Sunday, February 24, 2019

Destrehan Plantation's trees and more ... trees

Rain, more rain and fog - until next week maybe.  I thought I would write a post on one of the sunny days we had in New Orleans, Louisiana, last December.  We drove out of the city to visit Destrehan Plantation.  I started a post recounting the visit there but then noticed that I took many tree pictures.  After writing about the trees at the plantation and, as usual, being sidetracked and talking about other trees, the post became too long.  I re-started the post to focus on trees and shall write about our visit to the plantation later.  The trees at Destrehan are hard to miss as they are gigantic and numerous - they are the southern live oak trees (Quercus Virginiana) covered with Spanish moss.

 It seems that I always had a visceral attachment to trees.  As a wee child I loved to play under the plane trees in the square near our home in Paris.  We lived in a flat but mother would take me most afternoons two blocks up to the Square d'Anvers.  This square was opened in 1877 with a bandstand, a statue of Diderot (a French philosopher,) a column to Victory and many "platane" trees - plane-trees.  Parents would sit on benches and little children would play in sand boxes under the trees.  During WW2 the Germans melted the statues for metal.  Later in the 1970s an underground parking was built and the plane trees were cut down.  Other trees were planted but it does not look the same anymore.  Below are vintage postcards that show the square in the early 1900s.  When I used to play there in the mid to late 1940s the trees were even bigger than in the center postcard below.  I took pictures of the rebuilt square several years ago.  It is two blocks down from the Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre basilica.

Because of food rationing during and after WW2 (mother obtained one egg per week for me by doing some sewing for a farmer's wife) my health was not the best.  The doctor told my parents that we should move to a place with fresh air or I would have to be placed in a sanatorium for a while.  My parents bought a house in St Leu la Foret, a small town about 13 miles (20 km) from Paris at the foot of the large Montmorency Forest, but we still kept the Paris flat.  In St Leu I would take my dog (shown below) walking on the trails in the forest, or I would also ride my bike deeper in the forest.  I loved that forest.  I knew it so well - all the best high spots to see Paris in the background and the special areas where wild hyacinths would grow in spring.  This is a large forest of about 2200 hectares or 5440 acres.  At the end of the Middle Ages the Montmorency Forest was planted with chestnut trees for the manufacture of wine wood barrels and also for heating; some of these chesnut trees became very large.  I placed a red cross on the map below to show where our house in St Leu la Foret was located.  Click on collage to enlarge.

In Georgia my husband and I bought our house mostly because it was surrounded by trees.  The house stands only on one acre but there are many acres of trees around us, so it feels very secluded and we only see trees.  We never had a garden because the tall pines created too much shade, but we planted annuals in pots.  My dear blogging friends who have been reading my posts for a while have seen many pictures of the trees around the Georgia house.  Here are some views below showing the front, sides and backyard with the lake behind our house.

This house is located in West Cobb County, between 3 towns: Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth (about 30 miles or 50 km northwest of Atlanta.)  There are more trees near our house because our road is very close to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  This park is a 2,923-acre (11.8 km2) National Battlefield that preserves a Civil War battleground (the battle took place between June 18, 1864 and July 2, 1864) of the Atlanta Campaign.  Every day I drove through this park to go and come back from work, and there are many trees along the route.  My husband and I often walked on trails around the park.  We also walked to the top of Kennesaw Mountain.  You can see by the photo panorama below that the mountain is covered with trees.  At the very top of the mountain there are rocks as well; do click on collage to get a better view.

Neighboring houses also have pretty trees - our neighbors on the right have flowering trees in spring.  On the left is a farm with a large tree standing in the center of a meadow.  In winter you can easily see Lost Mountain behind the meadow.

Fortunately my late husband loved trees as much as I do.  I remember that for one of his father's big birthdays - either his 70th or 75th, my husband thought that the best gift would be to offer him a small tree.  We purchased a Ginkgo Biloba for him as it is a hardy tree - it stands strong against pollution, soil compaction, disease, wind, drought, fire, cold and pests.  The first winter in our house in Georgia we bought a living Christmas tree, a hemlock, which we planted near our mail box.  After 39 years it was very tall and lovely.  Unfortunately 3 years ago the Water Commission cut it down to install a water main pipe for a town near us.  In the early 1980s our friend gave my husband a black walnut tree and to me a fig tree.  Both were planted and grew well.  I made fig jam every year, but not long ago during a hard freeze my fig tree died.  Then last June 2018, during a strong wind storm, the black walnut tree fell down.  It was like losing friends.  Below is a Ginkgo Biloba with its fall foliage, top right is our hemlock tree, then a branch from my fig tree, and lastly the fallen black walnut tree.

When my husband's memory was fading I would remind him of places by mentioning trees.  For example I would not say "the restaurant facing the Shell gas station" but "the restaurant that has 3 maple trees up front" or "the garage that has the huge oak tree at the corner" or "the doctor's office where there are many redbud trees in the parking lot" and he would remember where they were located.  When we had to place him in an assisted living center I searched for one with free access to a garden with pretty trees.  We found one in Franklin, TN.  When I visited my husband he would be sitting there, or working on the plants.  Then when we had to move him to a Veteran approved nursing facility, it took me a while again to find one with a garden and trees, but I did.  It gives me comfort to know that 3 days before he died my husband was walking in the garden and sitting on a bench under a lovely tree.

Along the years I have taken a multitude of tree photographs.  Often while driving if we passed an interesting tree I would stop the car, turn around, and we would look at it and if I had my camera I would snap it.  Yesterday I gathered some of the tree photos I have here in Georgia, just a small sampling, because my old film photos and my newer photos are in Nashville.  I have taken photos of trees in all seasons, in all different locales, close to home, far away, in cities, woods, mountains, swamps and parking lots.  From top left below: Central Park, NY, Riverside Park, NY, Golden red tree Governor's Mansion Atlanta, North GA Fairgrounds parking lot, Fall color Ellijay, GA, tree in front of Marietta antebellum home, woods and stream in N GA Unicoi State Park, trees from Montmartre in Paris, Alcovy swamps east of Atlanta, fallen tree after storm and walking with my grandbaby in Columbus, OH, trees in Buttes Chaumont Park in Paris, pine trees viewed from train in the Yukon Territory, Canada.

I have taken photos of trees with full foliage or trees that have lost it, or just trunks.  Below tree in San Antonio garden, Texas, bare tree limbs in Marseille, France, tree trunk and bare branches on trees in a Kauai park, Hawaii.

I wished I could have picked up an orange from that bushy orange tree in San Juan Capistrano, California shown below the lanky palm trees on San Clemente Beach, California.

Tree branches over dramatic skies are always exciting.  Below are trees over a stormy sky from top of Kennesaw Mountain, GA, and a tree over sunset from Del Cerro Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

So you can imagine what a delight it was for me to view the monumental live oak trees when we arrived at the Destrehan Plantation.  I hurried up taking photographs because the tour was 10 minutes away then after this last tour the plantation would close.  The brochure says: "Established in 1787 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Destrehan Plantation remains the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley."  And "Located on the historic River Road, this antebellum home with its lush green grounds and moss draped Live Oaks watches over the banks of the Mississippi River just minutes away from New Orleans."  These live oaks trees are over 230 years old at least and have grown very large, not too tall but some of their limbs are enormous and their spread is wide around the trunks.  Some of their branches are so heavy that they have to be supported with metal holders.

Many trees have been named.  The Henderson Live Oak is 45 ft (14 m) in height and up to 111 ft (34 m) in width.  It is shown below in center top of collage.

Just to view these majestic, tortuous and extraordinary trees would have made me happy to have been on Destrehan Plantation, even if I had not been inside to tour the antebellum plantation house.  What an exceptional array of wonderful ancient trees there.  These trees have also inspired artists, such as the painting of a live oak by Louisiana painter George Rodrigue (American 1944-2013.)

I had fun drawing my own little live oak trees.  Which one do you prefer?  I think I like the colors in the bottom left one.

Arbres de la foret, vous connaissez mon âme! …
…Vous me connaissez, vous ! – vous m’avez vu souvent,
Seul dans vos profondeurs, regardant et rêvant...
- Victor Hugo, Aux Arbres 1856

Trees of the forest, you know my soul! ...
...You know me, you!- you have seen me often,
Alone in your depths, watching and dreaming...
- Victor Hugo, To the Trees 1856, French poet and novelist, 1802-1885

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Books in the mountains

This past week the weather has been so very cold that it has dominated the news.  It was colder in the state of Wisconsin than in Antarctica.  The wind chill factor in Chicago, Illinois, plunged temperatures down to -54 F (-47.7 C.)  Below are some photos of frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago, courtesy The Evening Express.

In other news, the US Government was reopened temporarily for 3 weeks with funding through  February 15, 2019.  Another news item which would have been known, if it had happened to the royal family in the UK, was hardly mentioned because it concerned France: Henri d'Orleans, Count of Paris and pretender to the defunct French throne, died on Monday 21 January, 2019; he was 85 years old.  The royalty was abolished during the French Revolution of 1789.  French King Louis XVI went to the guillotine on the same day but 226 years earlier - 21 January 1793.  Henri d'Orleans' funerals will take place at the Royal Chapel Saint-Louis of Dreux on February 2, 2019.  He was a direct descendant of the Duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV (after whom New Orleans, Louisiana, is named.)  Henri d'Orleans's son, Prince Jean de France, inherits the title.  However another pretender to the French throne is the descendant from the royal house of Bourbon, Louis Alphonse de Bourbon.  A third pretender is Jean-Christophe Napoleon, or Prince Napoleon, descendant of the Bonaparte family.  But not to worry, I don't think the French people will vote to recognize a royal throne in France and nominate one of these three men ...

Reading about the government shutdown and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, I realized that she is my date of birth sister.  Nancy Pelosi was born on the same day, same month and year as me - 26 March 1940.  I like to have strong birthday sisters.  I checked to see if any other strong women were born within a couple of days of March 26 and found Gloria Steinem, the feminist and journalist and Aretha Franklin, the singer and civil rights activist were both born on March 25 (1934 and 1942.)  Lady Gaga, also a singer and songwriter, was born on March 28 (1986.)  Another birthday, sad this one, is of my late husband as he was born on February 2nd.  He was proud to have been born on the popular holiday Groundhog Day.  On February 2nd, when the groundhog comes out of his den, if he sees his shadow, it is believed six more weeks of winter will follow.  Below is a groundhog.

 But my post is about books.  I have been an avid reader since I was a wee-child.  In France, in primary school through high school, kids were rated monthly according to grades: if there were 28 kids in a class they were rated 1st of the class to the last one (am not sure if it is still the same.)  My mother would give me two new books if I was the first of the class, one book if I was second and none after that.  So I tried very hard to be first and was most of the time.  I accumulated many books, mostly from the green book series "La Bibliotheque Verte," red and gold series "La Bibliotheque Rouge et Or" and pink series "La Bibliotheque Rose" created in 1856.  As a child my favorite stories had been written by the Countess of Segur, born Sofiya Feodorovna Rostopchina in St. Petersburg, Russia (1799-1874.)  I think I still have some of these books.  I just checked and some have become "rare" I guess.  The green book Melle de la Seigliere below is worth more than 20 euros, and my Little Lord Fauntleroy in French is worth more than 35 euros in France, both from the 1940s.  I guess I'll have to sell them back in France rather than donating them to Goodwill here.  Below are samples of my old books plus an illustration from Countess of Segur's "Les Petites Filles Modeles" (Good Little Girls) written in 1858.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

When I arrived at the port of New York in 1961, I remember the US Customs officer asked me if I was a student because one of my steamer trunks was full of books.  I had taken many with me but not all of my French books.  When I married my husband he brought his book collection and I brought mine - we had many books but hardly any furniture.  Through the years we collected another large amount.  We placed them in bookshelves in each room of our house.  He loved to go to second-hand bookstores.  I don't think a week went by that we did not buy at least one book for us or later on for our daughters.  Once, in New York City - I think it was back in 2007, we walked by the St. Agnes Public Library on Amsterdam Avenue at West 81st Street (an old library branch opened in 1906.)  They had a sign saying there was to be a library sale the next couple of days because the library was going to be renovated.  The next two days we were supposed to go out of New York to visit West Point, but instead my husband insisted that we stay for the sale ... we did buy quite a few books then had to get a large cardboard box and mail it to our house.  Below pictures of the renovated St. Agnes Public Library in New York City, courtesy NYPL.

Toward the end of my husband's illness he would constantly count his books and place the numbers on little yellow stickers.  He also would hide documents, money and what not in the books, so now I have to carefully go through them.  I bought many second-hand books at estate sales, library sales and through Amazon and ABE Books.  My husband would love to walk down to the mailbox and if there was a book there he would take it, look at it, place it somewhere without telling me then quickly forget.  I still find many old books that I ordered and never had a chance to see or read, such as those below I found last week.  I just realized that I had bought the second-hand book below "Dinner at Belmont" by Alfred Leland Crabb (published in 1942) some years ago before I knew I would move to Nashville, just a few blocks from Belmont Avenue.  It deals with Nashville's most eventful years, 1858 to 1865.  I am pleased that I re-discovered it.  There was also the book "Elizabeth and her German Garden" by Elizabeth von Arnim, published in 1901, that I could not find on the shelves as well as the writings of Thomas Paine, book published in 1945.  They were behind his western books.

I also found more lost books that he had placed in weird places.  I show them under my lamp in the heading photo.  Below is a close up so you can read the titles.  I have never read "For Whom the Bells Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway but am not sure if I want to read this paperback published in 1949, with yellow pages and tiny print.  I think I had bought it at an estate sale about 5 years ago.

If we drove through a small town and went by a second-hand bookstore, we had to stop.  I had found a route through the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia to avoid going through Chattanooga.  I mentioned it on my post On the Road Again in Tennessee and Georgia in 2011. The little town of Trenton, GA, located at the border of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, had one second-hand bookstore.  We stopped several times but their inventory was not extensive.  A while back I remembered that bookstore and called them to see if they would be interested in purchasing some of our books.  It turned out that the store had been sold and the new owner was eager to buy books to replenish his stock.  Last September I brought 100 western paperbacks to Trenton from my husband's collection.  I brought more books in November, December, and last week in January.  Below is a picture of the bookstore with a view of the town around it (Trenton population is approx. 2,500.)  Trenton is in a valley in the Appalachian foothills surrounded by mountains: Lawson Mountain, Fox Mountain, Windy Mountain, Little Cedar Mountain, Raccoon Mountain, Lookout Mountain and more.

I watch the weather when I drive to Trenton on my way to Nashville because the road, SR136, meanders through hills and hollows.  It has many curvy turns and steep hills through the canyons and mountains.  It is scenic.  You can see the beautiful landscape while on top of one of the mountains but can't stop (or might fall down the cliffs!)  My husband used to take pictures from the car while I drove.  Bottom right picture is Trenton in the valley, taken from Sand Mountain.

When I am back in Georgia I go through all my late husband's books to select those to bring to Trenton (next will be my books, later on ...)  They are scattered throughout the bookshelves.  I had already donated about 1,000 books to the Cobb County Library in GA and the Goodwill there.  I am not sure how many books there are left, maybe 8000 or more.  The shelves are not in order.  Also the shelves in Nashville need to be re-arranged.  Some of the books were placed in moving boxes and taken to Nashville before I had a chance to look at them first.  My eldest daughter tried to help by placing many on the shelves, but one of top of the other, two rows deep, and it is difficult to see their titles - some are my husband's books, some are mine and some I did not want any longer.  I took some western paperbacks back from Nashville to Georgia already to bring back to Trenton (those books are traveling...)  Below I show three bookshelves in GA and one in Nashville to illustrate what I mean (there are many more.)  The top left bookshelf below has more western paperbacks on the top, and two rows behind it.  The top right bookshelf is the way they are stacked here in Nashville, two rows deep, one on top of the other.

Just before I left Georgia early last week, I found a box in the garage and, surprise ... more western books.  They are part of my late husband's Louis L'Amour collection, at least 90 books there.  That will be for my next trip to Trenton up in the North Georgia Mountains.  I have plenty of work to do with all his books and mine, and for a long time to come.  But I also found one of my favorite books written by Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang (1895-1976) "The Importance of Living."

There are many quotable passages in this book.  The jacket says: "Playfully serious, cynically kind, shot with comedy, and backed by science and the thoughts of the sages, the medicine Lin Yutang prescribes is the Chinese philosophy of life: Revere inaction as much as action, invoke humor to keep life sane, let others struggle for power while you bask in the joy of existence."  Here is one quotation from the book:

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials."

I know my late husband would be pleased to have his books brought to the North Georgia Mountains where interested readers would have access to them, but I also know that he would approve of my taking a needed rest from all the book sorting.  Here is another quote from Lin Yutang:

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

I certainly can stop as of an afternoon, relax and have a cup of tea while perusing an old book, of course, before deciding what to do with it, and not feel guilty.  Below is "Quiet Pleasures" painted by Gustave Max Stevens, Belgian 1871-1946.

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