Sunday, October 1, 2017

TRAVELING AFTER HURRICANE IRMA

Florida palm trees
As if the greening disease hadn’t caused enough damage to citrus groves in central Florida, we glimpsed a plethora of fruit on the ground and toppled trees, roof and residence destruction Hurricane Irma left in its wake when we traveled south from Tennessee a week ago. Clean-up crews in Frostproof worked in humid weather to clear fallen trees and branches from roads and yards of residences, and I walked in a small city park several times during the week, dismayed at the several felled jacaranda trees. Their heart-shaped fruit lay on the path, reminding me what 115 mph winds can do to beautiful trees and landscape. 

Jacaranda tree stripped of leaves by Hurricane Irma

Although most of the news that had been reported a few weeks ago broadcast stories of destruction in the larger cities and coastal properties of the State, a “pole barn” on a grove property showed me how much Hurricane Irma had strafed the central Florida region.


Pole Barn

Irma had spared no one, and when we stopped by Cross Creek, near Gainesville, Florida on the return trip to Tennessee, our writer friend, Jo Ann Lordahl, told us she had climbed up on her roof and cleared significant debris — alone. She added that her neighbor refused to loan her a ladder, horrified, as we were, that an 86-year old woman would attempt to clear tree branches on a rooftop! Jo Ann lives within an area of natural beauty in Alachua County that was scheduled to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ book, Cross Creek on Friday. Rawlings received the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Yearling in 1939 when she lived at Cross Creek and was inspired by the natural beauty of the area and its people. Friends of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Farm, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and Artwork Gainesville opened an exhibit of paintings, photography, and sculpture during the time of our visit but we had to scurry on toward home. We missed an exhibit that focused on natural wonders of the region and, of course, the celebration of the literary heritage of Cross Creek.

Courthouse in Newnan, Georgia
However, in order to bypass Atlanta and snarling traffic there, the following day we took a westward route around the city and found serendipity again. At lunchtime, we approached the historic town of Newnan, Georgia, a town that is listed as part of sprawling Atlanta but maintains a “country feel,” despite the fact that its population has increased 150 percent since the 2010 census. Again, we discovered another art trail — well-known authors born in Coweta County include Lewis Grizzard and Erskine Caldwell, as well as Alan Jackson, country singer and songwriter. In the visitors center, we were directed to backtrack and take a second look at over 50 historic homes, many of them built by money derived from King Cotton. The tour guide at the Center told us that people from countries throughout the world visit Newnan to see the place that provides the backdrop for the popular series, “The Walking Dead.” Over forty films have been shot in the area, including one of my favorites, “Fried Green Tomatoes.” I purchased a copy of The Sacrilege of Alan Kent, a little-known volume by Erskine Caldwell, touted as being a book that reveals the influence of impressionism upon Caldwell and sheds light on the technique for which he later became known— simple, direct, and brief paragraphs which record episodes of his life in which he searches to know himself as an artist.

We should have spent the night in this picturesque town of Newnan because when we navigated back to I-75 we sat in traffic over an hour due to another interstate wreck involving a truck that completely burned up. We finally reached Fort Oglethorpe and just gave up traveling for the night in Ringgold not far from Calhoun, Georgia where my great-grandfather, Lawrence Dade Greenlaw, was discharged from the Confederate Army in 1865. I jokingly said that great-grandpa had warned us to go no further after the truck accident.


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