as I completely missed this post as I have been busy working. Bonne et heureuse annee a vous et votre mari!

Jocelyn said...

When the city notified a local street that the trees outside all the houses were to be cut down, the neighborhood threw a fit! They took clothing and nailed/attached it to all the trees so that it looks like flattened people hugging the trees. Somehow, it's been effective...

OldLady Of The Hills said...

So much going on, my dear Vagabonde....And, I'm glad to see you blogging once again.....I cannot seem to get back to mine, at all.......Times change and Health Issues sure do get in the way....!
Take good care, my dear.....
Sorry to read about your beautiful trees....Progress? OY!

Jeanie said...

Dear VB -- I am so very sorry to hear that you and yours have been plagued with health issues and other problems. I always find December brings its own stresses -- it's so difficult to have things packed on to make it more so, especially big and important things. I just posted about cancer. It's a dreadful disease and I hope that the chemo appointments are kicking it far away.

The story of the hemlock tree grabbed at my heart. I'm so very fond of big trees for all the reasons you mentioned. Unless they are diseased or dying and likely to fall at some point, I find cutting them down a travesty. I certainly hope that the road people will do this and that there is no charge to you. They SHOULD be paying you for the privilege, given that they decided on your route because the other was more expensive. I suspect it doesn't work that way, but it should!

The information about Russia was fascinating. I know little about that culture and feel a bit enriched for reading it.

So glad you are staying on blog. Please do what you must and what you can but mostly, take care of yourself.

ELFI said...

pas la possibilité de traduire ...alors , c'est une petite note pour ces magnifique photos de forêt!

Down by the sea said...

So sorry to hear that your family are facing health issues and also that your are loosing those lovely trees. Sarah x

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I am so sorry about the trees and also sorry to hear that you are battling health problems. It looks as if you had a lovely Christmas -- your granddaughter is certainly at the perfect age for it!

Your posts are so full of information and so well-researched and well-illustrated I cannot imagine being able to write more than one a month.

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