There must always be hope

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.”

― Alexandre Dumas

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Bumble bee nibbling on a calamondin leaf / Julie Cook / 2014

Ok, so I’ve been on a bit of a global tear recently. . .what with the all headlines these days being troubling, frustrating and indeed frightening.
I have had my small epiphany.
This as I was out watering my small Meyer Lemon tree and Calamondin Tree.

As troubling as the times may indeed be, there is one thing that I know to be true.
There is a concrete anchor in the sifting sands of uncertainty.
No matter how dire our lives may become, there is one thing which must always remain a certainty.

And that is Hope

As we trudge forward carrying on, as carrying on is what we must do, it is the thought, concept and idea that all is never truly lost which is what will propel us forward.

And now you might be asking as to where one would find this obscure ideal of which I speak. . .
Thankfully, we need not look far. . .
for Hope is constantly around us.

I was a most fortunate observer of this concept of Hope yesterday afternoon as I was watering my two little fruit trees. It was here where I found my epiphany.

You may remember several months back, when we were all just emerging from the winter from Hell, I posted a couple of pictures of my two little fruit trees which had wintered in our basement during the course of the long winter.

An onslaught of spider mites had stripped both trees of every single leaf. I had put two seemingly healthy trees up for the winter in November at the first frost—with each tree being full of leaves and ladened with ripening fruit. Yet as the winter wore on and as I picked the ripening fruit, the spider mites devoured my trees. I did everything I could do. I pulled them out on warmer days hosing them off, hand rubbing the leaves in a vain attempt to rid them of the nearly invisible parasites. I couldn’t spray them with any poison as they still were bearing fruit.

Finally when the weather folks sounded the all clear for no more destructive deep freezes, I pulled the small trees back outside to bask in the warm Spring sun. Next I bought an insecticide soap and oil. I sprayed down the remaining sticks–as that was all that remained of my tress—brown sticks.
And then I simply waited— and I hoped.

I rolled the two trees, in their massively heavy pots, back to their familiar place on the front walk, fertilizing and reapplying the oil on a regular basis. As Spring continued to work her magic, the brown sticks began sprouting small leaves. Soon more and more leaves emerged. And eventually long tender new stems began to grow outward.

Today, amazingly, both trees are once again looking like healthy green, full leafed, lush fruit trees.

Each tree is sporting beautifully fragrant blooms accompanied by tiny new fruits.
And there are bees.
Lots and lots of happy pollinating bees.

There was a time several months back when I really thought I’d have to scrape the trees, sending them to compost heaven. I figured I was not a fruit farmer as citrus trees are not hearty here in Georgia and I was just fooling myself thinking that I could resurrect green leaves from dead wood.

But the waiting paid off.
My small efforts of oils and fertilizers, coupled by the warming days of sun and the refreshing spring showers, worked their magic.

For the time being, all is well with my little trees—and I know that there may be some new maladies waiting for my little trees somewhere down the road, yet for today, I will relish in the intoxicating fragrance of their tiny white blooms, marvel at the myriad of busy bees and butterflies helping to bring about new life in what was once brown dried up sticks, and lovingly watch my tiny little fruits grow plump and ripe.

Hope—
without it, we have nothing—with it we have everything.

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Where is your Peace?

Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.
Albert Pike

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa

“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.”
― Meister Eckhart

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A female mallard glides gently in the pond in the Boston Public Gardens / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014

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My heart is agitated and restless within me.
I am troubled by our times.
Global headlines are dire and grim.
Our own country is troubled by an exodus which is flooding into our land as we fret and worry how to best tend to these masses.
The weight of heartfelt burdens grow by the minute.

Yet you tell me simply not to worry.
“Forget about it”
“Don’t dwell on the negative”
“Think happy thoughts”
“None of this effects you, why worry”
“You can’t do a thing to change it, so don’t think about it”
“You don’t have a dog in this fight, therefore it’s of no concern”
“Be the ostrich and just put your head in the sand”

But I will not will myself to forget about troubles in our world.
I will not pretend everything is fine just because I am not being directly impacted.
It is true that there is very little I can do, if anything at all, to alleviate any of these maladies.
I am helpless, just as you are, watching dramas play out daily in the headlines.

But I ask you, how do I:
Tell the Dutch people not to worry?
Tell the Malaysian Airliner Company not to worry–agian?
Tell the Malaysian people not to worry–again?
Tell the Ukrainians not to worry?
Tell the Russian people not to worry?
Tell the EU not to worry?
Tell the small bordering countries of Russia not to worry?
Tell the Israelis not to worry?
Tell Jews worldwide not to worry?
Tell the Palestinians not to worry?
Tell the children of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador not to worry?
Tell the Americans in the border towns not to worry?
How do I tell all the parents who have lost and are losing children throughout the past week to simply dry those tears and carry on?

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Where does your peace hide?
Where is your wellbeing located these woeful days?
Not your distractions.
Not your diversions.
Not your poisons to deaden any and all feeling.
But rather your Peace?
Your wellbeing?
Your clam?
Your anchor?
Your harbor?
Your refuge?

In such times, it is to Nature, which offers a soothing clam, that I turn.
In Nature is where I may observe life, as it goes steadily and happily along, despite global worrisome events.
To spend sacred time silently with the Creator of the Universe.
Finding in Him and in His handiwork the offerings of silence, of hope and of beauty which joyfully continues spilling froth from all His creation.
Here is where I find it possible to offer prayers for hope because here is where hope still exists.

May you find that place which continues to hold you in comfort and care—that place which offers you Peace. . . and may you then, in turn, offer prayers for the desperate healing of which our world is in such need. . .

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(St Francis in a small garden adjacent to the Old North Church / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple

Psalm 5: 1-7

history of responsibility

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
George Washington

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Statue of George Washington and small friend / Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of Liberty is as follows:
1 : the quality or state of being free:
a : the power to do as one pleases
b : freedom from physical restraint
c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
e : the power of choice

Dictionary.com defines Tyranny as:
1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
Synonyms: despotism, absolutism, dictatorship.
2. the government or rule of a tyrant or absolute ruler.
3. a state ruled by a tyrant or absolute ruler.
4. oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler.
5. undue severity or harshness.
6. a cruel or harsh act or proceeding; an arbitrary, oppressive, or tyrannical action.

Our founding fathers believed, with all their hearts, that it was necessary to fight with sword and blood for the establishment of a Nation grounded and anchored by a state of existence known as Liberty.
The sacrifice was great.
Many lives were to be lost.
Days turned to weeks as weeks turned into years.
Hardships, suffering, hunger became common place.
Misery was rife.
But the will and perseverance of this group of men, prepped to birth a Nation, was rooted in the knowledge of what life under Liberty could and would mean.

These guiding Fathers next fought and wrestled with the grievous weight of words and what those words were to look like when lived by the citizens of a free Nation–a Nation free of Tyranny and oppressive rule by a king or despot.

It was a time of deep soul searching, heated debates and arguments, flaring tempers–but in the end, they all possessed the same desired result—that being for the people of the united colonies to live as one Nation under the blanket of shared Liberty.

Have we, all these many years later, forgotten the sacrifices made?
Are we so smug that such ideals now seem trite and of ancient history?
Have we grown, as Benjamin Franklin would admonish, fat and lazy, drunk with complacency?
Are we so apathetic that we are no longer concerned with the safeguards which must be honed and fine tuned in order to continue growing in the original direction set forth?

Do we argue with the rhetoric of “that was then, this is now—- things have changed, all of that which was, is no longer relevant to our modern technological savvy ways?”
Have we lulled ourselves into such a state that we don’t want to rock the proverbial boat—we’ll just let the Government take care of us–isn’t that what everyone really wants, a Government which acts more like a benevolent parent rather than a Government which needs and requires it’s people to work to maintain its very functions.

Woe be unto those who’s watchman is caught sleeping, the enemy will take advantage of the unguarded post. It is the responsibility of the Nation’s people who must work to maintain that which was fought and fraught with angst, blood and lives. The question begs, what is the responsibility of you and I to those who birthed this Nation as well as to the Nation itself which was birthed so long ago?

When one is given a fine gift, if that gift is not cared for, polished, cleaned, tended to with regular maintenance but rather is left to simply run itself and “do it’s thing”, unguarded, unobserved, unattended, allowed to morph and grow into something else, then the original gift is simply no longer. . .

May we remember we must care for and maintain this most humble yet fragile gift.

Peace

We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.
William Ewart Gladstone

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(A beautiful swan in the pond of the Boston Common’s garden / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

I feel as if I want to yell at the top of my lungs “HOW DID I MISS THIS?!”
Last evening, after watching the umpteenth report regarding the Malaysian Airliner 17 which was shot down over the Ukraine, it suddenly felt as if I’d been hit in the face with a brick.. . .a “helloooo” moment.
I felt as if I was hit in the face with a stalk realization I’d been missing, or it had been so clouded and colluded. Something that has been there all along but finally revealed as tangibly real, as if a curtain has been finally lifted.

I am almost 55 years old.
Do you know, realize and comprehend that for my entire life, my entire 55 years, I, you, we have lived with a suffocating cloud of angst and agitation from and by the USSR, now Russia?

Ever since WWII it seems as if the Government of the former Soviet Union, now Russia, has relished in being a thorn in the side of the United States. And perhaps they, the Russians feel the same about the US.
I don’t know.
Be it a Cold War with the constant threat of annihilation under the threat of Nuclear attack or today’s posturing and jockeying of which is eerily pulling us all backwards rather than forward. . .
Our relationship with Russia is once again sliding backwards.

My earliest remembrance from grade school was the worrisome drills we would practice as the constant threat of a Nuclear War seemed tenuously imminent. It was a worrisome burden for grade school kids who wondered where we would hide when the Soviets shot the missile at us, fretting what would happen to our parents if such should happen while we were at school and our parents were at work and home. Obviously this is certainly no way for children to grow and thrive—not living in a state of constant worry and fear. But could we not say this same sense of insecurity is true today for so many other children around this fragile globe of ours?

An entire generation of us grew up with that very real threat and worry–and yet we’ve marched forward ebbing slowly away from a constant threat into a state of cautious forward progress. We marveled watching a Polish Pope work steadily and steely toward forcing the hand of an entrenched Communist Regime as President Reagan implored President Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”

And now, it is as if we have stepped back to a time that remains dangerous and perilous.
Shadows and question outnumber clarity and openness.
Trust has vanished.
Rhetoric is now the name of the game.
Sanctions, false truths, mysteries, rebels, lies, no ownership, battles, missiles, encroachment. . .all shades of a dark time that was— which oddly, is again, now.

Add to this the ongoing battles in Israel and I feel as if I’m in a time warp.
As far as we’ve moved forward, we have moved equally that much farther—backwards.

Peace
Cooperation
Coexistence
Support
Love

May we accept nothing less.

When life’s reflections, once far, become startling near

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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Canadian Goose afloat on the waters of the Boston Harbor / Julie Cook / 2014

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This image is from a small portion of a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq–upon stumbling on this makeshift courtyard memorial, just in the shadow of the historic North Church, I caught myself suddenly filling with an overwhelming feeling of emotion–the myriad of tags gave a startling and tangible image of what had been simply numbers—the massive amount of tags, which filled several wire filled walls, equalled suddenly and painfully lives, mostly young, which have seemingly needlessly come and gone—sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers. . .for a war on terror which only seems to be spiraling out of control.

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These two images are from a power pole which is wrapped with a simple crochet reminder of the Boston Marathon Bombing. The crochet piece is wrapped around the power pole on the spot where the second explosion detonated. It has been lovingly placed by an individual in memory of one of the several victims of a senseless act of terrorism–on a simple side walk in front of a handful of restaurants on a single street in a massive city. Reminding us all that no matter where we may be, anything and everything can happen to change our world forever. May we be mindful that God has given us now. That is all we are promised. The next hour, the next day, the next week may bring life altering events beyond our comprehension and control—-it is today, at this very moment that we are to Rejoice and proclaim the Glory of God. For the God of all of Creation is Greater than any act of violence or evil which attempts to batter and beat our faith.

May we all remember that Love is indeed greater than hate.

A colonial artist and a famous yellow line

When the sword of rebellion is drawn, the sheath should be thrown away
John Singleton Copley

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(statue of John Singleton Copley, Copley Square, Boston, Mass / Julie Cook / 2014)

Well I suppose I made it too easy for you.
Yes it’s true, I’m a tag-a-long on a quick trip to Boston.
I’ve never been to Boston before but being a lover of history, I’m certain I can find enough to keep me happy, as well as entertained.
It also helps that I love lobsta. . .

Have you ever noticed how the New Englanders end all their words with an “a” sound?
Have you also ever noticed how the minute I open my mouth, every one immediately knows I’m from “down there”, as in waaaaayyyy down South?
I swear I do not intentionally add syllables to my words. . .as they probably think the er at the end of a word is pronounced as an “a”—go figure.

And I wouldn’t be a very good art teacher if I didn’t share with you the surprise encounter with a familiar friend, who I accidentally ran into this afternoon. As our hotel is located in what is known as the Back Bay area near Copley Square, I ran into John Singleton Copley–or actually I ran into, not literally mind you, his statue.

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) was a colonial American painter best known for his portrait work. Copley established himself as a successful artist long before our war for Independence.
He is claimed as a favored son of Boston who was born to humble parents. . . who had actually made their way to this fledgling new country by way of Ireland.

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A notable Copley portrait of Paul Revere painted in 1770

Copley’s bronze statue, which I stumbled upon by mere happenstance, is but a stone’s throw from the famous yellow finish line of the famed Boston Marathon. As I walked along the sidewalk, heading back toward our hotel up from the finish line, I was deeply touched noting the small subtle remembrances left behind by individuals who have gently woven tributes into the fabric of this city– small reminders to and for the victims of the Marathon bombings. There remains a palpable determination deeply rooted in “Boston Strong”

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Stay tuned—today there is to be a small personal adventure and quest for the remaining traces of Julia—
“Julia” you ask?
Why of course silly—Julia, as in Julia Child, as in Julia lived in Cambridge and her house is still there —I come to seek the queen of butter. . .I can’t wait!!

Some folks come to Boston in search of Lobster (aka Lobsta), some come for the Red Socks, some come for a tea party, some come to run. . .but I come for the queen of cream. . .

Clues

“There is always a pleasure in unravelling a mystery, in catching at the gossamer clue which will guide to certainty.”
― Elizabeth Gaskell

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

― Lewis Carroll

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The first clue shall be a backpack.
No, no, it has nothing to do with school, thank goodness.

Also, sitting by the backpack, there are a couple of airline tickets marked for a flight winging its way northward later this morning.

Then of course there is the business of business.
One member of this little team has work to do while the opportunity of adventure awaits teammate number two—albeit short and sweet.
We adventuresome types must take what we can get when we can get it!
We consider these shorter timed adventures, what we like to refer to as fact finding missions, an opportunity of building a dossier for later use during lengthier adventures.

There’s history, lots of history.
There was, at one point, an excessive amount of tea, or so I’ve been told.
There is the sea.
Not the ocean mind you or the beach, but rather “the sea and shore.”
There is the famous “chowda”
That whole oneth by land and toweth by sea, or is it oneth by sea and twoeth by land?
There’s the curse of the Bambino. . .if you’re into that whole curse thing. . .
And then there are beans—whatever beans have to do with it is beyond my soul, but they always speak of the beans.

Now these tantalizing little clues should be enough to whet your whistle while we gear up for a fun little weekend game of Where’s Cookie. . .

Yet on a more somber note, I would be amiss if I did not take pause imploring that we all offer up our heartfelt prayers for the families of those who have lost loved ones in yesterday’s tragic crash of Malaysian Flight 17.

May we also join our thoughts and prayers for the people of Israel and Gaza as once again that small corner of the world is perched on its tenuous precipice of life and death.

May we also remember the family of the wife and mother who was tragically killed yesterday in California as she was taken hostage during a violent bank robbery.

Thoughts and prayers for our fragile world . . .

Next stop. . .north by north east.