Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Model Citizens

People

A 3D model of Evans Towne Center created by Columbia County’s Geographic Information Systems team has been selected as the recipient of the GMIS International award for outstanding service and dedication to the citizens of Columbia County.

The project was submitted to GMIS International after winning the Georgia GMIS Government to Citizen Award earlier this summer.

Team members (pictured) include (left to right, front row): Larry Hobbs, Ernie Phelps, Lindsey Stokes and Julianne Hartman and (back row) Samuel Ball, Grace Jansen and Mark Swain.

Although the department team had no experience in 3D modeling, it was asked by the county administrator to create the model to showcase the county’s new Performing Arts Center, Meybohm Building, future parking deck and other future retail/professional developments.

The team had only two weeks to put the project together to present to the Board of Commissioners and county administration.

Monarch Migration

Buzz

Get ready for flying color. The monarch butterfly — the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do — will be putting on a show in town soon. 

Each fall from the end of September until mid-October, monarchs migrate through the area on their 2,800-mile trip from the Northeastern United States and Canada to Mexico.

“We see more butterflies in the fall versus the spring,” says Tripp Williams, UGA extension office, Columbia County coordinator. “They’re not mating and laying eggs in the fall.”

If you’d like to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard, plant nectar-providing plants such as milkweed, native flower mixes, dill and fennel in natural, unmaintained, pesticide-free areas from the end of March through October. “Anything that has color to it and blooms is a great nectar source,” Williams says.

Ready for PLay

Buzz

Columbia County’s newest park is open for fun

Columbia County residents have a new place to play. Lakeside Park, located at 2040 Panther Crossing in Evans, opened to the public in August.

The facility, adjacent to the Lakeside Sports Complex, includes five multipurpose fields, six lighted tennis/pickleball courts and a playground that includes a large play structure with slides and a bridge.

The main pavilion includes concessions, restrooms, a picnic area and drinking fountains. Two additional pavilions near the playground and the tennis courts also feature water fountains and picnic tables.

A lighted, half-mile walking track with varying slopes goes around the perimeter of the park and connects all of its features.

The park project was funded by the 2017 general obligation bond.

Look Before You “Like”

Buzz

Many posts on Facebook are created by scammers trying to collect as many “likes” as possible and steal your information.

You’ve seen them before. Facebook posts designed to grab your attention and stop your scrolling. But think before you comment or “like” something on Facebook because it may be “like-farming” fraud.

“Like-farming” is when scammers create eye-catching posts designed to get many likes and shares. There are many versions.  Some tug at your heartstrings, others tempt you with offers to win a new car or RV. Posts often give people emotional reasons to click, like, and share, such as adorable animals, sick children, the promise to win big, or political messages.

For example, a post advertising a free RV recently made the rounds on Facebook, using the pandemic to draw attention:

“With a lot of people out of work and Covid-19 keeping them out of work we know money is tighter more now than ever! So by 4 PM Monday someone who shares and also comments will be the new owner of this 2020 Jayco Greyhawk RV, paid off and ready to drive away, keys in hand – Jayco.” 

The actual company, Jayco, a BBB Accredited Business, responded on Facebook, saying:

“We are not running a giveaway for a 2020 Seneca or any other Jayco RV. We have taken the necessary steps to report the page(s) responsible for the misleading giveaways. If we ever do run any official Jayco sales event or giveaway, it will be promoted through our official Jayco company page. In addition, we would never ask for your personal information, under no circumstance should you provide your personal information to anyone.”

Malicious Intent
As with many scams, like-farming has several different aims. When scammers ask you to register in order to win something or claim an offer, this is a way to steal your personal information.

Other versions can be more complex. Often, the post itself is initially harmless – albeit completely fictional. But when the scammer collects enough likes and shares, they will edit the post and could add something malicious, such as a link to a website that downloads malware to your machine.

Other times, once scammers reach their target number of likes, they strip the page’s original content and use it to promote spammy products. They may also resell the page on the black market. These buyers can use it to spam followers or harvest the information Facebook provides.

Protecting Yourself

  • Use your good judgmest. If a post says you can win something just by sharing the post, it’s probably not true. If a post tugs at your heartstrings and isn’t about someone you know personally, be wary about the truthfulness of its contents.
  • Don’t click “like” on every post in your feed. Scammers are counting on getting as many mindless likes as possible, so be sure you only “like” posts and articles that are legitimate. Don’t help scammers spread their con.
  • Be cautious when it comes to sharing your personal information. Never give out personal information, such as your full name, telephone number, address, etc. to a person or company you don’t know or trust.
  • Update your web browser and antivirus. Make sure you always have the latest version of your browser and antivirus. That way, if you do accidentally click on a scammer’s post, you will likely be warned that you are about to visit a suspicious site.
  • Look for the blue checkmark. Many social media platforms verify pages from brands and celebrities so that users can decipher real pages versus copycats. Make sure you look for that trust mark before liking and sharing content.

For more information on avoiding scams, visit BBB.org and to report a scam visit BBB.org/scamtracker.

By Kelvin Collins
President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, Inc.

Fall Reimagined

People

Augusta Symphony is making new arrangements for its 2020-21 concerts.

Musicians are creative by nature, and the Augusta Symphony will use its imagination this fall to launch the 2020-21 season. The first half of the season, Fall Reimagined, will reflect the signs of the times while still entertaining audiences with the orchestra members’ talents and professionalism.

“Our fall season, though very different than anticipated, will be thrilling,” says Dirk Meyer, music director. “The works we have chosen to perform are fantastic, and I’m excited that we can feature some of our very own musicians as soloists for these concerts. In addition, we came up with a very creative solution to get our patrons involved.”

For Fall Reimagined, the concerts will be limited to current subscribers and will allow for physical distancing. Because fewer patrons will be allowed in Miller Theater at one time, subscribers have three options to enjoy the symphony performances. They can attend the evening concert; they can attend the afternoon dress rehearsal; or they can watch via livestream.

In addition, smaller orchestras will perform in shorter, intermission-free programs.

“We have created a system and programs though which we can limit the amount of people on stage, as well as in the hall,” Meyer says. “This way we are able to perform safely, with social distancing in place throughout the performance. Additional safety measures such as masks are in place throughout the Miller,”. “The key was to create programs that use a smaller orchestra, so that we can ensure enough space between each musician while performing. Thankfully, the chamber orchestra repertoire is vast and filled with fantastic compositions.”

The fall concerts include two performances next month – Smaller Mahler at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 2 and A Little Night Music at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 30.

Smaller Mahler will feature Jessye Norman-mentored soprano Laquita Mitchell, and the performance will include Montgomery’s Strum, Barber’s Knoxville Summer 1915 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

Musicians for A Little Night Music will include Anastasia Petrunina on violin, Brian Lyons on oboe and Brian Winegardner on trumpet. The concert will include Assad’s Impressions, Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Albinoni’s Trumpet Concerto and Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

In-person Pops! concerts will resume in February, and the next performance in the Family Concerts performance will take place in May. However, patrons who had purchased subscriptions to these series will have access to two exclusive digital concerts – Movie Music Pops! and Holiday Pops! – in their own homes this fall. These concerts will be recorded in October.

“The past few months certainly have tested all of us like never before,” says Meyer. “For performing artists, this is especially true. It has been very difficult to see all our performance opportunities vanish, one after another. For many, that has created enormous financial hardships. Additionally, it is a strange feeling to not be performing – like losing a very important part of yourself.” Once it became clear that we would not be able to start our season like we anticipated, we immediately got to work on a backup plan. And I think we came up with some very exciting ideas.”

The Passion concert from the 2019-20 season, which was rescheduled from March 28 to September 17, has been postponed again to Thursday, May 20. The recording project of Miguel del Aguila’s music will continue at that time.

Ticketholders for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Film with Live Orchestra and Brass Transit: The Music of Chicago should expect to see those performances reprogrammed to the 2021-22 season.

Single tickets will not be available for purchase for the fall concerts. However, single tickets for the winter/spring 2021 concerts will go on sale November 2.

Monovision — Ray LaMontagne

Listen To This

Released this summer by veteran singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne, Monovision is a self-contained freight train of surprise and milestones.

LaMontagne’s signature analog approach to recording has been a result of his distain (and lack of patience) for computer-tweaked, digi-fab concoctions. But what started as hesitantly embracing a digital demo process brought forth an unexpected sonic epiphany, with LaMontagne writing all the tunes, playing all the instruments and then solo engineering and producing the 10-song collection.

With a digital DIY mindset and a room full of instruments, LaMontagne found himself crafting some of his most expansive and impactful music to date. Each track was birthed through a simplistic demo-style regimen, and by self-experimentation and instrumentation, he found the purest beauty and creativity within himself that had never been tapped.

Each track reveals the journey of conceptual inspiration over the bridge to a beautifully encapsulated fruition of folk authenticity.

For those who are considering taking up a new hobby or exploring untapped superpowers in these days of isolation, may Monovision be your pro-vision.

– Chris Rucker

Free Music Therapy

Buzz

Everyone knows that music can be therapeutic, but Augusta Symphony is taking that R&R factor to the next level. 

The symphony is one of just 18 orchestras and youth orchestras nationwide to receive a $30,000 grant from the League of American Orchestras American Orchestras’ Futures Fund, made possible by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

 The symphony is expanding its free music therapy program to include a mindfulness-based music therapy initiative. 

Symphony musicians and university students will provide live music for group therapy sessions, facilitated by Augusta Symphony’s music therapist, that focus on guided relaxation, imagery and mindfulness practices to positively affect the lives of participants such as those suffering from chronic illnesses as well as community members interested in self-care and wellness.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Literary Loop

According to Shakespeare scholars, the names Hamnet and Hamlet were interchangeable in Elizabethan England. In the 21st century, novelist Maggie O’Farrell — interested in determining the connection — recreates a fictional account of the short life of Shakespeare’s son.

A young Latin tutor — penniless and bullied by a violent father — falls in love with an eccentric young woman. She is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known for her gifts as a healer. Once settled with her husband in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever from the bubonic plague.

“This novel is at once about the transfiguration of life into art — it is O’Farrell’s extended speculation on how Hamnet’s death might have fueled the creation of one of his father’s greatest plays — and at the same time, it is a master class in how she, herself does it,” says the New York Times Book Review.

“So gorgeously written that it transports you from our own plague time right into another and makes you glad to be there,” says The Boston Globe.

Magic Touch

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

A Grovetown couple deftly weaves wit and whimsy, texture and timelessness into their eclectic Grenelefe Park home.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. Just don’t expect to find things where you think they belong in the Grenelefe Park home of Imogene and Chuck Ford.

Imagination reigns in this Grovetown house where the Fords have a piano in the breakfast room, a hutch in the master bath and a sideboard in the master bedroom. And why not?

After all, the breakfast area doubles as a game room where the Fords play cards and board games; a hutch can hold towels just as easily as it can hold dishes; and the sideboard is the perfect complement to the other bedroom furnishings.

“I like to take pieces and use them in a different setting,” says Imogene.

Right Place, Right Time
The Fords were ready for a different setting of their own after living in the same house for 28 years, so they decided to build a larger house with a smaller yard. They fell in love with Grenelefe Park and built one of the first houses in the neighborhood six years ago.

“We had never built before. I had heard nightmares about building, but it was fun. We thoroughly enjoyed it,” Imogene says.

Chuck agrees. “This was our one and only house to build, and we hit the jackpot,” he says.

The Fords feel blessed to have found the neighborhood, and they gave the home their own special blessing as well.

“When the house was going up, my cousin gave me the most wonderful idea,” says Imogene. “She suggested we write scriptures on the framework.”

The scriptures include two of their favorites – Philippians 4:13 and Micah 6:8. Although they can’t see the writing on the walls, many cherished mementoes – from Imogene’s cross stitch pictures to Chuck’s collection of clocks –  are on full display in the house.

The 102-year-old – and still functioning – clock on top of the chest in the foyer belonged to Chuck’s paternal grandmother. “She kept it on the mantel in their house in downtown Augusta,” he says. “My grandfather gave it to her on their second wedding anniversary.”

Imogene and Chuck gave each other a clock for their 10th anniversary, and it hangs in the living room. Chuck’s father bought the Ridgeway grandmother clock in the back hallway 60 years ago. “I had it redone and got it back in shape,” says Chuck. “It has a beautiful sound to it.”

In his study, he has a replica of an old DuPont clock like the ones in schoolhouses along the Delaware River in the 1800s. Chuck winds the clocks about every four days, and when they start chiming at night, the Fords don’t even notice.

The Fords also have lots of insects in the house, but they’re no cause for alarm. In fact, they’re a feature, not a bug. “I like little creatures,” Imogene says.

Of course, her little creatures – from dragonflies to bumblebees to grasshoppers – aren’t real. The bugs might be strategically placed decorative metal pieces, or their likenesses might appear on pictures or pillows.

“The house is very eclectic,” says Imogene. “I like the cottage-y, garden look. I don’t do formal at all. I like a little whimsy.”

Other common features in the house include heart pine flooring and five-paneled doors. “Chuck picked out the doors because the doors in his grandmother’s house were like this,” says Imogene.

The arched front door, which is framed by an arched, stacked stone entryway to the front porch, makes a statement as well. “We designed the porch around the door,” Imogene says.

With the potted plants, mixed textures and charming décor of the porch, some visitors might feel content to stay put and never go through the front door. Two black rockers offer the perfect place to sit a spell, and a round wrought iron table is sandwiched between the chairs.

A distressed lantern and a lamp with a tan and beige buffalo-checked shade sit on the tabletop. Greenery spilling out of a planter catches the attention of a metal turtle and a metal dragonfly.

A black turtle-shaped footstool rests between the two rockers. “That is a treasure for me,” Imogene says. “My Uncle Charlie made it for me when he was 93 years old.”

The front porch also features shake shingle walls, a bead board ceiling and acid-washed concrete flooring – a fond reminder of Charlie, who passed away last year, as well.

When he saw the “stains” on the concrete floor, he generously offered to find a pressure washer to clean it. “I said, ‘I think we paid good money for that,’” Imogene says.

Defined Spaces
Inside, the charm and creativity continues from the foyer to the screened-in porch on the back of the house. Although the Fords didn’t need a lot of new furniture for the house, they bought something for the foyer.

Imogene, who likes to shop at consignment and antique shops, found the perfect piece – a wood chest, which features drawer pulls carved into the shape of grape clusters. She also made a decorative “F” out of Styrofoam and faux boxwood and hung it above the chest with a ribbon of burlap. A spindle chair with a low, rounded back is tucked at the end of the hallway.

The adjoining living room features a raised hearth fireplace with a slate surround. “There were two things I wanted that I never had – a fireplace and a screened porch,” says Imogene. “We use both of them a lot. We use the whole house.”

Two woven seagrass chairs and a matching footstool are mixed in with an upholstered couch and a leather chair, and a natural woven rug lies on the floor.

The Fords have a number of paintings of rural churches throughout the house, but the one in the living room has special significance for them. This painting depicts their church, Liberty United Methodist, which was built in 1804.

“To put that in perspective, Thomas Jefferson was president at the time, and a year earlier, he sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition,” Chuck says.

An Appling man, who made furniture in the 1980s and early 1990s, built the pine coffee table in the living room. In fact, the Fords have several pieces that he made for them.

“We could take him a picture of a piece of furniture that we liked, and he would build it,” says Imogene.

A wide entryway leads from the living room to the dining room.

“The original house plan called for this to be an open space,” Imogene says. “But I like defined areas, so we put up walls with big openings so the house still flows.”

In the dining room, an old farmhouse pine table is lined with a trio of Windsor chairs on each side. A woven seagrass chair sits at each end, and another woven natural fiber rug lies beneath the table. A pinewood server with a drawer and two open shelves provides plenty of storage space, and Imogene made the hydrangea wreath that hangs above it.

A striped wing chair with a dragonfly pillow is nestled in a corner of the room, and the iron chandelier features branches, crystals and six candle lights.

“I just love the branchy, woodsy look of the chandelier,” Imogene says. “And I love pillows. You can change a room instantly by putting different pillows in it.”

Open-Door Policy
The kitchen features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a tile backsplash and a walk-in pantry.

“I like the open area of the kitchen. So many people can be in it at the same time, and we love the bar,” Imogene says. “I like people sitting and talking to me when I’m in the kitchen, but Chuck is more of a cook than I am.”

Baskets for everything from dish towels to pairs of glasses line the countertop. “I love baskets. I love woven things. I love texture,” says Imogene.

Her cousin painted the oil still life of pears in the kitchen and gave it to them as a housewarming gift.

More artwork can be found in the breakfast room, where a trio of oil paintings by their late friend and Augusta artist Maggie Meldrum is stacked on a wall. The scenes were painted on cutting boards that are hung by a loop of thick rope. Another “Maggie” on pegboard, a scene from the corner of Broad and Eighth streets in Augusta, was a wedding gift to the Fords.

A church painting hangs above the piano in the breakfast room, and Imogene made the hydrangea arrangement on the piano.

“I’ve always enjoyed decorating. When I was growing up, our house was always nicely decorated,” she says. “As a girl, I loved looking at house and garden magazines.”

The Appling furniture maker built the pine sideboard in the room, which also features a natural woven rug. A green wreath hangs on one of two double doors leading to the screened-in porch, but the Fords usually keep the door open.

The study, which includes a built-in desk and built-in book shelves, is Chuck’s favorite room. A Civil War buff, Chuck has two prints of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and another print from the war on a wall. The shelves are full of biographies and Civil War books.

Furnishings include a leather recliner and a TV. “This is the most utilized piece of furniture in the house,” Chuck says of the recliner. “A chair, a remote and a television. That’s all I need.”

Imogene made sure she got what she needed from the room as well. “He can close the door, but I put glass panes in it so he can’t hide too much,” she says.

Quiet Places
One of the guest bedrooms includes a pine two-poster bed and a pine desk that were crafted by the Appling furniture maker. A wicker storage trunk sits at the foot of the bed, which is covered by a yellow and white buffalo-checked comforter.

A wheat sheath wall hanging is behind the bed, and more “Maggie” paintings hang on other walls.

A second guest room features a four-poster bed with a black and white buffalo-checked skirt and a gray and white floral comforter. A chair upholstered in black and white buffalo checks and a floor lamp occupies one side of the bed, and a chest that belonged to Chuck’s mother sits on the other side.

“Chuck painted the chest black for me, and I put glass knobs on it,” says Imogene. “His nephew couldn’t believe that we painted it black. Now the joke in the family is that Joey will not be at my funeral because he will be stripping the chest.”

A pocket door from this bedroom leads to the guest bath, which includes tile flooring, a vessel sink, an oil-rubbed bronze faucet and a transom window above the shower/tub. A chair rail tops bead board on the walls.

Another rural church painting hangs across from the sink, and rolled towels fill a vintage metal laundry basket on wheels.

The master bedroom features a four-poster bed and a sitting area with a couch and a butler’s table. Prints of Squeaky’s Tip Top and Augusta Coca-Cola Bottling Company hang above the couch, and Chuck’s bronzed baby shoes stand on the sideboard.

In the adjoining master bath, the Fords installed the walk-in tile shower where a garden tub was supposed to be. The pine hutch, also made by the Appling furniture maker, occupies the original spot for the shower.

“In our old house the hutch was in the kitchen and filled with dishes,” says Imogene, “but I always imagined it with towels in it for some reason.”

With hardy board walls on two sides, the screened-in porch also includes wicker furniture, a ceiling fan, acid-washed concrete flooring and lots of plants. Chuck’s daughter painted the floral acrylics on canvas that hang by green ribbon on one wall, and a “man” made out of terracotta pots occupies the top of a wicker plant stand.

“The screened-in porch is one of my favorite places in the house,” says Imogene. “We can use it year-round.”

The Fords have a beautiful backyard garden enclosed by black wrought iron fencing, and they call it “Sadee’s Yard” in honor of their Jack Russell and rat terrier mix that died in January at age 13.

Filled with plants such as hostas and zinnias, the garden also features a brick patio, brick pathways, a bistro table and chairs, a red Adirondack chair and a tall white birdhouse.

Chuck enjoys taking care of the yard. “I’m meticulous about everything. I like for it to be neat,” he says. “Doing the yard is a real joy for me. I can do it in 30 minutes. The responsibility is small, yet we have a nice, roomy house.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Set in Stone

Travel

Photography by Rhonda Hall

If you build it, they will come. The Rock Garden in Calhoun, Georgia is a testament to that.

If you’re looking for a relaxing way to spend an early fall afternoon, then you might want to consider visiting Paris’ pre-fire Notre Dame Cathedral or the Colosseum of ancient Rome. Yes, we know you can’t travel back in time and that air travel to Europe is restricted now because of the coronavirus pandemic. And you can hardly visit Paris or Rome in a day.

However, we know a secret. Tucked behind the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Calhoun, Georgia, The Rock Garden: A Place of Prayer, is home to more than 50 miniature stone structures, including the Notre Dame and the Colosseum. And since a car trip to Calhoun just might be the next-best thing to international travel these days, the peaceful little place, which is not more than an acre in size, is waiting.

“It’s designed as a nice, quiet place for people to come admire nature, meditate and think about their creator,” says Mike Miller, maintenance manager of The Rock Garden.

While the setting might be humble, visitors nevertheless should prepare to be impressed.

Solitude and Serenity
The intricate mini structures are made out of tiny stones, pebbles, shells, odd pieces of broken glass and china, ceramic tile, wire, cement and other craft materials. The creations also include other cathedrals, a monastery, castles, towns and bridges, and they’re all designed to mimic their larger counterparts. They share another common characteristic as well.

“All of the structures are from medieval times,” Miller says.

In addition to the Notre Dame – complete with stained glass windows, of course – and the Colosseum, a stroll along the stone garden paths leads to other historic places. Visitors can get a glimpse of a diminutive Dover Castle, a fortress that is known as the “key to England” and has played a crucial role in the country’s defense for more than nine centuries.

They can explore the little town of Bethlehem, which took a year to build, or Nottingham, where legendary outlaw Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. Paris, the City of Lights, when it was merely a village, is represented as well.

A replica of Japan’s Himeji Castle can transport visitors to East Asia. Also known as White Heron Castle because of its elegance and white appearance, the structure is widely considered as Japan’s most spectacular castle for its imposing size, beauty and well-preserved grounds. Unlike many other Japanese castles, this feudal building never was destroyed by war, earthquake or fire and survives to this day as one of the country’s 12 original castles.

An unfinished replica of Jerusalem also is underway. While construction has been put on hold, Miller says it could resume in the fall.

Some of the other constructions have religious themes as well, and some places have scriptures inscribed in walkways or walls. The Ten Commandments tablets are embedded, broken, in one of the walkways.

“We also have painted rocks with Bible verses and promises on them to emphasize God’s love,” Miller says.

The Rock Garden is a great place for a family outing, or – just in case you haven’t had enough me time lately – it’s the perfect spot to find a little bit of solitude and serenity. While you might be alone with your thoughts, however, you’ll still have some company with you.

If you peek inside the buildings, you’ll see porcelain people in various rooms and nooks and crannies of the tiny structures, and porcelain animals dot the landscape. Some of the figures are only 2 inches tall.

Self-Guided Fun
The whimsical garden is the brainchild of DeWitt “Old Dog” Boyd, a California native who started creating the tiny villages for his eight children as a family game. Each time his family moved, he would reconstruct a tiny village for his children. He also made an alter-ego porcelain figure for each child.

“He was a sculptor by trade, and he would make intricate little figures,” says Miller. “This started as an amusement and a hobby for him.”

In 2007, the self-described “scoundrel” started the rock garden to keep himself “out of trouble.” Later, his wife, Joyce, joined him in his efforts, and she started building most of the structures in 2014 while he concentrated on the porcelain figures. The couple has since moved to Mississippi, but their children and 20-30 grandchildren have carried on the tradition.

“DeWitt was not trying to emphasize anything in particular,” says Miller. “He had no master plan. He just got permission from the church to start building there. The only thing he followed through on was the medieval setting.”

Originally, the tranquil spot was intended to be a prayer garden. However, it was renamed The Rock Garden because of 1 Corinthians 10:4, which says “. . . that Rock was Christ.”

Visitors can forget their troubles as they roam through the rock garden on self-guided tours, and free, onsite parking as well as picnic tables also are available.

Depending on the season, garden flowers include roses, hydrangeas, clematis, ferns and hostas. In addition, visitors can walk on a shady, 1-mile, unpaved trail behind the garden. The trail runs along a creek, up a steep hill and down the other side to the opposite side of the garden.

The property also includes a pavilion, which serves as a music or a wedding venue, and an enclosed Prayer Place. Hearts with the names of couples who were married in the garden are embedded in the rock walls that surround the Prayer Place.

About 300 to 400 people a week visit The Rock Garden, says Miller, and they come from all across the country.

“The Chamber of Commerce says it’s the biggest draw in the city,” he says.

If You Go:
What: The Rock Garden: A Place of Prayer
When: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., seven days a week
Where: Seventh-day Adventist Church, Highway 53 South, 1411 Rome Road SW, Calhoun, Georgia
How Much: Free, but donations are accepted
More info: (706) 629-5470 or The Rock Garden Facebook page

By Morgan Davis

 

‘All About the Storytelling’

People

Photos courtesy of Mark Albertin

Regardless of the type of camera he has in his hand, a local documentary filmmaker and photographer loves to preserve special moments in time.

Growing up in Wisconsin, Augusta resident Mark Albertin knew little about the South other than the often distorted portrayal he saw of it on film and television. However, his maternal grandmother was born and raised in Augusta, so he had a connection to the region.

He moved to Georgia in 1986, but he strengthened his ties to the South even more when he made his first video – a tribute to his grandmother – as a birthday gift for his own mother years ago.

“It all comes back to the roots of where it started,” says Albertin. “I never met my grandmother, but I wanted to know who she was. My mother talked about us like we were soup. She said we came from good stock.”

As it turns out, that dive into his ancestry was a gift to himself as well. After making the video, Albertin started Scrapbook Video Productions in 2000 to produce documentary films. He made a $30,000 investment in equipment, including a high-end video production camera and editing equipment, to start the business.

“I was bitten by the bug, and I wanted to do bigger and better things,” he says. “It allows me to do the projects that I want to do.”

Many of his productions, which range from stories of towns to noted individuals, have aired on PBS and received awards from film festivals across the country. His newest film, Finding Home – 20th Century Voices of Augusta is slated to premiere late this year or early next year. Albertin had planned to hold the premiere in August at Imperial Theatre, but it has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This film is a revised version of Augusta Remembers, which aired on Georgia Public Television in 2000. For the original documentary, Albertin interviewed his grandmother’s contemporaries about life in Augusta from the early 1900s to the 1940s. In Finding Home, Albertin has added interviews with local residents about living in the area from the 1950s through the 1980s.

“The documentaries that include oral histories are essential. We need as a nation to listen to our older people,” Albertin says. “It gives us comfort and support and makes us feel better to know that other people lived through hard times.”

School of Hard Knocks
Albertin, who also is a professional photographer, is a self-taught filmmaker. His original skill set is in color separation for the four-color printing process. That process is flat and two-dimensional, he says, so he started attending video boot camp training classes in Atlanta and Charlotte in his spare time.

In addition, he says, “I went to the school of hard knocks where you’re up until three in the morning trying to figure something out.”

Like many documentary filmmakers, Albertin says, he followed the lead of celebrated documentarian Ken Burns, who uses archival footage and photographs, to transform a film from a product with boring narratives and static images into something more compelling.

“Ken Burns showed us that you can use voices, sound effects and music from the time period,” says Albertin. “The key is to pull people in, and you can do that with writing, sound effects, voiceovers and real people. The audience needs to engage with the film and feel a connection to the people and the subject matter.”

Albertin enjoys every aspect of filmmaking from adding movement, sound and sound effects to conducting interviews and writing the scripts. “It’s a blast to do this stuff,” he says. “It allows me to really be creative.”

He spends 80 percent of his time on video, 15 percent on photography and 5 percent writing. “I love all three of those things, and I find ways to mesh them together,” Albertin says.

He also likes to meet people and talk to them, and he has learned firsthand from people’s oral histories what it was like to live through trying times such as the Dust Bowl or the Holocaust.

“If these people are good storytellers, they take you somewhere you’ve never been,” says Albertin. “I can feel their pain when they tell me their stories. People in the twilight of their lives want to talk about their experiences for posterity.”

He spends a lot of time doing research and tracking down people, and he wants those he interviews to feel like they have been heard and respected.

“The people that know that history are the ones that are going to come and watch a premiere,” says Albertin. “The main audience that I’m appealing to is age 70-plus. To capture their stories and preserve them is a wonderful thing to do. The feeling that I get in my heart and soul is something I can’t explain.”

He often relies on narration early in his documentaries to set the stage, and he says the narrator can “make or break” a film.

“Each film has a different formula, depending on what the storyline is,” Albertin says. “Sometimes you start with the ending first. They’re not always chronological.”

Feeding the Senses
Some of his other documentaries include Displaced: The Unexpected Fallout from the Cold War, about the development of the Savannah River Site that displaced more than 5,000 residents in rural South Carolina communities, and Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay, about a literate slave potter who lived in Edgefield, South Carolina and wrote verse and poetry on his pots. He also has done a Remember series about various towns such as Augusta and Savannah in Georgia, St. Augustine and Jacksonville in Florida, Beaufort, North Carolina and Topeka, Kansas.

He made the award-winning War Stories – Augusta Area Veterans Remember World War II, in which he spent four years interviewing local veterans from all branches of the military to highlight their World War II experiences.

This project began as part of the Veteran’s History Project, which was undertaken by the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society to add to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. To collect these oral histories, Albertin went to Brandon Wilde and interviewed 20 veterans a day.

“You’re not going to get rich making documentaries,” says Albertin, who also does promotional spots and commercial videos. “It’s the satisfaction of preserving something and creating something that makes people laugh or cry.”

The reaction to his work is something that Albertin usually experiences secondhand, however. He says he never sits in the theater when his films premiere. Instead, he dispatches his wife to join the audience while he settles in the lobby.

Maybe he should rethink that plan, however, because his wife usually tells him he should have been in the theater to see the positive reaction to his films.

“When I’m gone, I will have hopefully left something behind that people can learn from,” says Albertin. “Film was, and hopefully one day, will become a social event again. I love film because you’re seeing two things happen. You hear and see, so you’re getting two senses fed at once.”

Documentaries need to be fair and balanced, he says, and he covers difficult issues such as racial injustice in his films.

“It’s something we need to see and hear. We need to understand that it can happen again, and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” says Albertin. “Everybody has their own angle on what happened.”

Blending In
When he photographs a subject, Albertin approaches it from different viewpoints as well.

“Photography is an extension of video,” he says. “It’s trying to tell a story with pieces in an artistic manner. It’s all about the storytelling. Sometimes one picture is all you need. Sometimes you need multiple pictures with multiple angles.”

His love of photography dates back to his childhood when he would borrow cameras from his father, who was a medical illustrator. And that interest “never went away.”

“I love going out and playing with old cameras. The results you get are totally different from digital,” says Albertin.

He prefers photographing landscapes to people because he finds it less stressful. “Those places are where I find peace,” he says of landscapes. “They’re getting harder and harder to find.”

He says it’s pleasant to go outside – other than having to lug all the gear around. He likes to capture the light or early morning dewdrops on leaves. When he goes into the woods, he usually is alone.

“You have to sit still for a while to blend into a setting,” Albertin says.

He is just as likely to shoot in black and white as he is in color, depending on what he wants to accomplish.

“To me, color is really at its best in the spring,” says Albertin. “Black and white is a more spiritual medium. I use black and white when I want people to notice the object and the composition. Black and white can do amazing things if you use the right filter.”

Whether he is making films or photographs, Albertin hopes his work provides people with an escape.

“I want people to be able to leave their stress, their worries and their problems behind and get into another place and see what I saw,” he says. “To me, that is another way to do something good.”

By Leigh Howard

Take it to Heart

People

Photos courtesy of University Health Care System

While covid-19 is a known respiratory syndrome, evidence is emerging that the virus can affect heart health as well.

The novel coronavirus has its name for a reason. From devising improved treatments to understanding its effects on the human body, the medical community is discovering more and more about covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. While covid-19 is a known respiratory syndrome, evidence is emerging that the virus can affect heart health as well.

“In cardiology journals we have seen volumes about the development of the relationship between covid and cardiovascular issues in the past six months,” says Dr. Mac Bowman, medical director, cardiovascular practices at University Health Care System. “That’s the acuity and majesty of an organized, scientific approach. We continue to learn.”

An Ounce of Prevention
People who are most at risk for cardiovascular ailments can be susceptible due to genetics or to lifestyle choices. However, Bowman emphasizes that the best way for people to avoid cardiovascular issues is to mitigate the risk factors that make them prone to heart disease.

Genetically susceptible people have a family history of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. While family history cannot be changed, other risk factors, which Bowman calls the “big four” — elevated blood pressure, tobacco use, abnormal lipid status and blood sugar levels — are modifiable.

Blood pressure readings should not rise above 134/84, Bowman says. As for tobacco use, regardless of the form, he says, “The appropriate amount is zero.”

Levels of HDL cholesterol (the good one) should be higher than 40 – 45 milligrams per deciliter – “the higher, the better,” and levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad one) should be below 85 mg/dL. “That has changed,” says Bowman. “It used to be below 100.” And finally, triglycerides should be below 150.

A fasting blood sugar should be 100 mg/dL or less, or a normal A1c, the average blood sugar level for three-months, is 5.7 percent or less.

Other modifiable risk factors, which have become more prevalent with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, are a sedentary lifestyle and stress that, in turn, exaggerate risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“This has turned most individuals, most households, most work places and most hospitals askance to the direction it was before,” says Bowman.

With more people working from home, lifestyle habits have changed. “Home is supposed to be a safe space where we do the things that make us feel warm and fuzzy,” Bowman says.

However, some people who have been spending increased time at home are more isolated or are juggling work, school and childcare responsibilities. They have gained weight because they’re eating more and making poor nutrition choices. They don’t sleep well, and their heart rate and blood pressure are higher. In addition, Bowman says, homebound people are watching coronavirus news coverage that can be “depressing, disheartening and frightening.”

“If you don’t have an effective way to deal with that, it can have adverse consequences,” he adds. “It’s important to face concerns honestly and forthrightly and face them with a plan.”

In Control
First and foremost, Bowman recommends that people focus on the things they can control to safeguard themselves from covid and other health problems.

“Social distance. Wear a mask. It’s not a political statement. It lessens your ability to infect somebody else, and it protects you,” he says. “Keep yourself in the best physical and mental shape that you can. Get fresh air; go outside; walk; dance; and take your medications.”

Even people who naturally are tightly wired can find ways to dissipate stress, and physical activity is a good way to relieve tension.

“Exercise in a fun and healthy way helps blood vessels relax and helps people burn off energy in a positive way,” Bowman says.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, people have postponed or skipped doctor’s appointments. However, Bowman stresses the need for cardiovascular patients to keep their regularly scheduled appointments.

“We try to identify evidence of a problem, and most importantly, we try to help them rectify that problem,” he says. “We do it as a team.”

At his office, like other medical practices, the staff has taken precautions to make patient visits as safe as they can. Social distancing and masks are required, and patients’ temperatures are taken. “We try to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” Bowman says.

For patients who are apprehensive about going to the office for an in-person visit, his practice offers video visits, telemedicine and phone calls to discuss lab results and medications.

“We try to give them options,” he says.

Patients’ family members currently cannot come with them to office visits, but the patients themselves often are the best advocates for their health.

“If you have a pre-existing condition, it’s important that you listen to your body,” says Bowman. “Especially if you’re in a high-risk group where you have high blood pressure, diabetes or you have felt pressure in your chest before, you can’t stay home and talk yourself out of being seen by a doctor.”

Cardiovascular patients that avoid treatment can suffer serious consequences. When people suffer a heart attack at home and delay treatment, Bowman says, they lose heart muscle and don’t get it back. This also could result in congestive heart failure later.

“People need to take care of themselves. Don’t delay if you have an issue. There are ways to be treated,” says Bowman. “The later we see you, the less we can do.”

However, taking precautions doesn’t take the risk factors down “to zero.”

“Just because you’re high risk doesn’t mean you’ll get covid, but you need to be more hyper-vigilant,” Bowman says. “And there’s twice the possibility you’ll have cardiovascular involvement.”

Covid and Cardio
The cardiologist says 20 percent of covid patients will have some enzyme elevation, which indicates that the virus has affected the heart muscle. For those who are at greater risk for heart disease, the probability of enzyme elevation jumps to 35 percent to 50 percent.

“The heart very early on identified itself as a strong player in this situation,” says Bowman.

The higher the cardiac lab abnormalities such as cell damage, inflammation or heart wall stress, he says, the greater the potential for cardiac adversity, including death.

“With covid, inflammation of the heart doesn’t mean it has irrevocable damage, but some people could have less stamina,” he says. “There are questions about the residual effects of people with moderate inflammation.”

If the virus attacks blood vessels, it can increase the possibility of a stroke. In addition, blood clots can form when small vessels in the extremities become inflamed.

“Because covid affects the blood vessels and everything traveling to the heart, it can cause life-threatening blood clots to the heart,” says Bowman. “Multiple organs can become affected, and they don’t show improvement.”

Research has shown that even athletes who have been infected with the coronavirus could be at risk for heart complications, he says, and there is a question of “how soon is too soon” for them to return to action.

Meeting the Challenge
Of covid patients, Bowman says, 75 percent to 80 percent feel bad for two to three weeks, and 10 percent to 15 percent require hospitalization. Another 5 percent to 8 percent go on a ventilator, with a minimal likelihood of getting off of it. 

Covid-19 has challenged physicians to try new strategies, the cardiologist says, and treatments have changed since March.

Initially, patients on ventilators laid on their backs. Now, however, they are put in a prone position on their stomachs, and they are improving faster. “In the covid age, it’s a routine part of pulmonary maintenance,” says Bowman.

In addition, he says, covid patients are being treated with the medications remdesivir and dexamethasone as well as blood plasma that has been donated by people who have recovered from covid-19. Patients also are put on blood thinners earlier now to treat complications of the disease.

Physicians are still learning about the virus, Bowman says. For instance, they have found that some people have T-cell lymphocytes that fight the virus and protect them from covid.

“The cells stay in the blood and have memory to attack covid, but we don’t know why,” he says.

However, Bowman calls herd immunity “potentially dangerous.”

The science is unclear if those who have contracted covid-19 are immune to future infection, and the intermediate and longer term consequences of the coronavirus are unknown. And, under a herd immunity strategy, those who are affected less severely by the disease still can pass the virus to the elderly and others who have a higher risk of mortality.

Bowman, who has been practicing medicine since 1977, believes testing and a vaccine are key to battling the pandemic.

“Getting quick testing is the next big thing we need to do, with results available in 15 minutes to two hours. Contact tracing goes out the window when it takes a longer time to get results,” he says. “Quick testing would be a usable weapon. We ought to have it. I don’t understand why we don’t.”

He is optimistic about the development of a vaccine as well.

“I believe as we get a vaccine, and we will, it won’t be an instantaneous answer. But it will be better,” he says.

The cardiologist believes people should have no reservations about getting the vaccine, but that people in high-risk categories should be the first to receive it. He also says he has never seen anything like this virus in all his years of practicing medicine.

“It’s real. It’s real. It’s humbling. It’s eye-opening. It’s challenging in every way, shape and form,” Bowman says of covid-19. “Everywhere you look, it has changed a norm. Doctors are no different. We need a level of insight, energy and humility. There is no comfort zone.”

Nevertheless, he is quite comfortable with his mantra to remind people to try to stay as healthy as possible until the pandemic ends.

“Six feet apart. Avoid crowds. Sunshine when you can. Regular exercise. Good nutrition. Wear your mask,” says Bowman. “And say your prayers – before, after, in reverse and upside down.”

 

By Betsy Gilliland

Roast Beef French Fry Wraps

Entrees

French Fries:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Slices of roast beef

Spicy Mustard Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon country-style Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook a bottom round or sirloin tip roast (for a juicy recipe, see our September 2020 issue) or use thick deli slices. Whisk mustard sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend.

Place oven rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil; set aside. Peel potatoes and slice into 1/4-inch-wide sticks. Place in a large bowl and add hot water so it covers potatoes by at least 1 inch; let sit 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry on towels as much as possible. Rinse and dry bowl the potatoes soaked in and return potatoes to bowl.

Drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. Toss to coat, making sure the spices and oil are well distributed. Spread a single layer on baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes until golden underneath. Remove from oven and turn fries over with a large spatula. Bake 5-10 more minutes until fries are as golden and crisp as you like. Wrap in slices of roast beef and secure with toothpicks. Serve with spicy mustard sauce for dipping. Makes 4-6 servings.

In the Money

Buzz

If you want to stretch your dollars, you’re in the right place. Columbia County ranks third among Georgia counties on a list of places where people can make their dollars go the furthest, says a study by financial technology company SmartAsset. Nationally the Columbia County ranks 231.

The study compares median income and cost of living data nationwide to find the counties where people hold the most purchasing power.