Out with the old, in with the new

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.
Dalai Lama

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(the pumpkins tossed sadly on the compost pile)

With the passing of a single day, all that was is now no more.
Autumn has been ushered out to the compost pile. The casual tossing out of the warm muted tones and the packing away of the drifting leaves, the crisp browns, the deep woods all in order to make way for the rather garish greens, reds and twinkling lights of a magical season for children, young and old, and of the wishes and dreams of both.

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With the turning of a month everything changes. Another transition leaving us feeling as if we are in a constant state of flux, ebbing and flowing with the calendar.
Time is now of the essence. It is a period of expectation, waiting and watching.
A single star shines in a cold clear night’s sky.
Life is about to change.
The world will lose the old self making way for the birth of hope and salvation.

Make certain that you make this time meaningful. Time is of the essence. Go beyond the shopping, the buying, the wrapping, the indulgence, the excess.
Be still.
Be quiet.
Listen.
Watch.
The birth of Hope and Salvation is at hand.

The brine, the rug(s), getting lost and a grateful heart

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
― Oscar Wilde

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(the blasted turkey sitting in it’s brining bag in the basement refrigerator)

Last Sunday afternoon I accompanied my husband to Lowes as he was in need of some bolts and caulking. I love going to Home Depot and/ or Lowes as there is always something that catches my eye..a new plant, some bird seed, new rugs. . .and that’s exactly what I had in mind—some new throw rugs for the kitchen as the existing rugs are in a word–nasty. They were cheap and have not withstood life in the kitchen of a cookie.

As my husband headed off to the nuts and bolts aisle, I casually mention I’ll be heading over to look at the rugs, catching up to him in a minute. “What?” he irritatingly asks / states— as in ‘oh no, we don’t need rugs, we’re not here to spend a bunch of money, no, no, no. . .’ —Of which I reply “don’t get bent out of shape, I’m just looking” (please note the inflection that is used by a wife who say’s she’s “just looking”)

I cruise the carpet aisle spying the giant rugs hanging vertically from the massive warehouse ceiling. Hummm. . . I pull a couple of the throw rugs and runners out of the their cubbies, laying them out on the slick concrete floor. . . Hummmm. . . I read a couple of descriptions, pull my phone out for a picture or two. I roll everything back up, putting the little rugs back in their appropriate bins before heading off to nuts and blots where I find my husband studying the various sizes of cement bolts.

As he finds what he came for and we begin heading back the direction of which we had actually entered this massive warehouse store, making our way to where the check out counters are located, I causally state that “I need to run back and check the prices of those throw rugs again”–I can actually feel his eyes rolling back in his head as I cut off for the rug section again.

We meet up at the check out. As we are leaving, pushing out his buggy that now has a
2 x 4 dangling precariously out the front, I causally throw out that “I just may come back tomorrow and get those little rugs for the kitchen.” Note the use of the word “little” strategically placed in the sentence. Silence in the resignation of new rugs.

Monday afternoon I happily return home from Lowes with 3 new throw rugs and one runner as I’m more than ready to move out the stained existing rugs. I sweep, mop, and sweep some more before laying out the new rug pads. Next I gingerly roll out the the new runner, smoothing it in to place then I lay out the 3 smaller rugs strategically placing each in its distinct place–one by the cooktop, the refrigerator,and the dishwasher—the three places I spend the majority of my life.

I step back admiring the colors. “Oh dear! Are they too busy?” I ask the cats. Percy immediately goes over to the runner and lays down. I take that as a sign of approval. Once my husband get home from work I clock him to see how long it takes him to notice, that is, if he notices at all. 2 minutes. Not bad, I’m thinking. And even better, he’s complimentary, he actually likes them. Relief.

Fast forward to Tuesday. I think I’m going to be really smart, I’m going to spread out this Thanksgiving cooking business over the course of two days verses making myself crazy by doing it all on Wednesday. Piece of cake, I’ve got this! Dad and Gloria have agreed to come for Lunch with our son and his fiancé coming in that evening— I’ll be cooking and serving in shifts, but at least, everyone will be here, albeit in intervals.

Last year I thought I’d mix things up a little by brining my turkey. I’ve never had a problem with my turkeys being too dry, I just thought I’d do something a little different, as brining does seem to be the vogue thing to do. Impart a little flavor and try my hand at something new and different.

I prepared the solution–a couple of gallons of water, ice, salt, spices, salt, apple cider, and did I mention salt? I get the 5 gallon brining bag in the sink, place my 20lb bird in the bag and gingerly pour the giant black kettle of solution into the bag. I seal the bag, heaving the now massively heavy bag into a roasting pan to help balance it as I prepare to carry it to the refrigerator in the basement.

I take maybe 5 steps from the sink when suddenly there’s a snap then a sickeningly slurping sound erupts, followed by the glug, glug, glug of 3 gallons of liquid cascading out all over my wooden kitchen floor, the new runner and 2 of the smaller new rugs. “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!” I scream for no one but me and the cats to hear, sending them running. I’m paralyzed for if I move, more liquid will flow. “NOOOOOOOOOO” “AGGGGHHHHHHHH” Surprisingly I don’t cry. I’m in a panic!!

The wooden floors, the rug!! AAAGGGHHHHH!!! Towels, I need towels! I run to get every bath towel we own. I proceed to sop up all the liquid before it destroys the floor. I pick up my new, now saturated rugs” – — did I mention that it was 34 degrees outside and pouring down rain. I run outside in the cold rain, throw the rugs down on the oh so wet driveway, pulling out the garden hose to wash off the salty solution now soaking into my new rugs. Any one driving by most likely thought I’d totally lost any brain I had.

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(waiting for the runner to dry out)

I lay the remaining towels, now down to beach towels, in the garage, dragging my now heavy soaked rugs in from the rain, laying them on the towels, layering other towels on top and proceed jumping up and down attempting to “blot” them dry as best as I can on a pouring down rainy day. Did I mention it was 34 degress?

Back inside I continue sopping up the salty solution, mopping the kitchen floor, more towels. Not to mention how many times I now had to run the washing machine. The damn turkey (please forgive my language, it just seems appropriate at this moment in time) is still sitting in the brining bag waiting for transport to the basement sans the brine. I pull out another jug of apple cider, pouring it over the turkey, reseal the bag and drag it to the basement. I eventually bring the rugs inside to the laundry room where I drape them over the dryer and washing machine and the heat vent hoping they will dry out by Thursday.

Fast Forward to today, Thanksgiving. The rugs are back in place, a little wavy and a bit shimmery, even after vacuuming, as the salt seems to now be ingrained. The oven is full of delightful dishes offering up heavenly aromas. The stove has simmering and bubbly pots of savory goodness. The table is set, Round I may begin.

The phone rings.
“JULIE?”
Hey dad are y’all almost here? Dad yells into his cell phone as if I’m on another continent and the connection is poor.
“NO, WE’RE LOST AGAIN”
Ugh, are you kidding me? They got lost last time. They’ve only been coming here to this house for the past 14 years several times a year. Gloria is not one for the interstate–an hour’s drive takes her 3 hours as she likes to go by way of Tennessee to get to our house.
“Where are you Dad?”
“THE SAME BAKERY WE STOPPED AT LAST TIME”
“Tell Gloria to stay were y’all are and I’ll be there in just a bit”
I cut off the oven and everything on the stove, grab my keys and off I go. I find them sitting in the parking lot of an empty bakery and just like the commercial, I roll down my window and holler, “FOLLOW ME”. . .

We won’t talk about Dad sneaking a drink of his favorite libation, of which he’s not supposed to have, and then of him practically falling asleep in his plate, but at 86 I can’t scold him too badly. Or of him biting into a chocolate turkey and breaking his partial. Or of the hour drive here which takes them 3 hours and yet they refuse for us to come pick them up.

We won’t talk about round 2 when our son and fiancé came for dinner and of how he and his dad got into a fuss over money and school at the table. We won’t talk about my husband dreading opening his business tomorrow as the madness known as “black Friday” brings him such discontent. Or of how hard it is to run a business and not conform to being open on holidays and on Sundays as nothing remains sacred in this country. We won’t talk about the things that worry us as parents for our children or as grown children for our aging parents or of how we will manage to make ends meet for them as well as for us and of what the new year will bring to the business.

There’s so much not to talk about and yet there is so much that needs talking about. . as in my being so so grateful. . .grateful for the fact that I still have my dad, that he and Gloria still manage to visit despite getting lost; that my husband who has worked so very hard to make his business survive given our country’s economy, keeps tirelessly working to make it a go; that I was able to retire after 31 years of teaching to “tend” to this family of mine; grateful that our son can attend college and that he will be taking the LSAT next weekend; grateful that I can have food on the table which is lovingly prepared to share despite brining disasters; grateful that there could be new rugs; grateful that I have a family, for good or bad, who loves and supports one another the best way it knows how.

So on this day of reflection and of Thanksgiving, with the clear knowledge that God has blessed me and that He has blessed all of us beyond measure, it is with a grateful heart, I say AMEN!!

The Penultimate or the Ultimate? Wisdom from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(tree in Julie’s yard that obviously is home to “someone” / 2013)

A daily excerpt taken from “I want to Live These Days With You”
A year of Daily Devotions by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
November 25
The seriousness of the world is death. Seriousness begins where the world stops, where it dies, where the world has a boundary. Seriousness also begins where our life stops, where we are no more, at the boundary of time. The frivolity of the world is in the moment, the penultimate, the desire of the world, as John says ( 1 John 2:17). Now it’s up to individual people whether they want to live seriously or frivolously in the world; whether they want to stay with the penultimate or press through to the ultimate; whether they regard the desire of the world as ultimate or transitory. With Old Testament power the word proclaims to us a memento mori: think about the fact that one day the world will come to an end, and you will have to render an account of your life. Then the moment of death will come over you with the certainty that the world is a world of death, and that nothing can stand up to the power of time—except the one thing: eternity–and that it’s all over for you and me. . . .Let us think about the boundary of the world and of time, and something wonderful will happen. Our eyes will be opened up to the fact that the boundary of the world, the end of the world, is the beginning of a new one, of eternity. Here time loses its power to eternity, and the ultimate thing in the world, death becomes the penultimate.

The highlighted bold ending is my emphasis as I find this to be our true Glory–that we may one day utter, with great joy and confidence, “death where is thy sting”
(1 Corinthians 15:55)— for death no longer has the final word. The Resurrection and the life offered in the Victory which was and is a direct result of that Resurrection, which was offered and continues being offered, for both me and for you— that is the final Victory, that is the final Word. That is the ultimate. Amen Amen

The text is taken from Bonhoeffer’s writings and papers from Barcelona, Berlin and Amerika 1928-1931

Functional or Decorative or both. . .

It is the mission of art to remind man from time to time that he is human, and the time is ripe, just now, today, for such a reminder.
Ben Shahn

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(one of Michael’s beautiful wooden cheese/ cutting boards with a couple of my kumquats)

When I was in the classroom, early during each term I always had the same discussion with my kids by posing this question. . . “what makes art Art? What is it that constitutes “art” as being what we perceive and define Art to actually be? Was it merely something pretty to look at, something aesthetically pleasing, something worth a lot of money, etc? Which would eventually lead to the discussion of decorative verses functional—eye pleasing verses utilitarian.

The kids and I would then examine the Arts and Crafts Movement sorting out the relationship the Crafts industry has with the Art world and of the role “functional art” plays in the bigger picture known as the World of Art. And just so you know, in this retired art teacher’s humble opinion–it has everything to do with “Art”

So imagine my joy upon discovering that a fellow blogger friend, who I met not long ago, is a woodworker—meaning he creates beauty from pieces of wood—and his beautiful pieces are of a high functional practicality. His name is Michael Laico of Michael’s Woodcrafts
http://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

I have typically been more of a painter of sorts throughout my life as painting, drawing, even printmaking, have been more along the lines of my strengths. I have always admired and envied those who are the 3D artists among us—those who sculpt and form material such as clay, tubes and sheets of metals, as well as scrapes and pieces of wood, into not only visual but tactile treasures. Michael is of the aforementioned category.

I love finding such treasures, especially in time for the holidays as giving gifts, those which are made by hand, possess both beauty and functionality—which in turn are the best gifts to give as well as to receive. They are both personal and useful, which makes them some of the more treasured gifts as they may be passed down from one generation to the next and in turn develop into family heirlooms.

Michael has a great blog where he not only showcases his woodworking talents but his aptitude for photography as well as his strengths in the kitchen as he offers a wealth of tasty recipes. But it is his gift with a lathe that sparks my eye.

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From cutting boards, to cheese boards, to rolling pins, to ice-cream scoops to even birdhouses, Michael offers a wonderful selection of pieces each individually crafted into not only functional pieces of rich beautiful wood but into pieces that are truly aesthetically and tactilely pleasing.

Of course I had to order a few items as Christmas gifts, but let’s keep that as our little secret shall we as I don’t want anyone finding that out too early ..

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So as I focus this week on the things of which I am most thankful for, I add Michael and his talents, as well as his desire to share those talents with someone such as myself, to my list of gratitude..as well as for the other very dear folks I have met and now consider to be wonderful fiends via this world of blogging.
Grace and peace to you all. . .

Before they were Pop and Nany or Daddy and Mama….

. . .they were Paul and Anne. . .

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During each of my weekly pilgrimages to and from Dad’s, it is a guarantee that I’ll be leaving Dad’s with more than what I brought. Be it some sort of item from either my childhood or his, it is all slowly tricking out of that house. Gloria seems most determined to empty that house of not merely things that were my mother’s or grandmothers, but of most things in general. It seems she is truly of the mindset less is more. . .much to Dad’s chagrin.

Last week it was the dinning room chandelier (nothing large or garish, but it was Mother’s) and two side chairs. The week before that it was 4 dinning room chairs and a clock. Before that it was a side table and a corner cabinet. I have thought that perhaps I need to open some sort of antique store as I cannot continue bringing home so much “stuff”. . .I cannot house the things that are essentially coming from 3 separate households!

This week was no different.
“You’re taking the hall painting this week right.” Gloria tells rather than asks.
“I thought that you were putting it back up after they finished painting the hall?” I ask more than state.
It’s a beautiful large early 19th century English landscape painting that was my grandmothers. It is something I’ve always loved but it has hung in our house for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t believe Dad was letting her “dispose” of it so easily as he’s always loved the paintings that Nany had procured over her long life.

It wasn’t the tables or chairs however that caught my eye this week, but rather a box of very old photographs and mementos. I’m a sucker for old pictures as they tell so many stories— long time forgotten. They are the physical and tangible evidence of the lives once lived by individuals who have long since departed this life–of those who have gone before us. They hold the key to so many mysteries and secrets and yet often create more mysteries than those that they solve. They are also visual links to our past—my past.

Once home I eagerly sat down to open the box–not knowing what wonderful treasures I’d find. It was an old box that was a precursor to a Harry and David’s holiday fruit box. Obviously it was a box of pears Nany and Pop had received years before I was even born as the post mark read 1955. Inside the box, inside this cardboard time capsule of my world before I ever was, was a treasure trove of very old photos, cards, announcements, report cards and newspaper clippings.

I don’t know why but every time I find something such as this, a box full of someone else’s lifetime, I find myself growing a bit forlorn, enveloped in a blanket of bitter sweet sadness. More questions arise and there is simply no one around any longer who can answer the growing queries. Who was this handsome young man? Whose children were these? Where is this house–does it still exist? Who’s that in the uniform and of which war was he sent? Endless questions which are now my present frustration.

Then suddenly, buried under the yellowing envelopes and fading memories, I spy a small, over exposed, little black and white image of a young couple in what appears to be a small canopied boat of sorts as the hint lies with the young man’s right hand resting on a throttle.

“What is this?” I hear myself inwardly whispering. “Nooo” I softly breathe as in disbelief. “Is this really them?” The year is around 1921, the year they married. I can see the ring on his hand so I know it is 1921 or a year or so later–no children yet, so it is before 1923—perhaps it’s from the honeymoon. They are but 25, the same age my son is today. . .a surreal image I grapple to digest.

On first glance I see a young couple, very much together. Then I begin to “study” the image. . . It must warm weather, most likely hot and muggy as the image is taken somewhere here in the deep south. He’s wearing what appears to be white pants and an unbuttoned loosely fitting white shirt as his sleeves are rolled up. He seems a bit shy and boyish but yet comfortable and in control in the “captain’s seat.”

She is shadowed, peering from behind, almost concealed in the background, something which will most certainly not be her style later in life. She looks cute and casual, almost tomboyish in the hat which covers her head. She’s wearing knickers with striped knee socks. Her round face always distinctive, which is how I quickly recognize her, yet I can’t make out the unmistakable clef of her chin–both telltale distinctive facial images–and yet there are no glasses– something they both were never without in later years.

She is holding, almost embracing him and resting her face gently against his shoulder. He is open armed as if he could or would simply turn to embrace her. She did not have a father growing up as he was killed in a distant war when she was only four—was this now the masculine figure she had longed for to fill a void in her heart that she never realized she had need of until now?

Never before have I seen, in photographs or in my memory, any sort of demonstrative display of tender affection such as this nor had I witnessed such in the time I had known them–nothing as tender as what is visible in this brief snapshot of time. I am deeply touched as I feel the warm tears filling my eyes as being privy to this seemingly intimate moment is very moving.

He died well before he should have. It was 1967 and he was but 66. She lived much longer, and sadly without him, dying in 1983 at the age of 87. I was 7 when my grandfather died so I did not know them as a couple for as long as I knew her as my grandmother alone. She had a terrible time the year following his death. We wondered if she would survive.

Ours was never a demonstrative family. We did not hug, we did not say “I love you” —that was all shown differently. Why was that I now found myself wondering as I stared at this picture. This pictures speaks differently. When did things change?

I never knew her to own a pair of pants as she was always in a dress and always impeccable. But in this picture there is a casualness that she never showed during the time I knew her–when we were kids, we were not allowed to wear bluejeans when visiting her. Prim and proper was the only way to describe her–a bastion of southern genteel society. But in this picture I see a young woman most comfortable and easy going–happy and content. Hummm. . .

In this photograph lives a time long before the long life which would lay ahead for each of them and of how it would eventually play out. This is a moment of “before.” A moment in time when they had no idea of what lay ahead–of where or of how life would take them. Nor that 92 years from the day their picture was taken that a granddaughter would come to meet them.

The photograph is tenderly sweet–they are such a young couple obviously very much in love. As this is the moment of “before” they have no way of knowing what it is I know today—I know how the whole story turned out and yet the couple in this picture has no idea. It is all so amazing–life and of its stories–the now and the thens. A single moment frozen in time, before a life time of a legacy was to take hold.

There would be two sons, two daughter-n-laws’ she outliving one of the daughter-n-laws; 6 grandchildren, two who tragically did not survive past thirty and again, she outlived; 8 great grandchildren and now 6 great great grandchildren. And so it goes. .

It totally blows my mind as I gaze at this couple who lovingly and mysteriously gaze back at me, their granddaughter. I am happy that I did know them together, albeit it briefly—I wish it had been longer, much longer–as there are now so many questions.

As we enter this week of Thanksgiving. I must give thanks for so much more than the obvious things–those tangible blessings. I want to offer thanks to Paul and Anne, who loved one another. Who had two sons, both of whom they loved as well. Who would claim me as their grandchild even though I was adopted. They claimed me as theirs, always. They did for me as much as they did for the biological grand children. I was theirs and they were mine. . .and for that, I will always be thankful.

The link this image has to my life today is as mysterious as it is joyful. I must take nothing for granted for it all is a gift, no matter how small and distant.
I leave you with the moving words and thoughts of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. . .

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

― Thomas Merton

Letting God be God

“Faith and repentance mean letting God be God also in our actions and being obedient to him precisely in our deeds”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Except taken from the Berlin Papers 1932-1933

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(image of a single remaining leaf on the tree we had “removed” this past week / Julie Cook / 2013)

Letting God be God is often one of the most difficult tasks we all face at some point or other in our lives. I know most personally that this is one issue which I most often face as I tend to be rather headstrong, often feeling the need to “take over” the situation or task in which I have asked for God’s very help.

I like to think this little tendency of mine is due, in large part, to the teacher in me—as the need to be the one in the room who is facilitating and leading comes rather natural. The person who directs and oversees the group. The person who is responsible for the lives entrusted to one’s care. With that responsibility comes the need to guide and care for. . .

Not surprisingly, when I take back whatever task I’ve attempted leaving in God’s hands, the results are most often a disastrous mess—I allow myself to get worked up into a terrible dither with a soaring stress level, when I could have simply “let go, in order to let God”–resting in the knowledge that He’s in charge, that “He’s got this” —-whatever the “this” may be.

Have you ever been in the midst of some situation which seems to suck the very life out of you as your time and energy is totally consumed and tied up in and with this particular issue? You are at your wits end both emotionally and physically. You feel as if you’ve done all you can do and yet things are no better than they were—when suddenly, thankfully, someone else steps up— someone with a fresh perspective who is full of energy—who is ready to give the issue a go as you find yourself reluctantly acquiescing, yielding to the new strength this person possesses which is what you lost long ago—you finally let go, sigh, and fall back. . .thankful it is no longer in your hands. . .?

It never has to get to that point.

If only we, you, I could learn to let God be God. . .

To let go, to be obedient in both our actions and in our deeds. A life long quest that seems to come easily to others than it has to me I must sadly report. But the glory of it all is that it is never too late, time has not run out, there is still time to yield, to turn, to begin the steps towards obedience.

But of course you can still hang on if you prefer, fighting the losing battle, being headstrong and defiant. If that is what you want you may certainly continue carrying the burden. . .but I would beg to ask “how’s that working for you?’ Are you being successful? How are the lives of the people around you being affected? Are you miserable with that miserableness pouring out to the lives around you? Sounds all rather toxic to me.

Learning to yield to God doesn’t mean that the trials won’t come as the obstacles to cross will still be there and the challenges will still arise—but the glory is that you, that I, are no longer alone. There is One who is greater as He sees the big picture, not your, not mine, micro image of the issue at hand but rather the entire issue from start to finish.

It can be such a relief if only you, if only I, let Him do what He does best—being Father, being God—I must constantly remind myself that God is the Creator and I am but the created. He’s got this—-I can thankfully let go. . .

Here is to walking towards obedience and towards a life of allowing, yes allowing, God, to thankfully be God. It is all a matter of our “allowing” as He will not demand and/ or take—He is indeed a gentleman, He will not take over unless we allow Him to.

Are you willing yet to allow Him to be God or do you still want to try your hand at that? I’m personally ready for a little help.

It’s all in the lighting

It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell.
If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity”
(1 John 4:8)
St Albert the Great

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The same tree, seen at three different times of day. The first two images were taken within minutes of one another as it was late afternoon and the sun was setting— yet still battled to shine through the cloud coverage of the day.

The last image was taken this morning after a heavy fog had rolled in during the night–obscuring vision, muting colors and dimming the morning light.

French Impressionist Claude Monet’s famous paintings of the haystacks at Giverny, as well as his paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, are all studies of how the lighting of the day, as well as the time of the year, can and will affect an image or landscape.

Once again, it is all in how one views something–be it an object, person or place, which often effects how the image (person, place or object) is then treated or regarded by the viewer. A pig wearing lipstick is still a pig, but give that pig the right lipstick and lightening, then you’ve got a swine who simply outshines all the others.

As we transition to Advent, I want to continue with the theme of our not only waiting and watching, but I wish to concentrate on that of our giving and of our thankfulness. As St. Albert the Great reminds us— one must possess charity of heart in order to not only tend to, nurture, bless, and to be present for others– but one must possess such in order to be full of the living God.

If the living God does not reside in our hearts, then the possibility of our spiritual giving to and of our providing for others will never be permissible. The depth available will never be reached, let along touched. Without the living God residing in our hearts we will never grow into the potential of our being. Not only will we be cheating ourselves, we will be cheating the very individuals who need for us to be full of that Holy wealth of Life.

May we enter into this holy time of waiting and watching. . . being ever receptive to our need of being filled with the life and breath of the only true Living God. May we be humble in our receiving of the very Light that shines not only on us this day, but which shined so very brightly on that single night so long ago when the world would no longer to be the same.

It’s not always what you think

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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Upon first glance, the tree out in the pasture appears to be rather bare with only what one would assume to be a few straggling leaves. . .and then, suddenly, you hear it. There is a rousing deafening din of chatter–rising and falling to a crashing crescendo of chirping only to immediately and eerily cease—a few seconds later, it begins again.

Upon further inspection the leaves, or so it seems, are not leaves at all but rather hundreds of starlings, better known as grackles. I posted some images a week or so ago of this massive flock covering the telephone lines up and down our street. Today the roosting spot of preference is the tree in the pasture.

These pictures simply do not do justice to the overwhelming presence of these birds. A swarming black cloud. It is mesmerizing watching the mass of bodies and wings weaving in and out throughout the sky to the tree tops, only to be suddenly startled, taking off en masse, to another tree top. Amazing how they fly in tandem without running into one another–another beautiful example of the synchronization of nature.

As we find ourselves approaching the season of watchful waiting, expectant anticipation, may we be mindful of the unexpected wonders of the season. Small gifts of joy and magic found in the simplest of things, as in a group of birds.

I find today’s quote by the late great G.K. Chesterton, the larger than life British writer and journalist, and Catholic apologist, most heartening–a sober reminder helping to carry us through this season with a heart turned toward thanks and joy. To be mindful of what the season is truly about and not to the contrary of the glamour and glitz that the retail giants would lead us to believe–to love, to forgive, to believe and to hope when the world would direct us differently.

Watching, waiting, forgiving hoping, loving, believing— Veni, Veni Emmanuel…

Beauty in the details

“The beauty of the natural world lies in the details.”
— Natalie Angier

Once the vibrant colorful leaves of Autumn give way to the dismal browns and grays of winter’s decay. . .as the leaves gently fall, or are more aptly blown away, from the trees and bushes by the great winds of the north— Mother Nature begins to reveal a few of her little secrets.

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Just when we begin settling into thinking the visual wonders and colorful overloads of the previous seasons have come and gone, leaving us visually empty and hungry as we prepare to live in a world of muted tones, we are kindly offered a tasty little morsel or two of her visual surprises.

It may be when we dash outside in order to gather a couple of sticks of wood for the fire that we delightfully discover who, or better yet what, has lived within the cover of the leaves– tucked deep within and protected behind the multiple layers of branches surprisingly under our very noses without so much as the first inkling of existence—be it a bird, a fox, a rabbit. . .

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There is a thorny mound of a bush just off to the side of the driveway. Originally the mound started out as three little crimson leaved barberry bushes. Given the very nature of a barberry bush, the concept of pruning and maintaining becomes quite a tricky sticky business—-which in turn makes a barberry an ideal “home” for an adept little creature—in this case, a small wren.

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Whenever I have to tend to or with the barberry “bush”, I always fondly recall the children’s classic story by the southern author Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus. Say what you wish about the book, the stories, the author— I have always found the book a classic tale intertwined to and with a time long ago as it possesses a delightful innocence of folklore and imagination—a post Civil War Aesop’s fable of the American South…nothing more, nothing less.

Brer Rabbit, finding himself in the company of his nemesis Brer Fox, avoids an untimely demise, once again, by begging not to be flung into the briar patch–“do anything but throw me into the briar patch” Brer Rabbit begs—upon which Brer Fox flings Brer Rabbit into the briars. It wasn’t until I was an adult, tangling with my own “briar patch” that I understood the sage logic of Brer Rabbit.

And it appears that the wrens, as well as the mockingbirds and the blue jays also understand the logic of Brer Rabbit. . .

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(images of a wren’s nest in the barberry bush in Julie’s yard / 2013)