Friday Felines

Smokey loves a bowl of milk in the morning. Mark usually saves a little from his bowl of cereal. Sometimes Smokey gets a little impatient, though, and climbs up to check on his progress.

smokey cheerios

After the snow

If you watched the news Wednesday, you probably already know we had snow in Georgia. Atlanta was paralyzed. If you read my previous post, you also know that there were a lot of impassable roads in Alabama Tuesday night. Wednesday morning dawned clear and very cold. We had three inches of snow and 10 F. I don’t think Rome’s traffic situation was anything like Atlanta’s, but we had no reason to leave home Wednesday anyway.

I did take Zeke for a short walk in the morning. It was too cold for Lucy, even with her coat. I was glad we went down Wildlife Trail, because I found evidence that at least one fox is still in the neighborhood. I had not seen one since the county spent a week resurfacing Wildlife Trail. At first I thought the tracks were from one of the cats, but they were too big and too widely spaced. The tracks came from the woods across the street, where the foxes seemed to have a den. They came into our driveway, but veered off away from the house and then back into the street.

It looks like this one spends some of its time in a culvert. Its tracks led to one end of the culvert and disappeared. There were tracks at the other end, too.

Zeke’s tracks made a neat little intertwined pattern with the fox’s.snow tracks

Zeke seemed completely uninterested in the tracks in the snow, so I assume there was little or no scent. He was interested in the area around the end of the culvert. I assume this means the scent was stronger, although I don’t know whether that means the fox spends time in the culvert.

We walked into the woods at the bottom of Wildlife Trail. A rabbit had been hopping around down there.

Later I found what was probably a crow’s tracks behind the house. I wasn’t sure at first, but when I followed the tracks, they led to a double circle and then disappeared. It was a neat trick if it wasn’t a bird.

Added Thursday night:

It was 16 degrees up at our house on Thursday morning. I drove down the mountain a little after 8 am, and the thermometer in my truck showed 1F. I haven’t seen a temperature that low in a long time. The cab got warm, but the engine didn’t get to normal operating temperature until I reached the long uphill grade that I couldn’t get down on Tuesday night. That was about 30 miles from home. Motor oils and other lubricants must have really improved in the last 30 years. I drove a 1984 Nissan pickup during the winter of 1984-85 when the temperature in Atlanta dropped to about 5F. It never got warm enough to give heat in the cab, and when I took my foot off the gas, the truck slowed down like I had thrown out an anchor.


White Snow, or The Long Drive Home

It wasn’t supposed to snow in Rome. The TV weather forecasters said the area below Atlanta would get snow on Tuesday, not us. So I drove to Huntsville Monday expecting it to be cold, but nothing else. By about the middle of the morning on Tuesday there was a little snow blowing around the parking lot where I work. There was so little I wasn’t sure whether it was snow or salt scattered by the building maintenance people. By then, though, it was snowing more at home, and Leah wanted me to leave early. So I left work at 1:30 Central Time for what would normally be a drive of a little over two hours. Six hours and an extra 130 miles later I pulled into our driveway.

The first two thirds of the drive was without incident. There was a little packed snow between the lanes on the climb from the Tennessee River outside Scottosboro (made infamous by the trial of the Scottsboro Boys) up onto Sand Mountain, but nothing serious. The rolling terrain on top of the mountain had a little snow, but the highway was mainly clear. The highway descending into Fort Payne (The Sock Capital of the World, and also home of the country music group Alabama) was almost clear, but there was a line of traffic trying to get up the grade going back towards Huntsville. The roads in Fort Payne were covered with a thin layer of packed snow. The temperature varied from around 15 to 19 F, so there was not much melting.

Downtown Fort Payne

Downtown Fort Payne

The grade up Lookout Mountain on the other side of Fort Payne was covered with dirty, packed snow with a sprinkling of gravel, apparently from the highway department. The road over Lookout Mountain was also covered with a thin layer of packed snow, but it didn’t give the truck any problems. I thought I would be home fairly soon, despite driving slowly.

This should have been a clue.

Why are those trucks parked there?

Why are those trucks parked there?

The trucks were parked in a lot in front of a little gas station and general store a couple of miles from the grade down the mountain. When I was about a quarter mile from the start of the grade, there was a tanker truck sideways across both lanes and a line of cars on the other side waiting to go down the hill. I was about a half an hour from home, but I had no choice but to turn around and try another way. It was about 10 miles back to Fort Payne and the interstate.

To make a long story short, I ended up driving up Interstate 59 to Interstate 24 to Chattanooga, and then down Interstate 75 to the Rome exit. I drove a significant portion of  those extra 130 miles at between 30 and 50, depending on how much snow was in the road and how much traffic there was.

I hadn’t driven our newish truck (2010 three-quarter ton Dodge with four wheel drive) in slippery conditions, but I was quite pleased with it. At one traffic light a rear-wheel-drive car spun its tires through the entire green light, while I pulled around and drove away without any problems. Leah was worried that I would have to park the truck at the bottom of the mountain and walk up. About four vehicles had made the one and a half mile drive up Lavender Mountain in the snow. The truck made it five.

It turns out that Lavender Trail is a regular highway for wildlife.

Dimly-lit, snow-covered road, with footprints

Dimly-lit, snow-covered road, with footprints

I think the tracks I saw were fox and deer. All three of the pictures here were made with my iPhone. The last one was pushing it, because I was relying entirely on the truck’s headlights.

There was about two inches of snow on the ground around our house, but one deck railing that was protected somewhat from the wind had four or five inches. I think that’s about what we got, but the wind blew it around and prevented much accumulation.

This is the second time I have had to do this. About four years ago the same thing happened, only with more snow.

Apparently traffic in Atlanta was pretty much a nightmare. Roads were impassable and emergency shelters were opened for stranded drivers. There are school and business closings for Wednesday all over the state. It’s amazing what an inch or two of packed snow can do to traffic here in the South.

Letting go

folding chair

I go over to check on my mother’s house every so often now that no one’s living there and it’s up for sale. There is still some furniture there, and the power and water are still on. Sometimes I sit down on the living room sofa and look for ghosts.

So far I have not seen any. My mother is not stirring in the bedroom or in the kitchen. My father is not puttering around in the basement. I do not feel their presence, and I don’t expect to turn around and see either of them coming around the corner into the living room.

My father died 14 years ago. I felt his presence strongly for a long time after that. I was building our house then, and when I did something I was particularly proud of, I found myself thinking that I had to show it to him. That feeling faded over the years. I was used to having my father around for 50 years, and my internal model of the world still contained him after he died. But in the last 14 years, my internal world has changed to accommodate his death.

My mother’s case is different. She died only about a year ago, but her last years were not like the previous ones. She had serious balance problems, and thus falling problems. She had urinary tract infections and blood clots. Her world shrank to basically her bedroom, her bathroom and her living room. When we went to visit, we never knew whether we were going to find her lying on the bathroom floor, standing at the kitchen counter reading the paper, or snoozing in her recliner while NCIS reruns played on the television. She wasn’t the self-reliant, smart woman she had been, and her declining health lasted long enough that the old image faded. And then she spent nearly a year with my brother and sister in law in Virginia, and after that the last few months of her life at an assisted living facility. I didn’t get a chance to form a really strong new image of my mother in my world.

So by the time my mother died, my internal model of the world didn’t really have her or my father in their old roles. And so their presence doesn’t echo in their house.

What I do find is that various things evoke memories. My father kept his tools in a corner in the basement. Most of them are still there, and when I see them, I think of my father. My mother’s jewelry and art glass are gone, but there are still things in the kitchen and in the bookcase in the living room that make me think of her

I have a few of those things that make me think of them at our house. One of my favorite sets of memories is of going with them on a few long RV trips. They started traveling with an Airstream trailer in the early ‘70s before they retired. They started out towing their trailer with their 1966 Buick Wildcat coupe. They continued RVing until the late ‘90s, and for a time in the mid-90s I was able to go with them for a couple of months at a time.

They traded for various RVs, including other brands of trailer and a couple of motorhomes, but they always kept a pair of folding chairs that they bought early in their RVing lives. They were solid, high-quality chairs. They used them outside for sitting under the awning, and inside if they needed extra seating at the dinner table.

Now those chairs are in our garage. I see them every time I pull in, lying folded up against the wall. We have a travel trailer, but we don’t need or use the chairs, and, to tell the truth, they aren’t all that comfortable anyway. But there they sit.

The associations with my parents and with good experiences with them are so strong that it’s hard to think about disposing of them. But we don’t really need them, and we don’t need physical objects to remember my parents. I guess it’s time to let them go.

Friday Felines

Chloe has seemed a little skittish lately. We don’t know why. She will sleep happily at the foot of our bed, but once she’s up, she acts like someone is out to get her. She sneaks around in the living room and tries to hide.

Here she is pretending to be a potted plant.

chloe still life