Views of Beauty and Ugliness at our Home

We have had rain for a week and a half so that the creeks are flooded and from time to time the television programming is interrupted by flash flood warnings.  Today is no different.  We have what my wife calls Hound of the Baskervilles weather.  There is rain and haze that obscures the outlines of trees as you peer into the woods, looking for creatures from a Tolkien novel. 

It has also been uncommonly warm.  We had the doors open on Christmas day listening to the neighbor’s waterfall roar.  The waterfall was hidden from us until recently.

A couple of months ago, before my surgery and while the weather was nice, I was working in my studio when I looked up to see a car in the drive and a small woman getting out.  I walked out and asked if I could. Help.  We live at the end of a lane and it ends at the beginning of our drive.  From time to time cars drive up by mistake always telling us that they were going somewhere farther east on the highway and their GPS brought them here.  I believe them.  We found early on that plugging our address into a GPS will not get you here.  Close, but not here. 

The woman wasn’t lost and she was irate.  She first asked if I owned the land on this side of the creek.  I explained that when the previous owner sold us our home he split off three and a half acres and cut an access road across the bottom of our land to the lot.  This news deflated her.  She was ready to fight.  As it turned out the man who owns the intervening land had had trees and shrubs cut down between his lot and the creek so that he could advertise the lot as “creek view”.  There is a really pretty waterfall on that creek.

The irate neighbor and her husband live in South Florida.  Their home here belonged to his mother and was originally part of the Lillian Smith Estate. (The Lillian Smith who wrote the book Strange Fruit.) 

We had never met these neighbors.  They invited us to the house and they are a really nice couple.  The home looks like a mountain cabin in which nothing has changed in the way of furnishings since the 1930s. 

The trees and shrubs didn’t belong to the man who claimed “creek view” property.  To further increase the insult, after they complained, someone came back and cut down shrubs on the other side of the waterfall.  The man with the property for sale claims innocence in it all.  I know he is lying.  I know the person he hired to do the job.

We have told them that we want to stay out of the dispute.

The owners of the land with the waterfall have hung a series of really ugly blue tarps to obscure the falls from view.  Written on the tarps are the messages:

“Stop illegal cutting”

“No creek view”

I love the fact that we can see the falls from our backyard now and I hate the tarp.  It is as ugly as the person who had ancient native rhododendrons cut down, which, incidentally, no longer reproduce here.  The climate has gotten too warm.

Falls from the back of our house

The Offender's New Creek View


The people who own the waterfall probably will have no recourse.  They certainly can’t replace the vegetation.  They have considered litigation but can’t get a local attorney to take the case.  They are “other” now since they live in Florida.

There may be a deeper, uglier, reason for their otherness.  Lillian Smith created outrage here when her book about the lynching of blacks hit the book stands.  Until that point she had been a peculiar woman who had a camp for girls on her land.  When investigation revealed that she was a lesbian all sorts of wild rumors surfaced.  The estate became a foundation which ran out of money, parts were sold off and eventually the remainder was sold to a nearby college.

We can see the waterfall from our backyard now but it is partially obscured by the tarp.  The tarp will eventually rot and fall down.

        Something there is that does not love a wall.


On a much more pleasant note, the warm weather has been exceptionally kind to our Camellias.  In most years we get a period of freezing weather that freezes the buds of the Camellias before they open.  This year has been the exception.

We have four plants.  A single Camellia sasanqua blooms in October.  Two red Camellia japonicas, one with simple blooms and one with compound blooms open in December.  A fourth pink Camellia japonica blooms in January, and because it is in a protected spot usually produces nice blooms.

Camellia japonicas blooming now

Camellias can be showy, especially when the blooming plant is surrounded by snow, but the blooms are recessed in foliage and may be nearly invisible.  However, they are about all that blooms in the midst of winter, and February here is cold and brown and barren and dreary. 

I guess when we need some color we can go look at the blue tarp.

Views: 219

Comment by koshersalaami on December 31, 2015 at 6:22am
Sorry no one would take the case.
Comment by Zanelle on December 31, 2015 at 6:27am

I definitely need to see a picture of those Camellias. So sad about the rhododendrons.  And the tarps are terrible!!  Oh my,  such trouble in paradise.  I see it here too all the time.  Conflict.  Not a good way to start the new year.  Sounds like you have a good attitude tho.  It will all rot eventually.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on December 31, 2015 at 6:29am

Still stuns, at times, that people choose to be so small.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 31, 2015 at 7:03am

Zanelle, I added a picture.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 31, 2015 at 7:44am

I almost forgot.  The very best to all of you for 2016. 

Comment by JMac1949 Today on December 31, 2015 at 8:05am

I know what I'd do with those blue tarps, but hey that's just me... Hoping a Happy New Year to you and yours.

Comment by Myriad on December 31, 2015 at 9:00am

Jeez, blooms in winter!

A curse on lawyers...and people who would damage rhododendrons (I have recently moved to an area where - at last! - they grow, in my yard even).

Biggest curse for the blue-tarp guy.

Comment by Rosigami on December 31, 2015 at 9:11am

Arghhhhhh how can people be so awful? It is disheartening.

Your view is really beautiful! Hopefully that lovely waterfall will lose its ugly blue dress. I'm with Jmac on this.

When we moved into our home, we hired someone to cut down a few of the trees which were dead and unsafe, and in the process widened a little dirt road that leads to a plateau way at the back end of our land. We were careful to keep the aesthetics of the woods surrounding our property, and we had it all professionally surveyed.  As a result, we discovered that our neighbor's asphalt driveway sat partially on our land; a fact that they were very aware of when we spoke to them about it. Seemed kinda brassy to me. 
Not that it really mattered much to us, as that part of our land is up a hill and not useful to us in the least. We let the issue go in the interest of good neighbor relations. Seemed the best choice, but then, we don't have to look at any ratty blue tarps. 

Comment by nerd cred on December 31, 2015 at 2:30pm

Hate to hear about the Rhododendrons.  There are colder climate ones, I wonder if there are also warmer climate ones. Not wild.

I was thinking "first world problems" until I read about that but even that is a total first world problem, isn't it? At least of our making. Not at all trivial, though which that label tends to indicate.

I hope your neighbor situation improves with the new year. If not, I hope everything else does. You live in a beautiful place. Tarps notwithstanding.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 31, 2015 at 3:49pm

Funny about Rhodendrons.  When I took 7th grade English we, each, had to write a research paper about a flower. (Miss St. Clair was big in the local garden club.)  I went to the library, thumbed through a book, and picked rhodendrons never having seen one except in a book.  The teacher was ecstatic.  She told us all about the plants, their flowers, and the regrettable fact that they would not grow in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. 

We have cultivated rhododendrons in our yard.  A purple, almost blue,  and reds.  They follow the azaleas in succession and are truly beautiful.  There is a native white rhododendron just past our drive beside the road that blooms in June.  I'm sorry we never got invited to see the waterfall when it was still surrounded by natural beauty.  The land around it now is bare dirt and stumps. 

Higher in the mountains and farther north in North Carolina I have made my way through rhododendron "hells" with plants twenty feet tall.  Truly they were magnificent.


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