Saturday, October 31, 2020

Late October in Nashville and Atlanta

 When I returned to Tennessee in mid October I was disappointed that my absentee ballot had not been in my P.O. Box in Georgia.  Back in Nashville it was sunny and warm.  I was surprised when I moved my big garbage bin to find some bright flowers behind it.  I was not sure what type they were but after some research found out they are called Spider Lily.  I had never seen them before against the wall behind the bin.  They were not in a nice area, I wonder if I could move them and when?

From my kitchen window I looked toward the backyard to see if there were more flowers, but no, just flowering weeds.  But as I looked I saw a strange bird at a distance.  It was medium in size but seemed different somehow.  I kept watching it and it flew to my neighbor's tree.  Then it landed and climbed up the tree - it was a squirrel.  I had heard of flying squirrels but never seen one before.  I found out that they are called Southern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomy volans) and are common in Tennessee.  They do not have wings but "patagium."  The patagium is an extended fold of skin from the wrist to the ankle that enables them to glide rather than fly.  They are usually nocturnal.  Another visitor to the backyard is an albino or white squirrel.  Kenton, a small city in Tennessee west of Nashville toward Kentucky, is home to a large population of albino or white squirrels, and so much so that they have a yearly White Squirrel Festival in July.  There is also a winery in the area that adopted the white squirrel name.

This would make an interesting road trip but with the virus around us I usually only drive to the grocery store.  On October 22, 2020, I did drive to the grocery store.  I noticed that as my road dead ends into Belmont Boulevard the street was closed toward the university, a couple of blocks away.  I parked the car and walked there to have a look.  This was the day of the presidential debates.  There were already some Trump and Biden supporters along the streets.  The shops and restaurants facing the side of the university were closed for security reasons.  A long wire wall had been erected all along a side of the street and policemen on bicycles kept riding back and forth along it. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Belmont University is about 1/2 mile from my house.  Actually my house is equidistant between Belmont and Vanderbilt Universities.  I read that Belmont U had applied to host the debates back in 2018.  It was chosen out of six finalists that included the University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame.  The Belmont mansion was built in 1853.  It later became Belmont University.  I had planned to visit the mansion on Belmont but now will have to wait.  When I can go back there I'll take more pictures and have a post on its history.  Belmont Mansion is shown on top left below.

Several days later it was time to drive back to Georgia to see if my ballot had arrived.  I left Nashville early last Wednesday October 28th.  It was raining during the whole trip.  Around the mountains the fog was so thick and rain so heavy that I could hardly see where I was driving.  I decided to follow a slow moving large fuel truck as it had numerous bright red tail lights; at time though I could hardly see them.  I followed it for at least a good hour, hoping it would not get off an exit to a small Tennessee hill town as I would have followed it there.  By the time I reached my usual traveler rest stop the fog had subsided somewhat.  I ate my lunch snack in the car as it was still raining. Behind the trees the lake looked sombre.

Reaching my house in Greater Atlanta by 3:00 pm I hurriedly unpacked the car so I could hasten to the post office.  Unfortunately my absentee ballot was not in my P. O. Box, still.  It had been mailed on September 18 and here we were October 28 or almost 6 weeks later, and it had not been delivered yet.  I drove then to the Voter Registration Office.  I had to fill an affidavit that I had not received my absentee ballot, and had to fill another authorization form to obtain an early voting ballot.  Then I could join the about 100 people waiting in line to vote.  Luckily in Georgia if you are an elder you can go to the front of the line ... so I did.  Finally I was able to vote after driving twice to Georgia, or 1000 miles.  I went home happy and ready to relax (not knowing that I would not ...)  The top photo is an earlier one from days ago when voters had to stand for hours, even in the parking lot. The bottom photo shows the way it was last Wednesday.

Wednesday evening I was looking forward to go and relax in bed with a good British mystery, which I did until midnight.  Then at about 4:00 am I was suddenly awaken by a loud noise.  I guess heavy branches were falling on the roof.  Debris was constantly hurled against the windows and walls.  The house was creaking and almost shaking.  But the worse was the wind.  It was not a wind but a violent storm unlike one I had ever heard.  It was howling as heard in some action films, with everything flying around. It lasted a good two hours, and it was frightful, indeed.  The next morning I had no television, no Wi-Fi or internet.  They came back on at 8:00 pm that evening.  Later I found out that Hurricane Zeta now a Post-tropical cyclone had crossed through Georgia with wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour for more than two hours along with sustained winds of 40 mph for five hours straight.  Below is a view of the weather program I never saw because I had no TV access.

Millions were without power.  Habersham County, north of us, had 498 down trees, 249 of them were on the roadways and the other 249 were embedded within power lines.  Marietta City had advised people not to drive, but since I had no television or internet I was unaware of this and did drive to Toyota to get my car serviced.  First I had to move large branches out of the driveway.  I was surprised to see few motorists.  The traffic lights were not working and the roads and sidewalks looked like they had been mulched with pine straw and leaves.  My Toyota associate told me that he had lost 8 large pine tres in his backyard.  His little street in his subdivision had lost 27 trees.  He was from Kansas and told me he had lived through many tornadoes there but never heard a wind as violent as this sub-tropical cyclone.  Three miles away, in Acworth, a man had been killed.  It seems I find myself often in Georgia when there is inclement and dangerous weather condition.

By the time my car was ready it was still a bit windy but the weather had improved considerably and the sunset was lovely.

It is still sunny and a bit cooler today but safer for kids to go trick or treating tonight.  It will not be a usual Halloween though with the coronavirus hovering over us.

This Halloween night will be lighted by a full moon, and a rare blue moon at that.  There has not been a full moon on Halloween night since 1944!

Now for the sake of cultural diversity, I offer below various spooky skeleton specimen from all walks of life.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Georgia post office and a new park


At the end of the second week of September I drove back to my house in Georgia, where I had not been for a while.  I needed to keep cleaning and clearing it out and I also had to pay the yearly fee for my Post Office Box at the Marietta post office.  The house is in West Cobb County, equal distance from the towns of Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth, but I decided on the central post office in Marietta for my PO Box because the post office was larger there.  I went there on a Tuesday, mid morning, thinking it would not take long ... was I mistaken.  Usually there would be seven to eight postal employees working, but that day only one in the front and one in the back were working.  It took about one hour of waiting in line to pay for my box.  While waiting I talked with the woman behind me.  She was from the UK, had come for a family occasion months ago and had been stuck here.  She told me she used to enjoy a visit to "the States" but no more.  She couldn't wait to return to the UK, adding that people had to come here and stay to understand how bad it was - violence, crime, bigotry, homelessness, starving people waiting in line for hand-outs, no health coverage, a bully, rude and incompetent president who was hurting and killing the people, horrid constant political ads on TV, what a pity... She had a long list.  I did not know what to tell her to change her mind.

Then I drove to the Cobb County Voter Registration Office to have my absentee ballot sent to Nashville.  After waiting a while the employee told me that the absentee ballots were being sent that week, September 18, 2020, and if I changed my address now I may not get the ballot in time.  So I kept the Marietta PO Box address for it.  To obtain this ballot I drove back to Georgia from Nashville again two weeks later.  On October 6th I returned to my PO Box, but no ballot was in it.  At the Voting Office I was told that my ballot had been sent but that it could take up to 5 weeks to receive as the mail had slowed down!  A letter to Japan does not take that long.  But the strange thing is that my Georgia neighbors, who are Republicans, received their absentee ballots back in mid September.  Checking some more I found out that the Republicans around had received their ballots, but just a few of the Independents and none of the Democrats.  So now I have to make another trip to Georgia at the end of the month to see if my ballot has arrived in my box.  The Voter Registration Office is only 5 miles from my house in Georgia.  It is a new building with a large parking lot.  In the Spring of 2016 I took pictures there, with my late husband, of the trees in bloom.

Last Monday, October 12, 2020, thousands of people took part in early voting in Georgia.  Some showed up at the Cobb County Voting Office above as early as 8 o'clock, and were not able to vote until that evening, waiting 12 hours or more.  I remember the UK woman telling me that people can't be free if they can't vote easily.  As she said "The States now is like a 3rd world country, with the same type of government."  Years ago the US used to send election observers to countries where there was voter intimidation or suppression - I think these observers should come to Georgia now!  Since many Georgians had to stand in line up to 12 hours to vote, I should not complain that I will have had to drive two 5 hour round-trips to come to Marietta to get my ballot (if I am lucky) and vote.  From Nashville my house in Georgia it's about 250 miles one way.  To be able to cast a ballot this time will take a total of 1000 miles or 1610 km.  Below is the Marietta Voting office (shown above) the day of early voting, from morning to night. (Courtesy AJC.)

Even though thousands came early to vote and more will vote in Georgia, I am a bit doubtful about the results.  Georgia has a reputation for, to say it nicely, "voting issues" (or voter suppression.)  I read in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Steve Davidson, who is Black, said the late U.S Rep. John Lewis had fought too long and hard to secure his place at the polls for him to get tired and leave.  "They've been fighting for decades.  If I've got to wait six or seven hours, that's my duty to do that.  I'll do it happily."  Davidson said.  So, if I have to drive 1000 miles to vote, then let it be.

In a way I don't mind driving to Georgia.  In Nashville, I have been alone now with my cat since March, apart from driving to grocery stores.  So getting on the road, driving through the Tennessee Hills and North Georgia Mountains is lovely.  About two hours or so after I leave Nashville I usually stop at a small traveler rest area.  I have shown pictures of it several times.  Watching the lake, listening to the birds and breathing the air, while having a snack with a cup of coffee is so invigorating.  I never tire of looking at the water.

Everything was still green.  When I next return to Georgia in late October fall colors should start to appear.  Still I was a bit down to have driven so far and not been able to get my absentee ballot.  I decided to stay in Georgia until Sunday October 11, so I could go back to the post office one more time (I did and still no ballot.)  Tuesday October 8th was the second year anniversary of my husband's death.  Looking at the map I found a park, just about 3 miles from my house that I have never visited.  I thought going there on the 8th would bring more peace than staying and clearing the house, so I drove there. I wish I had known of this park when Jim was still alive - he would have loved it, and so close to the house.  It turns out that it was donated to Cobb County in 2001.  Formerly and old family farm the park was named after Leone Hall Price who lived there until her death in 2001.  Ms. Price had stipulated that the land should become a "passive park" to remain in a natural state.

The park has a total of 243 acres of undeveloped land.  It includes a pavilion with picnic area, bathrooms, a small parking lot, and many benches and picnic tables throughout the park.  Located 3 miles from my house, the park has an Acworth, GA, address.  Being a passive park, its primary use is hiking and walking in unmarked and undeveloped trails.  It is very secluded.  There were no other cars in the parking lot on October 8th in early afternoon.  I started walking, not really sure where I was going, but it was a sunny and warm day (80 F/26.6C.)  I went down a hill then up a hill and could see a meadow ahead.  The path was covered with grass which meant that not many people walked on it.  Reaching a bench I was pleased to take a rest.

In the spring there must be loads of berries there.  Now the meadows were covered with yellow wild flowers.  I read later in the newspaper that a hiker had spotted a bear with a cub in this park in early spring. (Photo of the bear below from spring article in the AJC.)

No bear sounds around me, just the birds.  I started on the mowed wide path again walking by a Bluebird nesting box.  But then the path was branching on the right and the left.  I took the left path and kept walking towards the woods.

Reaching the woods I could see a number of big old trees.  I could smell the scent of the pine trees but also the scent of apples.  There must have been an orchard there once as spoiled fruits were on the ground.  Another picnic table was under a large tree but then the path was divided again going to the right and the left.  I walked toward the left side.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

I was uncertain about exploring some more.  Where did this trail lead to?  Would I get lost?  There were no signs and no one around to ask.  But then I could hear the sound of water, so I walked in that direction.  I did right because I reached an enchanting little stream (later I found out it is called Allatoona Creek.)  There even was a bench there.  I took some photos. The water was clear but with the reflection from the sun, it was difficult to show it in my photo.  I walked along the stream for a while.

By then I was turned around and did not know how to return to my car.  So I took a small path and soon enough I recognized a large tree with a picnic table underneath, kept going and there was the meadow...time to get back to the world.

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