Monday, March 18, 2019

Little friends

On Friday March 1, 2019, when I arrived in Nashville after that taxing drive through the northwest Georgia mountains I noticed that our golden cat Cody had not been eating his wet cat food.  The cat sitter had come the day before and his food was still there.  Our other cat, the grey Mitsouko, only eats dry cat food.  Seeing that Cody barely ate or moved I took him to the veterinarian for tests.  The tests showed that he was going through acute kidney failure with poor prognostic.  Unfortunately he died on Wednesday 6 March, 2019.  We loved that cat very much.  At the end of my husband's illness he would sit for hours with Cody on his laps.  After my husband's death 5 months ago having Cody also leave has been very hard.

People who do not have pets may not appreciate how particularly difficult it is to lose a cherished pet.  A pet is an integral part of the family, someone we see every day - and for Cody it had been every day for fifteen years.  My husband and I adopted Cody from the Cobb County animal shelter in Georgia in 2004 when he was 2 years old; he passed at 17 years old (about 84 years in human life.)  He was a special and beautiful cat with soft fur and limpid green eyes.  He was very affectionate and would purr constantly.  The first few days after his passing I did not do much, could not do much, did not want to do much but feel sad at the loss of my furry friend.  I have no friends in Nashville yet and after my husband's death my two cats brought me emotional support.  I know Mitsouko misses Cody as well because she meows more and keeps looking for him.  Not long ago there were four of us, two humans and two cats - now there is just Mitsouko and me and the house feels so empty.

Cody has been shown in my posts often.  I even wrote a post about him in 2009 "Cody: my post helper."  Every morning he would meow loudly for his food - I shall miss that.  The bond between Cody and me was deep - he was my little friend.  Last Friday, March 15, it was time again to drive to Georgia.  This time I brought Mitsouko with me.  I was afraid she would be too lonely without Cody in Nashville.  Here I have many old print photos still.  I decided to ease the pain by looking at all the little friends I have had among the years - a way to celebrate them.  As far as I can remember there always was at least a pet close by.  When I was a little girl growing up in Paris, France, we had a dog - here with me when I was four years old, shown below.  Then it was our boxer, who went with me for walks in the forest, below with me when I was eleven years old.  In San Francisco in the apartment I could not have dogs or cats, so I had pet birds.  My parakeet, Dimitri, could talk and flew freely in the rooms.  After I married we had a cockatiel, Diego, seen below on the shoulder of my yellow outfit.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

When we moved near Philadelphia, in Ardmore, for my husband to study for his master's degree in environmental planning at the University of Pennsylvania, we adopted our first cat, Pearl.  She was a chocolate point Siamese.  Our little girl dotted on her.

We also had dogs.  Our first was a Kuvasz, a white sheep style breed from Hungary.  He was not well socialized and bit our youngest daughter, so we gave him away.  We then had a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a hound from South Africa.  He was a sweet dog but destructive.  He tore up all the linoleum floor in our kitchen, the draperies in our den, our daughters coats, shoes and stuffed toys.  He was sent to a farm in Hiawassee in the North Georgia mountains for more open spaces.  Then a Doberman Pinscher adopted us.  She came to our door one winter and did not want to leave.  We tried to find her owners, but no one claimed her.  We kept her for many years and called her Sheba, she is on the bottom right, with our youngest daughter.

When we moved to Cobb County, Georgia, the house had a little barn with chickens - the results of a 4H program worked on by the son of the previous owner.  We knew nothing about chicken and borrowed a book from the library on chicken rearing and breeds.  We added to the flock with some special breed chickens, like bantams.  They became the pets of our daughters.  I had to watch the girls because in winter they would try to sneak the little chickens into their bedrooms so they would not be cold ... We kept the chickens for a long time and distributed surplus eggs to many of our neighbors.

After Pearl we had several other cats.  I don't have all of their photographs.  We had a Manx, a Maine Coon and others.  Our daughter Celine adopted a Himalayan cat, Alphie.  He was offered for sale at a cat show we attended in Montgomery, Alabama, and Celine fell in love with the little ball of fur.  He is below on the roof of my Fuego Renault, then with our youngest in the black dress, and its owner, our eldest daughter in the blue top.

When I flew back home to Paris to visit my mother I also would see her pet cat Minou.  Mother suffered from Parkinson's disease and Minou was a great companion for her.  Although I had to be careful as she was always trying to hide into my suitcase...

Celine adopted a grey Persian, Caj, and our youngest daughter adopted a stray kitten, Miles.  At the time we also had a cat I had rescued from outside a bookstore as a tiny kitten, Miska, then a Burmese, Khali and a Somali, Puma.  I scanned the old print photos but they are not very clear.

Our family loves animals.  On trips my husband and I would often stop to pet animals we would have enjoyed as pets, but could not take home, such as those below.  My late husband is below at the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina and at the Berry College farm of Rome, Georgia.  My pictures were taken in Taman Buaya, Indonesia, with a wild little friend.

Our daughters took their pets with them when they moved into an apartment.  Our youngest daughter is more of a dog person though and has had many dogs.  A couple of years ago she sheltered several puppies for a while.  We visited her at the time and my husband was overjoyed to play with the puppies.  My daughter kept the little white puppy, shown in the center bottom photo below.

In 1997 I adopted a little Korat - a breed from Thailand.  They are a living symbol of luck and prosperity there, often given as a wedding present.  I named her Mitsou.  She was a sweetheart.  Here she is as a kitten below with my husband's Somali, Puma and also with me.

The Somali are long haired Abyssinian cats.  Puma came from Baltimore.  His family moved to Atlanta and could not keep him so we adopted him, as an adult.  He formed a special bond with my husband.  When Puma died my husband was grief stricken.  Several months later we visited the Cobb County animal shelter where we saw Cody.  Cody had the same coat color as Puma so my husband was keen on taking him home.  We did so and he lived happily with us for fifteen years until early this month.  When Mitsou died I was also heartbroken and a year later I adopted another Korat from a breeder in Atlanta, who I called Mitsouko after my original Mitsou.  She is six years old now and is here with me in Georgia. (Below Cody and Mitsouko in the Georgia house last year.)

Pets have been great companions for me all those years.  They have added a lot of happiness and love to our family.  Even with the pain of losing them I can't imagine living without a cat - they love you unconditionally.  Each one has its own individuality and is a joy to watch.  My life would have been empty without my cats, such great little friends bringing so much joy.  Here are three quotations on cats -

"Petit à petit, les chats deviennent l'âme de la maison" - Jean Cocteau, French poet, artist, writer, film maker, 1889-1963/ "Little by little cats become the soul of the house."  Below Le Chat, 1959, by Jean Cocteau

"Le temps passé avec un chat n'est jamais perdu"  - Colette, French author, 1873-1954 / "Time spent with a cat is never wasted."

"When I am feeling low, all I have to do is watch my cats and my courage returns."  - Charles Bukowski, German-born American poet and novelist, 1920-1994.

Cody, 2002-2019

Monday, March 4, 2019

A foray in a northwest Georgia wilderness area

Last Thursday it rained in Georgia.  I postponed my drive back to Tennessee by one day as the weather forecast indicated some drizzle and fog on Friday.  I thought it would be fine.  I had an early start on Friday and felt good.  My car was full of bags of things to take back with me as well as another 150 books for the bookstore in Trenton, GA.  Traffic on I-75 was light and I made good time to my exit ramp for highway 136 going toward Trenton.  Starting in 2010 when our youngest daughter and family moved to Brentwood in suburban Nashville, we made the trip to Nashville often.  We would use interstate I-75 all the way.  But as my husband enjoyed side roads I was able to avoid Chattanooga by going through the Chattahoochee National Forest via highway 136.  I found maps and marked them to give you an idea.  As you can see on the bottom map, hwy 136 is a curvy road going through Villanow, LaFayette and Trenton.  Then we would take I-59 back up to the main highway between Chattanooga and Nashville, I-24.

We would drive through a section of the Chattahoochee National Forest. This is a large forest that comprises 750,145 acres (3,036 km2) and covers 18 north Georgia counties.  In 2011, in the little town of Villanow, we noticed a sign indicating a "Georgia Scenic Byway" and turned into it.  This took us to the Johns Mountain Wilderness area.  It was truly a lovely ride with no houses, cars or people - a genuine wilderness.  Although numerous animals can be found in this wilderness - hawks, owls, ducks, beavers, river otters, bobcats, deer, weasels, foxes, American black bears, coyotes, eagles, geese and more.  I took some pictures and wrote a post about our ride, see my post of November 2011 "On the road again in Tennessee and Georgia."   Below are some pictures I took of Johns Mountain Wilderness area in 2011.

Villanow is an unincorporated town in Walker County (one of the most western counties in the state.)  There is a country store there that is listed on the National List of Historic Places.  It opened around 1840 and served the community for many years.  It holds the record as the longest operating stand alone country store in the entire state of Georgia, but it is closed now.  I drove by it and thought I should stop next spring and take another picture on a sunny day.  Then driving on I was stopped by a truck parked across the highway.  People were motioning me to take a left as hwy 136 was closed.  I just went back to look on Google map to find out the names of the roads I used.  The first little road is named West Armuchee Road, a country road with farms and old houses along it.  I then had to turn on an even smaller unpaved road, Smith Gap Road.  At the corner was a very old cemetery.  I was tempted to visit it but did not know how long this detour would take, so I went on.  Later I found a picture of it - it is called the McWilliams cemetery.  Below is the start of Smith Gap Road, the graves of Elizabeth Lillies, 1826-1867, Spencer Bomar, 1810-1884, Martha B. McWillaims, 1815-1891, William McWilliams, 1818-1878 in the McWilliams cemetery and the Villanow country store.  Click on collage to enlarge.

The road was getting narrower with more gravel and rocks.  Then I was stopped by a small river without a bridge.  I just stopped there, looked at the river and took a picture with my cell phone.  A big SUV came behind me and could not pass me.  I went out and asked the driver what to do.  He told me to go ahead and drive across the river.  As I was apprehensive he said not to worry, he would push my car if I were stuck in the water, or get me out if my car would not move out of the river... I went back in my car, took a big breath and drove across the river - it made a lot of noise as I went over rocks.  You can't see from my cell phone picture below, but there was a small waterfall on the left.  I found out it is called the Greenbush Branch river.  I also attach a picture of the map with the accident on hwy 136.  I penciled the detour I took through Johns Mountains wilderness.

The dirt road then kept going up the mountain with big holes full of mud, fallen branches, rocks and more.  I have pictures of the road when the weather is pleasant, but at the time it was not at all.  Below photo in center of collage and the two lower left photos show the road in good weather.  As I was driving up and around the mountain the fog was getting denser.  I was going slowly as I could not see well and was afraid someone would drive in the opposite direction, as there is room for only one car.

I think it was a 4 miles (6.5 km) journey to the end of the detour but it felt like 20 miles!  As I drove higher around the mountain ridge I knew that the sides went sharply down below.  Earlier I had come to a dead-end into a fork and made a left.  The local SUV behind me made a right.  So, I carefully backed up and went on the right (later after checking the map I realized the left dirt road went on and on all the way to Alabama.)  By then the SUV was way ahead out of sight.  It was a scary ride.  This is part of Johns Mountain Wilderness area after all and it is a 24,849 acre (10,057 ha) area in Walker, Whitfield, Gordon and Floyd counties.  It is located inside the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.  It's not a place where many tourists venture and even less in winter.  The few people living close to the wilderness area are families going back generations as seen in the cemetery.  In summer Johns Mountain Wilderness is lovely, but it was not then.  Below are photos of the wilderness area in better weather.

I kept driving, turning around sharp curves and finally it became a small paved road.  There were still no vehicles, houses or people.  I was pleased that I had just bought 4 new Michelin tires and had a full tank of gas.

I came to the end of Smith Gap Road and turned on Old Alabama highway 151, passed Homestead Hollow and was back on hwy 136!  I was very happy that my foray into the wilderness was over thinking I was OK then... I drove through LaFayette (named in honor of the Marquis of LaFayette) went on the switchback roads on the next mountain and finally arrived in Trenton, GA, located in the foothills at the Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee line.  John, the owner of the Trenton bookstore, was happy with my 4 large bags of books.  I told him about my adventure in the mountains.  He assured me that there are many scenic areas and I should stay several days in summer to take a look.  I may do that.  He added that I needed to still be careful driving as there was more fog ahead and a year or so ago a pile-up on I-24 destroyed 30 vehicles and several lives.  After crossing the large Tennessee River I stopped at the rest stop for a bit of lunch and rest.  I walked around and took pictures of the mountains I had left on the other side of the bridge, pleased that this was over.

The Monteagle Mountain grade in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee was still ahead.  It is the "white knuckle" highway mentioned by truck drivers.  I talked about it in my post of January 21, 2019 Stops along the way..  Indeed as I came up the steep hill the fog was thicker and thicker.  In a short while I could barely see the front of my car and could only hear the trucks without seeing them.  The higher I drove the heavier the fog became.  The visibility was terrible.  I knew there was another rest stop at the top near the Monteagle exit.  As soon as I came to it I entered it and stopped the car.  I took a picture of what I could see.  It was a bit better than on the freeway - picture below.

I waited in the car for a while, then walked out and took more pictures as the fog was diminishing.

I was hesitant about continuing driving and anxious about going down the steep Monteagle hill.  But then I did not want to get homichlophobia and had to move on.  So I did, carefully, and once down the hill the fog had almost dissipated.  Now the ride would be much easier.  It had been an eventful foray in the wilderness then in a dense fog.  At least I had seen some pretty spring blooms at the first rest stop.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...