Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Smith-Gilbert Gardens in the spring

Last Tuesday, March 16, 2021, I drove to the Georgia house. On Wednesday I drove to the accountant in Woodstock, GA., in Cherokee County, north of my house, and gave her all my receipts to prepare my income taxes. The next day I read the filing date had been moved to May 17 instead of April 15. At least I won't be late. Then I went back to clearing out the study that I had started last month. There were 4 large cartons on top of each other I had been reluctant (or afraid) to check. As I thought, they contained old magazines, bills, receipts, letters, children drawings and so forth. I started placing the magazines in recycling bags but then realized that some were quite old. The library told me they are not accepting donations at this time and Goodwill does not take magazines.
When I saw the two magazines above I thought to check on eBay to find a price - the 1989 Time magazine Trump issue is selling up to $55 and the Ronald Reagan November 17, 1980 up to $25. I guess I'll keep them. There was also an August 1981 issue of the French magazine Paris Match featuring Princess Diana on her honeymoon. In the magazine I had placed 3 postcards of her 29 July 1981 wedding to Prince Charles. I remember I had flown to Paris to visit my mother that summer and stopped first in London for several days - where I picked up the postcards.
In two days I was able to fill 10 large plastic bags as I did throw away a large number of magazines and assorted papers. It felt liberating to bring them to the high school recycling bin.
Yesterday morning, March 20, 2021, was a bit cool and windy but very sunny, a good day for the start of spring. After going through all these old cartons and dust of ages getting some fresh air sounded quite enticing. I remembered the Smith-Gilbert Gardens my late husband and I visited often in the past. In 2011 I had found out that these gardens were only 4.5 miles from our house. I wrote 6 blog posts on them. You may like to read the history of the gardens in my first post dated August 31, 2011, "A Secret Garden in Cobb County, GA, part 1." I showed more of the gardens in part 2 and part 3. Subsequent posts were written to show the gardens in summer "End of Summer at the Smith-Gilbert Gardens" in the fall "Return to Smith-Gilbert Gardens" and finally "Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Winter." I had not written a post for spring and needed to remedy that. I arrived at the gardens before 10 am on Saturday. Unfortunately I had left my good Nikon and Canon cameras in Nashville, but still had my pocket camera and cell phone.
Being the first day of spring I was not sure there would be many blooms to see. But daffodils were plentiful. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
I had forgotten how many sculptures were placed among the plants and paths. The "untitled" sphere by Grace Knowlton (American 1932-2020) looked happy surrounded by a brilliant carpet of daffodils.
There were only two other visitors - two young ladies in their spring outfits taking photographs of themselves.
It had been at least five years since I visited the gardens and noticed some changes. The wood benches had been replaced by metal benches. There was now a small children play area. The rock garden had grown and grey pebbles/stones had been placed on pathways - making it a bit difficult to walk.
The little stream running into the waterfall was there, lovely still, with many birds flying around.
When we had come to the gardens in winter I had seen some camellias blooming, but nothing like the blooms I saw yesterday. Along the path I'd see one bush covered with blooms, take pictures, then there was another one, with more blooms, then another one. Some of them blooming profusely, all of them exquisite. I could not stop taking pictures and wished I had my good cameras with me.
There were a couple of attractive early spring blooming magnolia trees - a tall pink one covered with large petals,
and a white magnolia tree with star-like flowers, a Loebner Magnolia "Spring Snow." I was able to reach a bloom to smell it. It had a lovely scent.
It was a bit early for azalea bushes but some were starting to flower.
I walked back to the central part of the gardens to sit under blooming trees.
Looking up, it was lovely to only see blooms and blue sky.
After a while I walked back to some other paths and found ... more camellias! One camellia bush was covered with coral-pink blooms - I mean covered. This camellia is named "Rev. John Drayton" - (in extreme top right corner below.) I checked on the reverend on the Net - and was pleased I did! It turns out that the Drayton family founded Magnolia Plantation by the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina in 1676. It was a rice plantation at first then it passed later to Rev. John Drayton who planted camellias japonica and created romantic gardens on the plantation. He also introduced azaleas to the United States and opened the gardens to the public in 1870. Magnolia Plantation is now operated as a house museum and gardens (and still in the same family.) They advertize 1,000 camellia cultivars (some historic) on display from mid-November to April. Goodness, I need to drive there someday. You can read about these gardens here - Magnolia Plantation gardens.
Another tree with delicate pink blossoms was called a Prunus Cyclamin Cherry.
Going back to my car I walked by a blooming bonsai tree, a large tree covered with red berries and a plant with leaves of such a vivid green that they almost looked artificial - it all looked of the new spring.
Winter has finally turned into spring. Now with more vaccines and more people vaccinated maybe life with turn back to normal as well. That reminded me of an old song (1965) the group The Byrds used to sing, called "Turn, turn, turn."

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Books ... almost given away

Over a year ago I wrote a blog-post showing all the books left in my Georgia house. Because of Covid not much has been done with these books last year. I did give away at least a couple of thousands. I have to go through them carefully as my late husband used to insert many items inside the books. I usually place the books in bags and give them to the Library, Goodwill or have the Kidney Foundation come and pick them up.
My late husband read at least 3 or 4 books a week, and I read many as well. Toward the end of his illness he loved to count the books, look at them,reshelf them wherever, and so forth. I cleared up all the books in the two bookshelves in the den and also a big one in the study, but ther are still many books left, as you can see from the bookshelves below.
The little yellow sticky notes show the numbers of books my husband counted. By the look of this bookshelf and on the sides, countaining 500+ books, I can tell that I still have at least 5000 more to go through. My husband had told me that some of his books were valuable, but I don't know exactly where to find their value, and it is time consuming. I usually pile them up in bags keeping only those that I may read later, look interesting, old, or that I like. Of course I have to clear out more than books in the house.
Last month while in Georgia I had several bags ready to go out then remembered that I had placed a couple of old green books in them - had not really checked them. I went back and retrieved them. One was "Russian People" by Princess Cantacuzene. I certainly did not want to give that book away! The first time I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005, I bought several old books on that country, and three books by this author. Julia Dent Grant Speransky, Princess Cantacuzene (1876-1975) was the second grandchild of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. She had married a Russian prince. Here she is below.
She was the eldest child of Frederick Dent Grant and his wife Ida Marie Honoré (of French ancestry.) Julia was born at the White House in 1876. In the 1890s Julia and her aunt traveled to Europe to promote the Chicago World's Fair "World's Columbia Exposition." While in France she met Prince Mikhail Cantacuzene of Odessa, Russia. (Михаи́л Миха́йлович Кантаку́зин, граф) who was the Russian attaché to the Russian Embassy in Rome. After a courtship of two days they became engaged in Cannes. Below vintage postcards of Cannes, France (Cannes is about 18.5 miles (30 km) from Nice, France on the French Riviera.) (Click on collage to enlarge.)
Julia's aunt had leased the Villa Beaulieu for the summer season, a "cottage" owned by the Astor's in Newport, Rhode Island. The couple had a lavish wedding there, in two ceremonies - on September 24 1899 in a private Russian Orthodox ceremony and the following day at All Saint's Memorial Chapel in Newport.
Because I enjoy visiting old historic architecture, I had planned a trip to Newport, RI, in the fall of 2017 with my husband, but unfortunately he was not well enough to travel. I saw that the villa Beaulieu is one of Newport's oldest historic mansions. It was built in 1859 and had several owners, including John Jacob Astor III and Cornelius Vanderbilt III. It was designed to resemble a French chateau, Second Empire style. Here it is below.
The villa has 14,500 square feet, sixteen bedrooms, library, billiard room, a large veranda, etc. Some of the interiors were shown in a real estate magazine last year when it changed ownership. (Photos courtesy Sotheby's.)
The city of Newport, RI, has a long history. It was founded in 1639. It is about 75 miles (119 km) south of Boston. In the mid 19th century southern planters built summer cottages there to escape the heat from the South. By the turn of the 20th century wealthy families from the Gilded Age had built several "summer cottages" (mansions) there.
After their wedding in Newport, the Prince and Princess Cantacuzene went to live in St. Petersburg or at the large (80,000 acres) family estate of Bouromka, in the province of Poltava, in the central Ukraine, on the Vorskla River. In the book that I retrieved from the bag, "Russian People," Julia described in details her life at the estate. It was dominated by her mother-in-law Elizabeth Sicard, who was from a French Huguenot family in Odessa. At the estate everyone spoke French mostly, not Russian. Below is Bouromka.
During her years in Russia she was a witness to the imperial life as well as the Bolshevik Revolution. She wrote 2 other books, Revolutionary Days: Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki, 1914-1917, published in 1919, and My Life Here and There, published in 1922. I have all three books (the other two somewhere still on the bookshelves hopefully.) I had forgotten that my book "Russian People" had an autograph by the Princess. I am not sure how valuable this copy is, but it is valuable to me. (Be sure to click on collage to enlarge.)
Princess Cantacuzene's books are lively, giving a close, first witness account on the Russian royal family (she was critical of the unpopular Empress and also of the weak Tsar.) Her reports of the Revolution are spellbinding. She was in St. Petersburg during the bloody "July Crisis" and managed to have her three children (aged 8, 12 and 16) escape with a party of Americans on the Trans-Siberian. Her books are written in an old style - but I read so many old books that I am used to the style.
Usually I read three or four books at the same time. I rarely read on my Kindle or ebooks, I prefer paper. Because of my husband's Alzheimer's disease I try to be careful with my brain. I read several articles on neuroscience that show the way the brain reads on Kindle is different than the way the brain processes reading books (different part of the brains.) (See one article here.) The books below are those I am reading right now.
"I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time." - Viriginia Woolf, British writer (1882-1941.)
My house is not as full of books as the one above, thankfully ... but I'd love to visit it. Then I looked at the second green book from the bag of discards. It was one of my husband's, a copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797-1851.) She had published her novel anonymously in 1818. It was translated into French and published in 1821. Finally the first popular British edition, under her name, was published in 1831. It became very popular and was published many many times. I thought I'd place this green book back in the bag. But, just in case, I researched it on the Web; it was good that I did. Below some editions of Frankenstein and my late husband's copy.
It turned out that his 1932 first edition of Frankenstein illustrated by Nino Carbe was the first illustrated edition of the novel published since the 1831 edition. It is a collector's item now. I found a copy, now out of stock, in an antiquarian shop online that was sold, I don't know when, for $500. I found another copy for $950! I guess this green book won't go back in the giveaway bag either. The illustrator, Nino Carbe (1909-1993) was born in Avola, Sicily, and came with his mother three years later to join his dad in America. In his twenties he sent some illustrations to a publishing company that wanted to publish a new illustrated edition of Mary Shelley's book. They accepted all his illustrations. Here are some from my green book.
Nino Carbe was talented in various mediums. In addition to book illustrations, he was a noted artist and worked many years for Walt Disney. From 1938 to 1946 he worked on animated classics, such as Bambi, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia and more. He also illustrated some of the classic children Golden Books and did costume designing. Below he is shown in his car, and some of his work. (Courtesy Nino Carbe Art.)
So I kept those two precious green books, they won't be given away. Have you ever almost thrown out something that turned out to be valuable? Below is a painting by Bessie Davidson, an Australian-French artist (1879-1965) entitled "Le Livre Vert" (The Green Book.)
"What a blessing it is to love books as I love them, to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the unreal!" - Thomas Babington Macaulay, British historian (1800-1859.)
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