Last Sunday, October 28, 2018, on my way to Georgia, I made a stop at my usual highway rest stop in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, along Nickajack Reservoir Lake. In some earlier posts I showed pictures of this lake in the winter and summer, this time it started to look like autumn. It was a sunny day, around 74 degrees F (23.3 C.) A mist was slowly evaporating from the water. I walked on the little path along a tree showing vivid red fall leaves. Sun and nature always heal sadness.
The roof of our house in Georgia was scheduled to be replaced in early October. I had planned to drive from Nashville to Georgia then. But life had other plans. My husband of 51-years passed away in his sleep on Monday October 8, 2018. He was still walking 3 days before his health took a down turn. The doctor had told us that he would be slowly declining in the next 2 or 3 years because of his Alzheimer's disease. We did not expect to lose him suddenly like this, and it was a shock. I had to quickly come up with funeral arrangements. My husband dedicated his life to nature, the environment and wildlife so I was fortunate to find out that the first conservation burial ground in Tennessee had formally opened in mid September 2018. This 112 acre property of rolling hills and meadows had been an old family farm in Sumner County, Tennessee, on the Western Highland Rim, and had been minimally impacted by human activity. Native American artifacts can still be discovered on the ground. (Photo courtesy Nature Conservancy.)
This burial preserve is adjacent to Taylor Hollow Natural Area, a 172-acre restricted access natural area owned by the Nature Conservancy. Taylor Hollow was once a part of the magnificent mesophytic (moderately moist) forest system of middle Tennessee, and is now one of the last undisturbed remnants of this historic and majestic habitat. It contains such endangered plants as the Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna,) the Ozark Least Trillium (Trillium pusillum var. ozarkanum) plus several others. In spring there is a spectacular display of wildflowers on the grounds. (Photos courtesy Nature Conservancy.)
In a future post I'll talk about my husband's illness, but I just cannot do it at this time. The natural conservation cemetery and Taylor Hollow Natural Area are privately owned, non-profit, with a conservation easement, preventing development of the land forever. This is the first natural burial ground in the United States protected by the Nature Conservancy. It will prevent this land from being developed, contaminated and abused. There are no metal caskets, fertilizer, formaldehyde, concrete or metal vaults, plastics, or foreign matter introduced into the landscape in a natural burial. A conservation cemetery does not displace pollutants into the environment. Naturally native plants and animals flourish in its sanctuary. The funeral director of this conservation cemetery told radio station NPR: "This is not something new; this is something very traditional. It is more of a return or revival of traditional burying practices. And it really and truly becomes a place where people can go to reconnect with a loved one." "A lot of people want to go to a place to say goodbye, and it becomes a sanctuary, a preserve, and a place to connect to nature as well as the memory of your loved one." He added "People [who] choose to be buried in this area are the people who want wildflowers blooming on their grave and butterflies fluttering about."
This is the way our ancestors were buried but, after the Civil War, it changed with the introduction of embalming. These natural burial grounds are rare in the U.S. (about 100+ and over 200 in the U.K.) because the 21,000+ modern funeral homes in this country are strong and persuasive. They are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods,) 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million ton of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is not environmentally safe, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide. There is no law regarding embalming or the use of these toxic chemicals which are flushed into our sewers and create an enormous environmental problem. A natural burial in a conservation cemetery is an eco-friendly option. There, visitors feel a connection to the earth, a quiet way of saying good-bye to the loved one surrounded by nature.
On Friday October 12, 2018, we drove to the conservation burial grounds in Westmoreland, about 1 hour northeast of Nashville in Sumner County, in the state's northern border with Kentucky.
The ride was pleasant. We drove through open land and rolling hills. There were no large towns or malls, just a quiet country setting.
We drove on a narrow country back road to the conservation cemetery. There was no sign, just a gravel parking area and a wood fence (as shown in the heading photograph.) The site chosen for my husband's burial was in a wooden area, close to a trail. The funeral director told me that he had seen a 10-point buck there that morning - my husband would have liked that. Motor vehicles are not allowed and there are no roads, just rugged paths. Hiking up the trail we did not pass rows of tombstones, soaring monuments, or plastic flowers as in the standard cemeteries. We read poems, listened to specially selected music pieces and songs, and then my husband was laid to rest. Men and children shoveled the dirt back and plants were returned. It was a simple burial like they used to have in the old west in days of yore. In this conservation cemetery native stones from the property can act as grave marker, although a GPS tracking device can pinpoint the location of each grave space.
I was still disoriented by my husband's sudden transition. It seemed that just a few days had passed since he was in the assisted living gardens watching our grandchildren play. Below is such a picture and also one from last March in a Nashville park.
Everything had happened so quickly. My head tells me that as hard as it is, going in his sleep is better than having suffered two or three more years from this awful disease; now he is free. The day before he passed, on Sunday October 7th, I was next to him playing the music he liked on my cell phone. The next morning, he was gone. I remember we listened to some Chopin music as in the video attached below. Now I'll keep listening to his favorite music, alone.
The song is ended
But the melody lingers on
You and the song are gone
But the melody lingers on ...
Irving Berlin (Russian-American composer 1888-1989)
In my post of June 11, 2018, I mentioned that our black walnut tree had been uprooted by the wind and fallen on the roof of our Georgia house. I drove from Nashville to Georgia to have it removed, then found a roofer who agreed to replace the roof in August. In August I drove back to Georgia but he did not show up. I had to find another roofer who agreed to replace the roof last Tuesday, September 18, so I drove back to Georgia on Sunday 16th, 2018. Because of Hurricane Florence the insurance company had delayed our claim and not approved the new roofer. The new date for the roof will be in October and I'll drive back here then. Last month I stopped at my usual rest area on highway I-24 near South Pittsburg, Tennessee. This time I could see a white blanket near the banks of the lake and as I approached was greeted by a million of little flowers with a sweet aroma (similar to jasmine.) They formed a cascade of delicate flowers on the fence. Their name is "Virgin's Bower" (aka Devil's Darning Needles or Old Man's Beard.) This little flagrant flower is from a vine, the clematis virginiana, from the Ranunculaceae family (buttercup) it is aggressive and invasive. The Cherokee Indians used it for medicinal purposes.
When I stopped again last Sunday the flowers were gone as well as the sun. Below is a map showing where the rest stop is located between Tennessee and Georgia.
I am still in Georgia, working in the house, clearing, cleaning, giving away but I did hurt my back a bit as well as my recently operated knee by moving some heavy objects, so am taking a break today. I'll drive back to Nashville in a couple of days. All the closets are still packed full and while cleaning I always find some items I have not seen in years. Again I found bags with old photos. These are film pictures, taken years ago. My scanner is now in Nashville but I copied some of the photos with my cell phone so I could show them here.
Looking at some of these photos brought back many good memories. I did not look at all of them as I need to spend as much time as I can on clearing out the house. I don't even watch TV apart from the news and weather, and lately the news brought back some memories that were not that good. When I left Paris, France, in the early 1960s, to travel to the USA, a friend who had lived several years here gave me some advice. He said that the US culture was very different from the French, that it was male-oriented. He added that in France boys play with girls from an early age and feel comfortable with them and respect them. They can have close female friends for years without any sexual situation. But in the US, maybe because of boys' dominated sports, starting in schools, gender inequity starts early, and girls are supposed to care about boys' feelings but not vice versa. He also said that there is a great deal of violence against women in the US that goes unreported because abusers are protected and women are discredited, disparaged and blamed. So he added ... "you are pretty, so watch out." And this was back in the 1960s ... Below are some pictures I found of me from about that time.
On my way west I stopped in Washington, DC, to visit a girlfriend from college in the UK. I remember that it was a lovely week-end. My friend said that she had planned to have a picnic in a park with her boyfriend and that he had found a friend for me as a "blind date." She added that he came from a very rich family in Maryland and had just been given a fabulous convertible car. I did not know what a "blind date" was as we don't even have a French word for date, and told her I did not need one, but she said it would be fun. We went to a secluded area of the park along a river, placed a blanket on the ground and the basket of food. They had forgotten the ice for the sodas, and told me to get acquainted with him while they went to get ice. I remember his car as being huge; I looked on Google to find one like his. It was or similar to the Chevrolet Impala below. He was proud of it and wanted to take me on a ride but I declined (I was not awed by that car as at the time my favorites were British sports cars, like the MG, Morgan +4 or Jaguar.) Then he asked if I was impressed that he attended an academy in Annapolis. I did not know what that was and he made fun of me, saying I didn't know much but then I also was a foreigner, so that explained it. He told me that it was the most prestigious naval academy in the world. (Below pictures of the car, and of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.)
He said something like "You are from Gay Paree, then, you know more things like this ..." and he proceeded to pin me on the ground and grab my shirt. I was terrified and did not know what to do. I tried to move from under him but he was big. I started to panic as he was grabbing my bra and pulling my trousers down. But then I heard my friends coming back and he pulled away. They could see I did not look right so I told them I had these terrible cramps and needed to get back home for medicine and they took me back. I never told anyone ever, this is the first time I mention it. I felt terrible shame that he would think because I was French I was easy and tried to forget it. I'll give you one more time I was assaulted, at my first job, in San Francisco a few years later. Here are pictures of me at about that time. I found these yesterday, and they are not technically good.
My office in San Francisco was on Post Street, close to Union Square. It was not very large, maybe about 50 employees or so. I really enjoyed working there and had made many friends, male and women. My best friends were a woman from Texas and also two gay males, who were wonderful gourmet cooks. I was a purchasing clerk and had a kindly manager. I never had to interact with the president of the company, an elder man, who was often away on business. Below are pictures of San Francisco in the 1960s, with Union Square. The postcard of Post Street is vintage, early 1900s.
About 2 or 3 years after I started working there one Friday (I remember it was a Friday because most people did not stay late) I decided to work late to finish some work. I needed to count some items and went into the warehouse in the back - a huge warehouse. It was very dark because of the week-end coming up. I was not sure where the items were and walked up and down the aisles. The president of the company came behind me and asked if he could help me. I told him what I was looking for and when he led me to the back of the warehouse in almost total darkness I was not suspicious. Alas, he turned on me, grabbed me and tried to undo my blouse. I started to shout but he placed his hands on my mouth. Again I was petrified and remembered my last encounter. It was so dark there. He pushed me against the shelves and I fought to get him to move his hands away, doing so I knocked a bunch of boxes on the shelf that went crashing down making a huge noise. Unbeknownst to us there was a warehouse employee working and he came running to see what the noise was. The president said it was a mouse that had scarred me. I don't know if he believed it but I was able to get back to my desk and leave. I was sick about it the whole week-end but did not tell anyone as I needed the job and knew no one would believe me since he was the president. I did not even go to my Clairol hair modeling job that I had on week-ends. (More pictures I found in the closet from that era.)
I had two more instances like these in another company, but not as bad. I never told anyone about any of them until now. The first one happened in the early 1960s or more than 50 years ago! But you know I have never forgotten and as I was writing this tears were falling down my cheek. It's silly I know, it was such a long time ago. I tried to forget but it had been traumatic and I could not. I researched and found out that the US has 75% more rapes than in France, that it is one of the top 3 countries in the world for sexual assaults. Every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted in the US and one out of every 5 women is assaulted in college. The US Justice Dept estimates that 300,000 American women are raped every year (but the CDC estimates that because it is highly unreported the number is closer to 1.3 millions.) The US audience, male and female, does not seem to care and more assaults go unreported as the victims are usually not believed and blamed if they come forward (63% of assaults are unreported and 99% of aggressors go free.) I read a couple of weeks ago that some men reported that when they were children (40+ years ago) and Altar Boys, they had been sexually assaulted by priests. Those men were believed and not ostracized and harassed and no one sent them death threats - but then, they are men, aren't they? As long as women are not taken seriously (women make 51% of the US population but only 19% of the Congress) there won't be much equality under the law. The Parliamentary Union compared in 2018 women in parliament in 193 countries, France came no. 14 and the US no. 103. Well, I better talk about better memories from my old photographs. Below, the top pictures are in Bruges, Belgium. The bottom left is at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC, Canada and on the bottom right the Tezcuco Plantation in Burnside, Louisiana, built in 1855.
The top left picture below was taken during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. We had purchased tickets to attend the bicycle racing games in Stone Mountain. The top right picture was taken in Browning, northwest Montana, the site of the tribal government of the Blackfeet Nation, an American Indian reservation established by treaty in 1855. I had visited my younger daughter who was spending the summer in Montana for her Master's Thesis from Jones Hopkins University. She was studying something about the health of Native American women. The bottom two pictures were taken at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, that borders Glacier National Park in Montana.
More pictures of the Blackfeet Nation festival. The bottom right photo was taken on my 60th birthday with my two daughters.
There are more pictures that I have not seen in ages. It will be fun to go through those, once I am finished with the Georgia house. But that won't be for many more months - after additional driving between Nashville and greater Atlanta, Georgia.
July went by so fast - it was a very busy month. I got up early on the 14 of July (Bastille Day) to watch on my laptop the parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris from French TV. I also sat in front of the TV quite a lot to see if the French football team would win the World Cup. I kept notes and pictures. I also followed the Tour de France live on TV for three weeks, both from Tennessee and Georgia and I'll have a separate post on it. The first holiday was July 4th, US Independence Day. I drove to my husband's assisted living place in the afternoon then in the evening I watched the Nashville fireworks on television. A crowd of 250,000 was downtown Nashville to view the 30 minute long fireworks. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
I did not know that "Music City" as Nashville is called here, hosts one of the country's largest Independence Day party with live music, featuring this year Lady Antebellum, and starting at noon. The celebrations are not only downtown but each neighboring community celebrates as well. From my bedroom window upstairs I saw a lovely fireworks display before going to bed. This 2018 July 4th in Nashville was impressive. The city tourist office said that Nashville's July 4th "Let Freedom Sing" was its biggest show ever, the largest in the country even before Washington, DC, San Diego, New Orleans and San Francisco that were the runner up cities. The Grammy Award winning Nashville Symphony performed a medley of songs perfectly choreographed to the fireworks show. There were more than 60,000 shells, mines and comets launched with ghost shells and water fireworks. More than 33,500 pounds of explosives and 100 miles of wire were used. It certainly was spectacular. (Photo courtesy visitmusic city.)
On Friday July 13 I was reading French and UK news on the computer to find the best sites to watch the next day the Paris 14th of July parade. I was very surprised to see the amount of people who had assembled in London that day to protest President Trump's 4-day visit to the UK. About 50,000 people were expected and 250,000 showed up, on a weekday! Which is more people assembling in London than people attending the Trump presidential inauguration in Washington, DC. (The US is larger, so the equivalent would be if 1,500,000 people demonstrated here!) The previous day, in Brussels, President Trump had said "I think they like me a lot in the U.K." Wishful thinking as a poll showed 89% of the people in the UK have an unfavorable opinion of this US president and he is deeply unpopular. A petition signed by 2 millions demanded that Trump should not be honored with a "state" visit. So, his visit to Windsor (his itinerary avoided London mostly) was a "working" visit. President Obama and his wife had a formal 3-day royal State Visit in May 2011 with all the pageantry, pomp and an evening banquet with Queen Elizabeth; they stayed overnight at Buckingham Palace. Mr. Trump and his wife shared a pot of tea with the Queen at Windsor Palace and stayed overnight at the US Ambassador's residence. (Photos courtesy the Evening Standard.)
The protesters called it a "carnival of resistance" to mock President Trump. Students, retirees, families, professionals came from many cities to march, even celebrities such as Laura Carmichael who played Lady Edith Crawley in TV's Downton Abbey. The protesters chanted "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA" and jeered while banging on pots and pans to "bring the noise." The Brits were so angry at this visit that a crowd-funding campaign quickly raised £20,000/US $22,400 to build a 20 ft orange Trump baby balloon, wearing a diaper and holding a cell phone in tiny hands with Twitter on the screen. The balloon was hoisted over the Houses of Parliament.
President Trump has a deeply controversial reputation in the U.K. Londoners were upset that the president politicized the deadly London Bridge terror attack in 2017 and had said that British hospitals were "like a war zone ...knives, knives, knives" in addition to all his easily debunked lies (they are not used to them like we are in the US.) The march organizers said "We're planning a proper British welcome for Trump." "Change for tolerance, justice and equality is no longer jurisdictional but global," "Moral outrage has no affect on Trump because he has no shame, he's immune to it, but he has a tremendously fragile ego so ridicule is an effective form of protest," "So we want to make sure he knows that all of Britain is looking down on him and laughing at him." Donald Trump did not disappoint, in a televised interview he lashed at Prime Minister May and her handling of Brexit, but later during a press conference he dismissed the interview as "fake news" as he usually does when he does not like the reporting. I also watched the Queen waiting for him, looking at her watch, but Donald Trump said that it was he who had been waiting for the Queen ... He had also walked in front of the Queen, not caring if she was all right. I took the following pictures from my laptop screen. I just could not believe the lack of courtesy shown the 92 years old Queen. There were more planned protests in many cities and in Scotland.
The US Embassy in London had advised US citizens there to "lay low." I hear some even carried Canadian newspapers in their pockets so people would not think they came from the US. All this is embarrassing and humiliating for the US. It is also quite sad as this country used to be admired by all in former times. I just wonder what would happen if people in the US were as upset with D. Trump's lies as the Britons are and the same percentage would protest? Never mind, let's move on.
"Défilé" is the French word for "parade." On 6 July 1880 a government decree was introduced to establish a military parade as it is still known today. In 1886, a woman, member of the 131st Infantry Regiment, paraded for the first time. This year the 14th of July parade down the Champs-Elysees was memorable, as usual. There were 4290 military personnel, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 airplanes and 30 helicopters. A new unit called ComCyber marched in the parade. This command was created last fall to protect the state against increasingly numerous and sophisticated computer attacks against the French infrastructures and the French Armed Forces; 56 members representing the 3,400 ComCyber staff were in the parade. The theme of the parade was "Brotherhood of Arms in Uniform: Commitment of a Lifetime." It honored the soldiers who brought relief operations in the French West Indies after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Security was high with 12,000 police forces during the parade and 110,000 all round France that day. President Trump was the guest of honor in 2017 and he was awed by the parade. He wanted his own parade in Washington, DC next November, and top the one in Paris, but it is too expensive and he has decided to return to Paris instead for the Armistice Day parade celebrating the end of World War I on November 11, 2018. This year the guests of honor were Japan and Singapore, and seven of their soldiers, with their country flag, started the parade.
Singapore is one of the main partners of the French Air Force in Southeast Asia. In addition, 2018 is the 20th anniversary of the training of Singapore Air Force fighter pilots at the French Cazaux Air Base were 300 Singaporeans live (largest community of Singapore nationals overseas.) The year 2018 marks also the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Paris and Tokyo. Honored as well was the French military troop the 1st Spahi Regiment (pictured below at the bottom left of collage) as a tribute to two of their soldiers killed in Mali last February in an anti-terrorist operation. Wounded soldiers were in the parade headed by their commander, who had also been wounded. Following tradition, the parade ended with the slow marching Foreign Legion units, wearing their leather aprons - pictured at the bottom right of the collage below. (Photos courtesy Ministere des Armees.)
For some years now, a concert named Concert de Paris, has taken place at the feet of the Eiffel Tower with some of the greatest performers of opera and classical music. The program this year was long and eclectic. It included works by Berlioz, Verdi, Mozart, Borodine, Puccini, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Wagner, Haendel, Shostakovich, Offenbach and more. (I don't think a classical concert like this would happen here, as not many people in the US appreciate this type of music anymore.) Up to 90,000 came to watch the concert which was followed by fireworks. The theme for the fireworks this year was "Paris de l'Amour" / Paris of Love. It was chosen by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who said "un peu d'amour dans ce monde de ebrutes." / a little love for this world of ebarbarians. The fireworks were a colorful pyrotechnic show built around the theme of love. Paris City Hall had said "The Eiffel Tower will be a gigantic beacon of ephemeral beauty celebrating love, sharing and conviviality." The show started after La Marseillaise was sung (the French national anthem) in the presence of 500,000 spectators. Music pieces about love were aired during the show including the Beatles' "All you need is Love." It ended with the title "Allez les Bleus" or "Let's Go ... Les Bleus" the name of the French national football team. (Photos courtesy Paris-Match, Le Parisien, City of Paris and Opera on line.)
The next morning, Sunday July 15, 2018, I was alone in Nashville to watch the football finale World Cup game on TV. (All over the world the sport is called "football" and only in the US and maybe Canada it is called "soccer" to differentiate it from American football.) My daughter and her family had left to visit in-laws in Atlanta. However, they stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, to see if "les Bleus" were going to win against Croatia. The French national football team is nicknamed "les Bleus" the blues. In 1919 the French Federation of Football (FFF) declared that the team should wear blue jersey, white short and red socks (the colors of the French flag.) The team emblem is a coq with the letters FFF. Since 1909 the coq has been their emblem and it is also the emblem of France. In antiquity France was called "La Gaule" or Gallia in Latin. Gallus means people from Gaul and is also the word for coq. France won the world cup in 1998 against Brazil in Paris. I remember that the French Consul in Atlanta invited the French community there to come and celebrate. I went, and it was fun! Below are photos of my grandchildren watching the game outdoors in Louisville and photos of the two defending teams.
The 2018 football World Cup was the 21st and took place in Russia, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (first time in Eastern Europe) from June 14 to July 15, 2018. Initially there were 31 teams from 31 countries plus Russia's team as the host country. During the games a total of 64 matches were played across 11 cities. The cost of these games was over $14.2 billion. The global TV audience for the final match was 1.1 billion and 3.4 billion people (about half the world population) watched some parts of the World Cup this year (in the US it was less than half of the people who had watched the 2014 World Cup because the US failed to qualify and they usually are not keen on watching other countries' games.) It was the first time Croatia played in the World Cup - it is a tiny country with only 4.2 million people (in comparison the population of Greater Atlanta Georgia is almost 6.8 million.) The final game was riveting as France defeated Crotia and won the title. French President Macron was attending and was jumping with excitement.
It was raining quite hard at the end of the game, but it did not stop the team and the fans' enthusiasm. President Putin, shielded under an umbrella, congratulated the team. There were fireworks under the rain in Moscow. Antoine Griezmann was the star of the French team. He either scored or set up eight of the 14 French goals in Russia. When the game was over the team ran to him. (He is shown top right in the collage above holding the trophy.) His father's origins are German and his mother;s Portuguese. His sister Maud is a survivor of the terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan Theater on November 15, 2015, which took place as he was playing against Germany at the Stade de France where there were explosions from the same attack. The goal scorer, Kylian Mbappe Lottin was born in Paris in December 1998, the year the French team won their last World Cup. He donated all his earnings from the game to charity. From Paris to Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Noumea in Tahiti, to Cayenne in French Guiana, and St Pierre et Miquelon, French islands in North America, everyone was celebrating Les Bleus, even in foreign cities like New York and Moscow. Parisians and tourists by the thousands sang, danced, honk their cars, waived the French flag, crowds assembled everywhere: in the Metro underground, 100,000 at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, more on the Champs-Elysees, singing "we won! we won!" "We are champions of the world!" A young man wearing a Griezmann jersey said "Everybody is in the street - it's crazy. There's no problem, no racism, everyone is happy together, only football does that." I really wish I had been there. (Photos courtesy Ouest-France, Le Parisien, l'Equipe.)
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.