Chickens, Appearances and bums…yes, bums…

People that seem so glorious are all show; underneath they are like everyone else.
Euripides

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
Saint Augustine

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***ok so yesterday’s pilgrimage did not go so well– perhaps it was more like a disaster. You, we, I don’t want to talk about that today— let’s swing toward something a bit more, uplifting, shall we. . .we’ll talk about the disastrous pilgrimage later, once we recoup and attempt to regroup. On to better things, or maybe, in this case, not exactly better. . .*****

Do you suppose the other chickens get a bit jealous of those chickens in the coop with the prettier feathers, the fancier combs, the fluffier feet or the more garish head feathers? Do the more showy chickens somehow perceive that they are prettier than their coop mates? Do the other chickens who are not as festive, not a pretty, gravitate to the more fancy chickens, wanting to rub wings as it were, with these more glamorous birds?

I think we can be safe in assuming that a chicken is a chicken is a chicken—regardless of the extra fluff and puff. They all scratch, cluck, eat, poop, sleep, and the layers lay and the others, well, they wait to star in Sunday’s Supper.

With all of this chicken business racing through my mind, I am attempting to take stock of what I see staring back at me in the mirror.
Hummmm. . .
Maybe the chickens are looking a little more puffy and preened than what it is that I’m seeing in this mirror.
Geesss. . .
I don’t think February is a good time of year to study one’s physique in a large mirror– this while a pasty white overtly dry body stares back.

So there is this wedding thingie I’ve been alluding to, on and off for a while now. As in I’m the mother of the groom. . . in just a mere 4 months.
Hummm.
My husband walks into the bathroom while I’m precariously perched on the side of the tub turned around backwards with a mirror in one hand while trying to see over my shoulder as to what in the heck is the view from behind, as in my behind.

“What in the world are you doing?? Have you lost your mind? You’re going to break your neck!”
“Look at that” I exclaim!
“Look at what?” mr. gallant asks.
“Look at that, something’s wrong, it’s, it’s not symmetrical”
“What do you mean it’s not symmetrical?
This as he heads to the closest to gather whatever it is he came to gather when he walked in on my moment of taking stock.
“My, uh my, uh,uh, my butt, look at the right side, it’s like part of it has lost it’s “umph” and gave way”
“Maybe I need to go to see a doctor. . . maybe it’s some sort of mass or lump blocking the view of my butt”
“Are you crazy” mr. gallant smirks from the closet, eventually coming out to where I remain perched on the side of the tub, mirror in hand, head cocked around almost backwards, like an owl, peering over the shoulder.
“You don’t need to see a doctor, you’re perfectly fine. You’ve just gotten older and things just— fall.”
“WHAT!!!!!”
“Did you just say I’m old and that my butt fell?!
“No”
“Yes, you just said that I’m old and that my butt fell because I’m old”
“No, that is not what I said” as I note the slight curl upwards around the corners of his mouth.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you just called me old and fat”
“I did not call you old and I never said fat”
“Look, all I’m saying is that age has a way of shifting things around”
This as mr. gallant makes a very poor attempt at logic.
A woman standing on the side of bathtub, taking stock of a pasty white dry aging body, is in no mood for logic!

“You may speak for yourself, thank you very much” I smugly retort.
This as I’m debating whether to say something about a delicate subject. . .about seeing more head than hair. . .when suddenly mr. gallant spouts out his now marvelous thought of a solution.
“I’ve got just what you need—
Duct tape!”
“What?!”
“We’ll just tape things back into place. . . you’ll be good as new!”

May I just say that he is very very lucky that he is still walking around with all appendages in tact.
Duct tape. . .I mean really.

Hear my cries. . .is my time on that blasted elliptical all in vain?!
“Where are the results?” I seem to constantly scream as I step from the scales.
Maybe it’s the elliptical’s fault my butt fell off in the first place. And anyway, who’s bum looks as if its fallen off in the first place?
How do I tell the doctor I think something is wrong with my behind? How do I tell her it looks like part of it just gave way, sort of like some sort of mini avalanche. . .hummm. . . .

30 minutes every morning on the elliptical.
Check.
Incline on.
Check.
Level 15, one of the more difficult levels.
Check.
Cardio workout.
Check
up, down, up down . . .all to a very swift pace.
This while my “workout music” echoes throughout the basement.

Next, it’s time for the protein smoothie– every morning.
Who says spinach and ground flax seed doesn’t mix with cranberries, strawberries, frozen cherries and peaches?
Add a scoop of protein powder, a little coconut milk, voila.
When did I start drinking coconut milk?!
Just like a milkshake. . . a brown throw-up looking milkshake. . .mmmmm. . . good, I think.
No bread, no sweets, no butter. . .
Ah ha!!
That’s it!!
This is all Julia’s fault!
Julia?
Yes, Julia.
And no, not me Julia, Julia Child, Julia!!
Julia and that blasted affinity of butter and cream of hers!!!
Julia could carry a love of fat on that 6 foot frame of hers and get away with it—- at 5’3″ (it was 5’4.5″ but then the osteoporosis kicked in. . .let’s not talk about that) I sadly cannot!
UGH. . .

We took our son and his fiancé out to dinner the other evening.
“So”, Abby begins, “Did you find the workout song you were wanting?”
“Oh yes! I first start out with a little U2, switching then to Bruno Mars. . .”
“MOTHER, you listen to Bruno Mars!?
I suddenly feel the eyes rolling.
“Yes Brenton.” I continue. ..
“Perfect music, with a great beat, for working out.”
“Oh, and I also like that Macklemore group, that’s great music with a beat to huff and puff to.”
“WHAT! Mother when did you start listening to Macklemore?”
I feel the eyes rolling again.
“When I started working out” I triumphantly reply over my shoulder to the back seat that holds my incredulous son whose eyes are now popping out of his head.

And so it goes.
No support from the males in my house.
One wants to duct tape me and the other one wants to sensor me.
GREAT!
My aunt is always exclaiming “it’s hell getting old”
So yes, whereas it may be hell getting older, all I know it that I’m going to give it hell right back! Plus demand the return of my, uh, derrière!!

I may be pasty white, a little out of shape and no longer symmetrical, but come June, I will be a lean mean fighting machine marching down an aisle!!

The continuum of a pilgrimage

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel

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(Basilica di Sant’Antonio – Basilica del Santo / Padova / Padua, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(images taken from the parade route during the feast day of St. Anthony (6/13), Padua, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

The word pilgrimage is documented as having first been used in the 14th century. We know that the word denotes that of a journey. The journey is notably one most often taken to a spiritual or sacred destination. Such journeys are often made by those seeking to pay homage to someone or someplace. Often pilgrims travel with a desire to demonstrate a certain level of devotion, or journey in hopes of receiving a divine blessings and / or enlightenment. Yet others simply journey out of curiosity, with the outside hope of some sort of other-worldly discovery made along the way.

Whereas a journey to a specific place or destination can be both emotionally, as well as spiritually, rewarding it is to the pilgrimage of the heart which is, as Rabbi Herschel reminds us, the most important journey of ones life.

Our life’s journeys often take us on many diverging paths. Our work, our play, our learning all carry us on a variation of tangents. . .with each teaching us, our minds and our bodies, many new, useful and exiting things.
And yet sadly it is to these very types of journeys in which we cling, unknowingly, as if to a lifeline. . .all in order to avoid the more intrinsic journey–that internal journey or pilgrimage which is essential in the constructing of the very underpinnings of our moral well being.

Why is that?
Why are we so eager to set out on the surface journeys of body and mind, yet are unwilling to venture on the intrinsic journey of the heart and soul?
Is it because these intrinsic journeys are often more raw, more real, more painful?
Are they not the journeys of addition, or rather, are they the more ominous journeys of subtraction—the journeys taken to expose and uncover, flaying us open, vulnerable and bare for all to see?

As we age, we begin, little by little, seeing the world differently.
Slowly, as if focusing a pair of binoculars on a blurry distant vista, the vain trappings of this life become evidently more clear.
Moments that were once considered larger than life are now, gratefully insignificant and small.
The what weres and what could have beens no longer seem crucial.
We are discovering that we have grown increasingly aware of our own mortality.

Gone are the devil may care days of our youth. For better or worse the longer we live the more we see our existence growing increasingly limited. Some of us fight this ever sequential awareness tooth and nail damning any ties to aging and our mortality. Yet others of us, those wiser and more confident, muster a steely resolve of keeping calm and carrying on–what more do we really have than doing such?

Blessedly there is a grand peace which accompanies this new understanding. Gone is the whirring din of the internal war cries rousing the rebellion in the belly of youth. The losing battle against this inevitable thing we call aging and life gives way to a strangely quiet and pleasingly calm resolve.

Thus once again, it is time for me to partake on yet another journey, a pilgrimage if I may, back to the place I have called home.
Back to where the initial journey, of this which I call my life, truly began— that being the journey from an angst ridden childhood, through a mostly stormy internal mid-life, to the now quieter and calmer resolve of a thankfully older and wiser pilgrim.

I travel back now to tend to that which has remained behind.
Putting the pieces back together.
This now weekly pilgrimage is so much more than tending to the failing mind of an elderly father. There is the inevitable meeting and battling of ancient demons, all which lie sinisterly in wait hidden in closets, buried in boxes, and merely hovering in the air.
The pilgrim uncovers.

To emerge on the other side victorious for not merely self but for a vanishing father, will be critical.
There is healing to be had.
And isn’t that the impetus of a pilgrimage, that of a journey for clarity, discovery, healing?
For the pilgrim is a seeker.

So should we say that the living of our lives are but journeys going forward while our investigations of those lives lived are actually pilgrimages traveling backwards?
We are mere journeymen throughout our youth eventually growing into pilgrims possessing wizened souls as we age. The pilgrim is on a continuum.

I think I rather like where this journey, this pilgrimage, is now going. . .

Will you still be here tomorrow?

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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(images of the ornamental quince bushes trying in vain to bloom / Julie Cook / 2014)

With warming sun and temperate rains, the tiny calling cards of a desperate Spring, fighting to make its presence known, eagerly appear.
Ever so stealthy and secret, an army of blooms rise upward as if magically appearing from barren wood, all preparing to do battle against the unseen enemy.

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We have naively relaxed our guard as we’ve shed coats and gloves, noting how marvelous a warming sun feels against our now pasty dry white and ashy brown skin. We forget the calendar reads February as thoughts of spring wardrobes dance around our heads.
Are those sandals suddenly appearing on those blindingly white feet of yours?

63 degrees feels like heaven to skin that has hunkered down inside of sweaters and coats for almost 4 long frigid months.
Pull out the plants which have been hibernating in sheds and basements!
Till the garden!
Prune the scraggly shrubbery!
The seed packets have arrived ready for planting.
There’s talk of Easter in the air. . .

But wait.
We have not yet survived our 40 days of fasting and reflection for a Lenten season.
We have not yet had to beware the Ides of March.
Were we not just recalling our loves on Valentine’s Day?
Did not the groundhog just sound the ominous warning of 6 more weeks?
Oh get behind me you specter of falsehood and empty promises.

For tomorrow the cold northwest winds will return with rumors of snow flakes dancing through the grey clouds.
The battle wages on.
Freezing air will blow across a changing landscape with a vengeful glee, gaily sucking those waning warming images from our vision.
The coats, the gloves, the scarves, so hastily banished to the recesses of closets, must be summoned to duty once more.
For Old Man Winter has not moved on but has merely been napping.

So rest well this last night my tiny splashes of color.
For tomorrow you will sadly wither, giving up the ghost in a losing battle
You will turn from today’s deep mauves and bright chartreuse back to the sickeningly shades of browns and grey we had grown wearily accustomed to. . .oh but for another day dear Spring.

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Happy Anniversary. . .to you and me…to us

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
W. Somerset Maugham

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(a lovely mum from a bouquet, Julie Cook / 2013)

This lovely flower is the very first image I posted, exactly one year ago today, to this little blog of mine. Stating that we all needed a little color— reminding us of brighter days ahead.

The other post that day was a bit more reflective as I explained the impetus behind the inception of the blog. The reasons remain the same, much as they did this time last year. A retired educator who felt as if she still had things to “teach” and share, as well as a daughter who was beginning the adventures of dealing with an elderly father in the early throws of Alzheimer’s disease.

I didn’t know what to expect.
I pretty much figured I’d be rattling on to the wind.
I wasn’t necessarily a technology savvy individual nor was I much for social media preferring to eschew things such as FaceBook and Twitter.
Blogging seemed to allow space for the hidden writer, it was a blank canvas waiting to be filled.
It also provided an avenue of creativity for the retired art teacher—allowing for a new vehicle of expression–that being a bit of photography. Nothing fancy smancy, just the capturing of life, specifically that being images from Nature–affording me time to be in the place I love, out of doors.

You have allowed me to share with you my better moments as a human being, as well as those not so grand moments of my life. You have allowed me to do something that I had always wanted to do, but due to work and life. . .I simply had not the time—that being the opportunity of a chance to write. It is not that my writing is of any significance nor even something that is a virtue of our English Language. I have never been one who could spell and I greatly suspect my son inherited that learning disability of his from his mother as I imagine there just may be a bit of dyslexia lurking under my surface.

You have supported me during those heavier days of life. You have offered kind words, prayers, suggestions, and merely an ear to listen and a shoulder of support as I’ve grieved watching my dad slowly shrink from my world. The grieving continues today but I feel as if the initial sorrow has given way to the resolve of, borrowing from that most emblematic phrase, “Keeping Calm and Carrying On” —he isn’t getting better nor are the issues of trying to keep his world above water, but there is humor hiding in the frustration and sadness and just knowing that I can write about it, sharing it with you, has been a wonderful anchor in a stormy sea.

We have laughed together and cried together as you have allowed me to share in your life’s adventures as well. I have made many new and wonderful friends. Far away friends living in Australia, Bulgaria, Italy, England, Wales, Canada, France, the Philippines and India, as well as friends a bit closer–those from Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida and California to name but a few. 280 of you have honored me by following along on this blog of mine with almost 14,000 views, as well as a little over 1300 comments. All this from a little blog which was started a mere year ago with no ties to social media, from a person who just wanted to share her heart with others.

You are business people, educators, monks, priests, nuns, college students, high school students, single folks, married folks, grandparents—you are artists, photographers, woodworkers, cooks, bee keepers, world travelers, scientists, professors, mathematicians, philosophers, theologians, students, unemployed, overly employed, retirees, singers, dancers, friends and strangers. Some of you know me know me, others of you know me only from this blog.

Magically hiding in the midst of all of us is but a single element which binds and ties us all wonderfully together. . .that being the single thread from this journey we call life. We are all traveling along the same journey—one of birth, life and death. To travel along this sometimes joyful and sometimes woeful journey with other fellow travelers can be so very inspiring, so uplifting and so very beneficial. The singleness of our humanity inextricably unites us together, linking us all, for good or bad, as members of this family of humankind. As one who has been afford the gift of your wisdom, knowledge, experience, faith and love. . . it is I who now humbly wishes to thank each of you for the generosity you have shown to me—for the warmth, kindness, openness and acceptance. I have learned so very much from each you— from your lives and your life’s work. You have made me a wiser person, a more thoughtful person, a more open person, a grateful person.

So it is to you, on this 25th day of February, that I raise my glass offering you my heart and prayers for this, our Happy Anniversary!
Thank you. . .
***Also a little shout out to the two other blogs I contribute to via photography
The Legion of Door Whores (I know, I know. . .) legionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
What light through yonder window breaks? whatlightthroughyonderwindow.wordpress.com

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The good ol days

“In every age “the good old days” were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them. ”
― Brooks Atkinson

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(Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook ? 2014)

Is it merely human nature to yearn for times past, memories past, experiences past?
Is the present simply too trying, too frightening, too demanding, too challenging, too real?
Is the future too far away, too uncertain, too unknown, too beyond?

It is to that which is surely known, that which was lived, not imagined which is grounding.
It is to that which was experienced and survived which is now oddly comforting.
It is to those persons who have come and gone to whom we turn our hearts.

Missing what was, struggling with what is, looking with trepidation for what will be.
Despite reluctance or resistance, we are creatures always moving forward—such is the nature of life.
We may look back, but may not travel back.
We have but today–yet struggle through it.
We look toward tomorrow hoping for that which is better.
We live in a state of constant flux and motion.
Trashing in the waters of time, fighting against continual currents of the seasons of our lives which sweep us back and forth.

Taking that which is old, dusty and broken. . . mending it and making it new. . .that is the promise, that is the hope, that is the salvation.
It is the expanse of a bridge which leads from then, to now, to what will be.
Sound, sturdy and unbreakable under the flood waters of life.
The life-line has been cast toward you.
It requires only that you reach and take hold.
That which was, remains in the rushing waters–as you cross the bridge to what will be

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Rev 21:5 KJV)

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19 NRSV Catholic Edition

Birth pangs–Images of the birth of a Spring that has yet to arrive

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
― Mark Twain

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4 –

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The pursuit of “happy”

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
Roald Dahl

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(sometimes we have to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find a little Happiness)

What makes you happy?
Being happy, especially this time of year, throughout what I refer to as the doldrums of the year, the months of being in-between—-as in, in between seasons, in between holidays, in between sun and gray sky, in between barren and ladened, in between football and baseball. . .is certainly no easy task. In fact most folks are walking around with heads hung low, shoulders slumped, jacket collars turned upward in the endless deflection of snow, rain and cold wind.

Sometimes it is most apparent that we just need something to kick-start that part of the brain that houses the pleasure center—something to pump up those neurotransmitters in the brain which are responsible for helping to make us happy—neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. And no I’m not talking about popping a pill, having a drink, eating a doughnut—ummmmm a doughnut. . . oh a doughnut sounds so good right about now! I haven’t had a doughnut in probably a year or so—that decadent, yeasty, sugary piece of heaven in circular form ..You are now hearing the slap slap to the face and the “get a hold of yourself woman”. . .

Nope, none of that aforementioned sort of engaging in the empty thrill of the moment indulgences that act like quick fixes to happiness—of which merely equates to emptiness. No siree, none of that for us, we want the genuinely feeling of happy, the type that can’t be found in food, drink, sex, excess, emptiness or guilt. We want innocent, joyful, self satisfying, deeply real happy. I’m talking about the sort of happiness that you work to achieve more naturally, more or less from that which is obtained from the world around us.

Today, seeing this chocolate frog helps.
He makes me smile.

I suppose there is a twofold happiness hiding in the frog—first of all, he’s just kind of cute and silly all rolled into one, secondly, he is chocolate—how can you beat that? And no, I’m not going to eat him as to do so would be, again, one of those short-lived temporary fixes of happiness that would give way to guilt and disappointment. How do you expect me to fit in a mother of the groom dress by eating my way through chocolate frogs?!

I would love to show you a photograph of a beautiful flower or a bright sunny day accented with those insanely white popcorn clouds, the type of sky and delightfully warm day that makes you want to lie down in a field somewhere, arms folded under your head, listening to the birds sing as you gaze skyward, just savoring the feeling of contentment and happiness of being alive- kind of picture —but alas, it’s a cool day as a storm moved through again. And Lord knows there’s not nary a blooming flower outside for the nearest 500 miles from here.

The frog will have to do.

I have also found a little song that seems to be working for me—putting a smile on my face and a skip in my step. . .

“Happy”
by Pharrell Williams
It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way
—–
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
——-
Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why
——-
Hey, come on
(happy)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
I said (let me tell you now)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
——-
I said Hey, come on
(happy)
Bring me down… can’t nothing…
Bring me down… my level’s too high…
Bring me down… can’t nothing…
Bring me down, I said (let me tell you now)
——–
Come on

—-

Have you ever seen a 54 year old woman who is known for being rather subdued, low key, unemotional, always rather serious. . . “dancing” around her house, holding an I-Phone in one hand, which is blaring out this song, hopping and bounding around the house without a care in the world—for no one but the cats to take notice?!

If anything, that alone should put a smile on your face and make you happy! (Those out there who actually know me and are reading this are now pretending they have no idea who I am)

Sometimes, I think one just has to sing despite the inability to carry a tune, dance despite the lack of rhythm, and find happiness in the face of a chocolate frog. . .

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord,
how profound your thoughts!

Psalm 92: 4-5