“Don’t you know this isn’t southern California….

“…what don’t you get about this whole seasons thing? This may be the South but we do have seasons you know, as in colder weather, as in frost and freezing temperatures…!!!! turn orange already for Heaven’s sake!!!!”


This is what I could be heard saying to my Kumquats yesterday, nice green little, unripe, orbs. What’s up with this tree, doesn’t it understand we don’t have all summer, in fact, Summer officially closes with the passing of Labor Day!

I bought this Kumquat tree two years ago. I wrote a post about it, and my meyer lemon tree, back in the Spring. Yes, Spring, when things were hopeful—then came the Summer of deluge rains and grey skies. Let’s just say the Lemon tree is now just a few shoots growing out of its former little trunk. Yet on the flip side, I’ve got to hand it to the Kumquat tree—persevere it has!

Remember how I told you that I roll these puppies back and forth throughout the winter??—outside on the sunny warmer days, back in the garage on the cold wet days??—and of how many times they have fallen off of their dollies in mid transport… sending pots, dirt, trees and Julie, donning her pjs, every which way??…as this is usually happening around 10:00 at night when I finally catch the weather report with the warning of freezing temps…..

But I’ve been bound and determined to nurse these babies to full fruit production!! The meyer lemon tree is bound and determined to die—which I simply will not allow . It may be sprigs of it’s once former self, but there will be lemons again—one day–despite the fact that I’ve only gotten 3 lemons off of the tree, ever.

The kumquat, well, for some reason, it thinks that late summer is the perfect time to form fruit. The first year I bought the tree, it was indeed late summer–and it was loaded with fruit. I waited and waited, checking it each and every day for the perfect time for my small harvest. August came and went, as did September…into October—-are you kidding me!!!??? Our first freeze is early November, I can’t have unripe Kumquats sitting around waiting to freeze.

Just days before the first freeze, I’m out plucking beautiful orange fruit along with the green orange tinged stubborn orbs. “Whew, just in the nick of time…” That first batch of kumquats was bound for my calamondin cranberry relish—of which I use kumquats as there is nary a calamondin within miles of Georgia. This is a top secret family recipe and essential for fall meals, not to mention a Thanksgiving Turkey.

So here I am, once again, beginning my late Summer/ Fall panic watch of the kumquats. And to top off my worries, look what I found while pruning the bushes….


Do you know what that is? It’s a wooly-bear caterpillar!—well at least that’s what I’ve always called them. Do you know what it means when you see wooly-bears this time of year? It is a sure indication that there will be an unusually cold winter. “DO YOU HEAR THAT KUMQUAT TREE?”

Be of Good Cheer

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller

(photograph: giant sunflower at the shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

I know what you’re thinking—“you’re wearing me out Julie, two in one day–not to mention those postings over on the ” the legion of door whores” and now the windows of “what light through yonder window breaks….”

Do you actually think I could leave you on a Friday on a sad note… albeit a note of birthday wishes and blessed redemption— but still with a sad taste in all of our mouths!!??

Heavens NO!!

It’s Friday for goodness sake!!!…. plus a Friday marking the start of a holiday weekend, not to mention the kick off to a season of college football—it doesn’t get much better—whoowhooooo!!!

So on this wonderful Friday afternoon, may I offer you a sun filled weekend spent doing whatever it is your heart desires—sans the labor…..that is if you’re fortunate enough not to have to go in to work—but even if you do have to work–here’s to blessings at work as well….

and incase you’re interested:
I know, I still hate the door title…but I love the doors…and now windows—–

Happy Birthday Mother


This picture was taken 30 years ago August 13th—the day of my wedding. Mother was 50 years old. Three years later she would lose a short but ravaging battle to cancer…at the ripe old age of 53, exactly how old I am currently.

She was as shy as I was gregarious. Her eyes a brilliant blue to my often changing green. Her southern accent was so rich and thick that it dripped and oozed off her tongue. If you’ve ever read any of my posts regarding my growing up and my family (Forgiveness one step at a time), you should then know that Mom was not the happiest person as life had not been easy nor overtly kind to her. Such is the life of a parent who lives with a mentally unstable violent child—in this case, my brother.

Mother died several years before my brother’s suicide. I often wonder how that would have affected her. I’ve lived with how it effected Dad but I think Mother would have handled it differently….but then again, who is to say? Mother gave up long before all of that anyway.

She was very pretty, the type of pretty girl whose dance card would have always been filled, as the boys always seemed drawn to her sweet, quiet, beautiful blue eyes. Even as my parents aged, I always noted how the men seemed smitten with her. But don’t get me wrong, Mother was not flirtatious or coquettish–she was too shy for such. It was just a quiet sweet demeanor and her strikingly ice blue eyes.

Despite all of her southern charm, which seemed to draw suitors to her as honey would a fly, she chose Dad. Go figure as that’s one for the record books!! But then again I’m being unfair—if Mother was still alive, I’m sure Dad would not be the dad I know today… and it should be noted that he was quite a nice looking young man.

Mother would be 80 years old today. As I noted in last week’s post “Mother the moon looks lovely tonight”—Mother turning 80 is hard to wrap my brain around because to me, Mother is in the above picture–trapped in time in a single image. I thought she looked so pretty that day in that dress—sadly three years later, we buried her in that dress.

It was not my intent to be morose or so sad in my reflection today—I had intended this to be short and sweet and joyful for this birthday tribute—but as I began typing, I was reminded of how much I have missed her.

Living more of my life without a mom than with a mom has not always been easy—as those out there who have also lived without a mother can testify. There are just certain little things a girl, and yes, even later a grown woman, misses without a mom to guide and direct–even if it is quietly from a sideline as if guiding by example only.

I lived with a great deal of anger towards God as I watched the cancer slowly and cruelly rob her body…there was a great deal of pain that was difficult watching. Then there was the anger of simply losing her—my mom. I was too young to have to take care of Dad plus she and I, after my moody angst filled adolescent life, we were just becoming good fiends. As a young married woman myself and young teacher, my own life was not in a good place…I was wrestling with my own up and down life when I was suddenly having to play grown up—

I look back on that time and of me as that younger girl—oh the things I wish I could say to her, to me, myself, from the perspective I am blessed having today. I lived with a great deal of anger for at least 8 years that I was cognizant of harboring. There was lots of self loathing. There was tremendous anger, anger that I kept a tight lid over.

My anger was directed at mother for giving up, at my brother for what I thought was his actually killing her—actually driving the life out of her. There was anger with my husband for not being supportive. Anger at Dad for not being strong and brave as I so desperately needed strong and brave. And there was anger at God for it all—for not healing her, for not stopping the pain, for letting Ed be Ed, for not letting Dad be the strong dad I needed.— for not taking me in His, God’s, tangible arms, which is what I so wanted from Him, my heavenly Father–all I wanted was so very much to be tangibly held by Him, my God….oh the list goes on….

It is thankfully on this 80th birthday for Mother that I can look at her picture and know that the anger is gone. No longer am I mad or angry at anyone for the loss. I have learned and grown so much since that time. I know that Mom has been with me all these many years, just in a different capacity.
I learned to forgive my brother, dad, myself, Mother and even God. Do I still get sad, perhaps even cry? You bet I do! There are days I miss her terribly, all these 27 years later…but there is also a peace—of which I cannot explain. Maybe that just comes with age–I’m just thankful it came!

When I was in the classroom, I often had students come to me seeking solace due to a crisis or loss. There was the usual anger over what was happening, several often verbalizing their contempt for God—I would say to them that God could deal with anger, as He is indeed a great God, being bigger than anything we could throw His way–He will not turn away, He’ll quietly wait. All this allowing me to then share my own battle with my anger and my own struggles with God with my hurting students—I explained how it was not God who had taken mother, but rather the cancer. Ours is a fallen world, and yes there is sickness, sin, bad things… but God, by way of His Son, has spanned the chasm between life and death….there, in the end of it all, is true Life—as I was living proof of such.

I had turned away, at least internally for at least 8 years—I had been what I thought was a strong Christian, and yet I went to a self imposed desert where I had many lessons to learn… all under the watchful eye of God my Father, who patiently waited—I went through the motions of life but I knew deep inside that I was not in a good place. I almost self destructed. No one knew any of this but for myself, as I carried on in my daily life as if all was rolling right along just fine—

I sought direct pray from my Godfather, an Episcopal priest. I had sunk so low in my soul that I knew I needed healing for my very core or I was doomed… I was slowly dying at my own hand by not letting go of the anger, the loathing and of the very deep hurt. The climb back up was not instantaneous—I’ve never been of the “poof” variety—slowly but surely, step by step….until I got to where I am today—blessedly so.

So Mother, it is still with a great sense of missing you in my life, it is with the knowledge that you have been with me every step along this long hard road, and it is with a now humbled heart that I wish you a very happy 80th birthday—
Thank you for my foundation, thank you for always loving me, even when I was not easy to love (ode to a teenager), and thank you for being my mom……

Getting back up in the saddle

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have…

(Photograph: praying mantis helping Julie trim the bushes/ Julie’s yard/ 2013)

…all the better to see you with my dear….”

As you can see from the above little caption, I have been pruning some overgrown bushes—things looked great back in the Spring…. Then remember there was that little mishap, or should I say mis-step—and suddenly there was “The Drainage ditch, the ER and a broken cookie”…remember that…eh? I shutter recalling it all….d@%n boot cast!!

Well, since the lovely Spring has come and gone, back when things were new and green, complete with the freshly strewn pine straw…which gave way to those cast filled 6 weeks of living a learning curve….well, things in the yard have gotten, shall we say, rather shabby. I will confess that I did turn my attention to the garden (that big soggy disaster which was at least flat), having had my bait of the bushes and that blasted pine straw—-Did you know that the last bail of straw I dropped, before stepping in that blasted drainage ditch, is still right where I left it under the tree??!! I think my husband has left if there purposely to taunt me…he filled the ditch you know, but there sits that sad looking bail mocking me… oohhh the injustice of it all…..

Then came the Summer of the monsoons, which seemed to come upon us so unexpectedly …wait, I know what you’re thinking …”Julie, I thought you lived in the deep south, there’s no monsoon season down there…” Would you like to bet?! That is if I was a beating woman—oh and speaking of… how do you like the DAWGS this Saturday over those little tigers of Clemson??? GO DAWGS….oh there I go digressing again….

I’m rambling on so because I need for you to be thinking about me today…I’ve gotten the four wheeler out, my little red cart is ready for pulling, rakes, hedge timers, clippers are all a go and now I’m heading back out—out to the abandoned straw, the bushes and the memories of a drainage ditch, the ER and a broken cookie—I’ve always believed that if you fall off your horse, you need to get back up and ride—well, I’m getting ready to “ride” today—-just pray there is no repeat visit to the ER….
Happy Trails

Do you know this man?

This is a post I wrote almost four years ago. Since that time my father has passed away
and in such, I have lost one more person who could answer a few questions.


No, of course you don’t. I wouldn’t think that you would know the man looking
out from a grainy ancient photocopied image, but if you do…
I’d love to talk with you as I have a bit of a mystery on my hands.

This is Captain Frank F. Crenshaw, my great-grandfather.
I always knew that he was heroic in battle during the Philippines Insurrection;
a fallout from the Spanish American War, in which he was gravely wounded
as he lead his men against an ambush attack in a battle known as the Battle of Puttol.
He eventually died from his wounds.

I always knew that he was buried in a historic cemetery in the west Georgia city of LaGrange
about an hour south from where I live now.
I’ve driven passed this cemetery for years,
always vowing to stop one day to find his grave.

And that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do one Sunday afternoon last summer.
I just knew his was one of the old historic graves with the elaborate decorative headstones.
No problem—I’d find it right off the bat…

Two hours later, having wandered all over an old historic cemetery,
in the heat of day on a hot summer afternoon,
watching for copperhead snakes hiding amongst the rubble of an old cemetery,
and sweating like a dog…I was frustrated like nobody’s business.
“Where in the heck is he?” I lamented to my husband.
Capt. Crenshaw was nowhere to be found.

He had come from a rather well to do family of the area.
He had received a war hero’s funeral but as to where his grave was currently located
was suddenly a huge mystery.
This made absolutely no sense.
“I will follow up tomorrow with a call to the city, to the county,
to someone who knows this cemetery!”
I declare to my husband once we get back in the car headed home.

I called Dad once I got home.
This is his grandfather, his mother’s father.
He had no idea as to why I couldn’t find the grave and was not as up in arms over
the ordeal as I was—and that may have to do with the fact that he never knew the man.
I never knew the man either, but you didn’t see that stopping me!
I was now bound and determined to find him!!

I called my dad’s cousin, his 88 year old cousin,
who is also a grandson to this war veteran.
This cousin is also a bit of the remaining family’s resident historian.
He too was stumped to the lack of a grave.
But I was getting the feeling there was more to be known about the other side,
this long lost soldier’s wife’s side of the family than his—-
which I’m sure is due in part to the fact that he died at such a young age and she went on,
albeit it as a widow for the rest of her life, to live a long life well into old age.

This actually all started really a few weekends prior as I was accompanying my husband
while he was on a quest looking for some recreational property as an investment thought.
We were in the vicinity of the small middle Georgia town in which my grandmother
was born and raised.
I talked my husband into to driving to the town so I could find the city cemetery
and look for the Crenshaw family plot.

I called Dad on my cell phone and he told me where the cemetery was located—-
sure enough we found it.
The town is so small, that finding a city cemetery is not too hard as it just
can’t be missed sitting in the middle of town.
I bound out of the car and within 2 minutes, I spot the Crenshaw’s—
my great-grandmother is buried here but her war hero husband is buried in LaGrange—
“that’s odd” I muse but I’m so taken with this moment of lineage discovery that I simply
file that thought away for later.

My great aunt and her husband, my great uncle and his wife,
another great uncle who died as a child, plus their mom, my great-grandmother are all here.
I take pictures of the graves and markers while feeling a sense of melancholy resignation.
History, family and mystery all buried in the ground before me….
some of whom I knew and others I had never known…
and yet these people were connected to me, as I was to them—
and that connection is in part as to who I am to this day.
Funny how that all works.

Now lets fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

I had let the whole grave marker search fall by the wayside during the winter months
as it seems other things just took over life.
I’d not thought much of it at all until a couple of weeks ago.
I had actually stumbled upon a number for the Troup Co Clerk of Courts which prompted me
to call inquiring as to how I could go about locating information about burial sites
in the city cemetery.
I was given a number to the city cemetery which I immediately called.

The man who answered probably regrets to this day having answered the phone after
I finish my story.
However he kindly takes my name and number and tells me he’ll “do a little research”
and will call me back the next day.
A week passes with no word.
I give it another go calling the cemetery office.
This time I get a machine.
I briefly recap my story, leaving my name and number.
Within just a few minutes the phone rings.
“Mrs. Cook, I apologize for not calling you back, but I’ve been doing a little research.
It seems your great-grandfather is indeed buried here, but…”
long pause…
“he doesn’t seem to have a marker.”
What!!” I practically scream.
“Well, for some reason, the family didn’t provide a marker.
Perhaps they were not in a position to do so.”
“Oh no sir,” I almost indignity respond,
“they could afford it if that’s what you mean.”

He proceeds to give me another number to the city archive museum of which
I immediately call and, once again, leave a message.
I later get a call from the city historian–a retired history teacher… of course.
I give him my story and he basically reiterates the story I know.
He has some old county local Domesday tome complete with deaths and burials.
Sure enough, Capt. Crenshaw is there,
or so states the book of books,
but as to exactly where, well that’s still up for discussion.
The million dollar question of the hour is–
where is he and secondly– why no marker– given his astonishing story…

And speaking of, here is his story…

My great grandfather, Capt. Frank Frost Crenshaw severed in the 28th Infantry, A Company.
He was a resident of LaGrange, Georgia.
He was first stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba, fighting in the Spanish American War,
with the rank of First Lt.
He was a member of Ray’s Immunes;
a regiment of southern men chosen specifically to serve in Cuba during the
Spanish American War.
It was thought that due to their being from the deep south,
they may be more “immune” to yellow fever
(what a comfort is the logic of our Government, but once again, I digress…).
His regiment was sent to Cuba where many of the men contracted “Cuban” fever,
what I am assuming to be Malaria.
At the end of the war, his unit returned to Georgia.
38 men from the unit died from the fever; my great-grandfather contracted the illness
but fortunately survived.
At the end of the war, his unit was mustered out.

The following year President McKinley appointed him to the rank of Captain
(which I am assuming was incentive for him to “re-enlist” in the then volunteer
branch of the US Army).
He was given command of A Company of the 28th Infantry stationed at Camp Mead in Pennsylvania.
His unit was immediately ordered to Payapa, Batagas Island, the Philippines,
where they were to take command of that particular Island as it had fallen to the control
of guerrilla insurgents.

On June 5, 1900, Captain Crenshaw led his men,
who had been ambushed during a surprise attack by guerilla fighters in the area of Puttol,
the Philippines.
This was a counter attack in order to quell the entrenched militia,
as it seems that one of the trusted local scouts, who was working with the American unit,
deceived the Americans leading them into an ambush.

The American forces fought off the attack, with Captain Crenshaw leading the counter attack.
Captain Crenshaw had his men to take cover but as he rose to lead the charge,
his horse being shot out from under him, he was shot in the head.
Gravely wounded, he continued leading the battalion until the insurgents were defeated,
at which time Capt. Crenshaw lost consciousness.
Only two of the men received wounds, with Capt. Crenshaw’s being the gravest.

He was now paralyzed on his left side and blind in one eye and had lost a considerable
amount of blood.
Evacuated to Manila, he was eventually placed on a transport ship for home,
but due to rough seas in the South China Sea,
the ship had to head to a Chinese harbor to wait out the storms.
Capt. Crenshaw reported of the deplorable conditions,
while aboard the ship, to which he was subjected.
He had received no proper medical care, no surgeries but rather placed
in the cargo hold in the engine room with the men who were held there as having been
labeled as “insane”.
Being paralyzed and in considerable pain, he was unable to care for himself.
He bribed a ship’s steward to help tend to his wounds.

Once docked in China, he again did not receive adequate medical attention.
Almost 2.5 months after being shot in the head, with the musket ball still lodged in his skull,
both blind and partially paralyzed,
the ship eventually docked in San Francisco.
Captain Crenshaw’s uncle had made the journey form Georgia to await the arrival of his nephew
and to procure him proper medical care.
For reasons I do not understand, he did not receive medical attention in San Francisco.
He was placed on a train where he made the journey across country and was immediately
taken to an Atlanta area hospital for emergency surgery.

Sadly Capt. Crenshaw died on the operating table almost 3 months after having been wounded and not properly cared for, yet while fighting to defend his country’s foreign interests.
Captain Crenshaw was only 28 years old.
He left a young widow of 24 with 4 small children to raise alone
(my grandmother being on of the 4 children).

He is recorded as having been the only non-political figure to have ever lain in
state in the rotunda of the State Capital of Georgia.
There was a full military train cortege that escorted the body,
which was led by General John B. Gordon,
taking Capt. Crenshaw from Atlanta to the final destination of LaGrange, Georgia.
Upon his death,
Captain Crenshaw was awarded the title of both Major and Lt. Colonel,
as was put forth by the President of the United States …
and yet he is in an unmarked grave.

The story is a re-cap from the letter I have just sent to the current commander of the 28th Infantry.
It seems The Office of Veteran’s Affairs will provide any war veteran,
who is currently buried in an unmarked grave, a headstone.
I called Washington inquiring into the grave markers but was told I would need to document
his years of service or either document his pension.
“Are you kidding me? 1900 is a long time ago”
hence my letter to the Commander,
as well as copies to both of my senators.
As I told all of them:

It is my desire to be able to provide a marker for this fallen war hero.
It is also my desire to inquire into his being awarded a medal of honor,
posthumously, for his service, leadership and eventual ultimate sacrifice for his Country.
My father told me that his grandmother, who was 24 at the time of the death of her husband,
who was tasked with raising the 4 children alone,
had to actually sue the US Government in order to receive his pension.

So as you can see, I have a mystery and a mission.

Maybe this all matters so much to me because I am adopted
and the concept of “family” is of keen importance to me.
Maybe it’s because this family of mine is disappearing—
only my dad and his two cousins remain of this once older numerous clan—
I sadly feel time is not on my side.
Dad can’t even remember from day to day what I keep telling him about all of this.

And maybe, just maybe, this all matters so much to me because this was a young man,
not even 30, who gave his life for his country who left behind a young 24 year old wife
who had to raise 4 small children all alone–
with only 3 surviving to adulthood.
His widow never remarried as she considered marriage to be so sacred that it was a one
time deal– how I admire that commitment.

It was this young soldier,
not so different from today’s soldiers,
who was a leader of a band of men who fought so very far away from home,
the furtherest fighting of any American soldier to date as we had yet to be involved
in either World War.
It is this now forgotten wartime hero who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave exactly
113 years ago today who I now owe…as I owe him, his wife, his children (my grandmother) the decency of the proper recognition for his sacrifice to this country.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.



Ode to a fleeting Summer

(photograph: butterfly in flight, Troup County, GA/ Julie cook/ 2013)

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

there is a fungus among us

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”
George Washington Carver

(photograph: a delightful, or rather deadly, little mushroom/ toadstool/ Troup County, GA/ Julie Cook/ 2013)

In this case, listening carefully can be done with either ears or eyes.

It was a glorious day. The sun was actually shining…a joyful sight indeed…. The giant, painfully white, fiery orb set off by the backdrop of a beautifully intense cloudless deep blue sky. I have to go back to April to remember when we actually last had a few consecutive days of sun without the torrential rains which have plagued us ever since…and then there is the humidity and temperature….what is this???
The humidity oddly low for August, as was the temperature….upper 70’s with the prediction to only reach the low 80’s today. A wonderful cool breeze…. this can’t be late August! Surely this isn’t Georgia in August?! This was Joy, plain and simple!!

We decided to take full advantage of the day! Sunday….a much needed day to worship, as well as a day to re-coop and re-group, all before starting the long 6 days (6 for my husband and his line of business)of work and school all over again. This day was a delightful excuse to head to the woods.

The four wheeler was loaded in the back of the truck as we headed south on the highway. We’ll use the four wheeler to traverse the dirt roads, the back roads, which will take us further back and further away from “the world”. We’ll then “park” the four wheeler in the shade of the trees as we hit the woods on foot. No worries, no troubles—just the sights and sounds of a precious undisturbed, true remaining forest.

“Don’t forget to spray” my husband warns. It might not feel like August and it might be a beautiful day for walking in the woods, yet this time of year, in the South, can be dangerous as well as deadly. We spray our boots and pant legs hoping to avoid the horde of seed ticks and the larger adults. Lyme disease, Rocky Mt spotted tick fever, you name it, I don’t want it. The other concern is for the rash of poisonous snake bites that have been prolific in Georgia this summer. Spray can’t keep the snakes at bay, only a good set of eyes and ears…. I was not comforted finding two sets of shed rattles when we stopped and got off the four wheeler.

My husband was busy with trail cameras. Obviously this was not just a fun little jaunt to the woods–there was serious business to attend to…such as placing trail cameras strategically throughout the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse or two of that all elusive trophy deer. For him, it’s serious business; for me, it’s pure enjoyment—

…So imagine my delight as I wandered off from the serious business of picking the perfect tree to tie a camera to….. simply to amble my way aimlessly deep into a wooded glen. With the dead leaves crunching crisply underfoot, I suddenly get a sense of a change of season—is Fall a slightly bit closer? Is that what I sense or rather “feel” in the air?? Do I see a slight tinge to the myriad of leaves overhead?

Whether you call it Fall or Autumn, either way, it is a time of year which beckons me back outside after months of dodging “the heat of the day” or as was the case this summer, the constant deluge of rain. It is a time that sends me in search of apples for the baking of pies and the making of cider…not to mention the beautiful colors which engulf my world—a palette of soft warm tones swirling about my head. There is a quickened up beat in my step after months of simply and lazily dragging my feet through the damp fresh mowed grass—-change is at hand and I can feel it!

I see that the long term forecast has the temperatures climbing back up towards the 90’s by week’s end—more like August I suppose. For today, however, I will bask in the possibilities of what will soon be—cool, crisp air, clear blue skies, falling leaves, muted tones…and pumpkins!

On this new day to this new week, rejoice in the possibilities, think of what will be, look closely around you for the signs of change. And if at all possible, get outside in order to enjoy the tail end of summer…before we know it, we’ll be talking turkey …..Happy week….

Sufferings, endurance, character = Hope

(Photograph: statue in chapel niche Notre Dame Cathedral/ Paris, France/ Julie Cook /2011)

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
― Saint Paul
(Romans 5:3 NRSV)

I know what you’re thinking……
How in the world, when one is in the midst of “suffering“, when life is hard, when there is sickness, worry, sadness, despair… how in the hell can one rejoice???…
—what twisted sort of sick individual can actually rejoice when life absolutely sucks??? How can one muster the strength in the midst of misery…

Well, you have two choices…either you roll over and die– or— you get up…you simply get up and you put one foot in front of the other foot and you keep doing that, over and over…. and before long you’re moving again……

The words here are true—for this is Truth. How do I know it’s truth? I’ve lived long enough to know it.

The result is indeed endurance
as in the hunker-down, I’m in the trenches, suck it up, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to roll, I’m in it for the long haul type of endurance.
This in turns produces what is known as character
as in if it doesn’t kill you–it makes you stronger, I’m the better for it, I’ve got hindsight and you don’t kind of character—

which all produces Hope

Blessed hope—blessèd assurance, the guarantee of the next step…as in there is in deed a next step…the fat lady is not singing, the sun is still coming up, tomorrow will still show up, I will smile again, I can smile again, there is another chance…..

I believe these words—
Yes, I have known suffering, sadness, misery…things have been bad, been tough, been scary… I’ve wanted to roll over and die—-but, and it’s a big but, I made a choice— I got up…I got up because I believed in something I could not see, I believed in Hope—I cling to that Hope. Hope is a promise—a promise of an inestimable Love….a Love that goes beyond everything, that’s greater than what my mind can comprehend or I have ever known…. Without that Love, without that Hope… there is no point….
to me, however, there is always a point—roll over and die—or get up—I say, get up!!

Morning Shadows

Shadow is the obstruction of light. Shadows appear to me to be of supreme importance in perspective, because, without them opaque and solid bodies will be ill defined; that which is contained within their outlines and their boundaries themselves will be ill-understood unless they are shown against a background of a different tone from themselves.
Leonardo DaVinci

(photograph: Crater Lake Rim Trail/ early morning shadows/ Julie Cook/ 2013)

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem to appear. Most often there is always something more than what meets the eye. Are you one who accepts things at face value or are you the type who prefers to ruminate a tad over what confronts you—mulling it over, chewing on the ol cud as it were…..?

I unfortunately, in my youth, was one to be a bit reactionary. I think that was, in part, because I tend to be one who feels deeply and passionately which often allowed my emotions to get the better of me. Hot headed and yet deeply and firmly committed, I was an “act first, think secondly” kind of person. That had it’s pros but it also had its cons. It was, and currently still is, a calling card of youth, inexperience and impatience. Maybe that is simply so because the youth have more energy ready to expand.

Time, fortunately, has been kind to me with regard to my reactionary ways. Mellowing with age has been a blesséd event indeed. Sadly and undoubtedly I have left debris in my wake—regretful acts and words–hurtful to me and others…. Thankfully the knee jerk reaction is no longer as quick as it once was (the torn ACL may have something to do with that, but I digress).

I have learned to wait, to look again, to look closely before jumping to a conclusion, going off the deep end, blowing up, raising the battle cry…as things are not, usually, what they first appear to be. There are usually various solutions to whatever is coming down the pike and it does not have to necessarily be one of anger, counter anger, violence or that of a battle.

And maybe the jumping to a conclusion too readily is also part of that immediate, knee jerk reaction. Time graciously grants hindsight and experience–enough to know that what first appears as one thing is most likely something else entirely—and as that is, there is a calm reason, rationale, explanation that is usually behind all the blustery bravado of the immediate presentation—that’s what age gives to us—a clearer vision and a calmer demeanor to better handle, cope with or deal with the current crisis of the hour.

So the next time you’re faced with something that seems to hit you on the blind side, something that appears out of the blue, or something that provokes you to loose your cool—your natural instinct is one of fight or flight—that’s how we’re wired, but instead allow yourself a few precious moments to gather your wits, weigh your options and consider the out comes–you might even surprise yourself as to how quickly something that had a volatile potential, shrinks like a fading flower.

Is it really what you think it is—or is it something else…..

“travel thirsty my friends”

“A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to travel through space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of the Earth. The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of the is;”
Marcel Proust—La Prisonnière

(Photograph: the door to a lovely home/ Zurich, Switzerland/ Julie Cook/ 2013)

One of the greatest offenses committed by those who do travel, of those who are labeled simply as “tourists” –is that they do not “see” the places and or sights of where it is a journey takes them through new eyes…that is to say as through the eyes of others. When any of us attempts viewing other people, other places, other cultures though our own eyes–that is through our own experiences, our own filters, we often walk away disappointed and even “less than” by the experience.

The tourist expects to be on the receiving end, to be entertained, to be catered to, to simply and quickly see the surface and just as quickly, move on to the next site or activity—they are receptors, not participants. They merely skim the surface and are often disappointed. The tourist is passive–just waiting for “it” to come to him or her and then very very upset and disappointed when “it” never comes.

The traveler goes open and ready; open to what may lie ahead during the journey. The traveler is ready for what the journey may or may not provide and is then ready to dig deeper if something is missed. The traveler is active, always seeking, not satisfied with what’s merely on the outside. They must go, they yearn to go, beyond what is merely seen on top—they can’t walk away until they know more…

Are you a tourist or a traveler—do you want to experience more from your journeys, your trips? Or are you merely satisfied with merely the top layer of life?

First— never be afraid of venturing beyond your own door, your own driveway, your own yard. If we live in fear of the what if’s; the chances of danger and harm, the mishaps…we run the risk of never knowing anything new or different. We miss the opportunity of making or finding a new friend, a new love, a new joy. We must be ready to go when called, to be open to the new possibilities—for the chance to go, to see, to experience is all a gift—a grand gift we give ourselves and the world.

Secondly— do not sit back waiting for “life” to come to you—it won’t. You must take an active role. You must be willing to get wet, get dirty, get crowded, get tired if you’re going to make more of any journey. Be open to new tastes, new sounds, new sights…then and only then can you truly say that you have traveled and are the better for it.

To “mis-use” a quote from a popular commercial—“travel thirsty my friends”