Stormy Weather

“I like to hear a storm at night. It is so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel that it can’t get at you.”
― L.M. Montgomery

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do.
Golda Meir

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(ominous clouds as tornado sirens howl on a stormy Sunday Georgia morning / Julie Cook / 2015)

“. . .Life is bare
gloom and misery every where
Stormy weather
Just can’t get my poor self together
I’m weary all the time
The time
So weary all the time”

2nd stanza / Stormy Weather

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There’s nothing like listening to that beautifully melodic and mesmerizing voice of the one and only Lena Horne.
I loved / love Lena. . .
Ms Horne was born to a generation of singers who sadly have come and gone.
Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James. . .
Soulful storytellers whose beauty and life’s trials, as well as their gift of song, could stir the deepest of emotions in even the most casual of listeners.

Lena Horne defined both class and grace.
Although being born in Brooklyn and spending most of her life in New York and Pennsylvania, Ms Horne spent a good bit of her childhood living in Fort Valley, Georgia—of which I suppose lead her to acquire that markedly distinct sultry southernesque drawl she’d call upon for wooing audiences and movie producers alike.

Today’s weather is a fitting tribute to the woeful lament Ms. Horne made famous, Stormy Weather.
First performed at the famous New York Cotton Club in 1933 yet a song made immortal when performed by Ms Horne in 1943 in the movie of the same name. . .

“. . .don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky. . .
Stormy Weather. . .”

I didn’t need Ms Horne however, to remind me of the current weather condition as the early morning wail of the tornado sirens was sign enough.
The sirens wailed, the phones buzzed with alerts and the television was rife with the warnings of impending doom. . .as in “SEEK SHELTER NOW!!!”

Luckily the “rotation” the doppler radar was indicating was remanning up in the clouds and thankfully had not descended to the ground.

It was to be on this tumultuous Sunday morning, as it is on many Sunday mornings, my husband was to treat me to breakfast out. As in I wasn’t going to have to cook it. It’s the only morning he’s not at work. As in he’s actually home. And of all the little treats in life. . . it’s breakfast out that I enjoy most. There’s just something special about heading out on a lazy stress free morning to some inviting little restaurant or tiny cafe, as the heady scent of bacon mingling with fresh coffee greets all at the door.

And so it was on this stormy, springtime morning I was to be treated to a nice breakfast out. The only problem was that an impending tornado was in the middle of my path to bacon and pancakes.
UGH!

The weatherman on the news was zooming in on a fierce looking storm hovering about 5 miles south down the road from our house. It’s amazing how they can pinpoint storms with such vivid accuracy. A Tornado Warning had been issued, the sirens were wailing and my stomach was growling.
We waited.
I peered out the windows.
The rain beat down.
No lightning thank goodness.
I hate lightning.
No winds.
Just black skies with torrential rains.

All of which got me thinking. . .
How often in life are we excited, full of anticipation, looking forward to something special, when suddenly, out of the blue, we get blindsided, we’re thrown a curve ball, we hit the proverbial bump in the road, we hit the wall? There’s a glitch that rears its ugly head in our best laid plans. Our assumptions for a complete follow-through are not what we had expected or anticipated.

Rather than savoring the smooth sailing toward a treat, a reward, a trip, a special event, a magnanimous moment we’re faced with an impending storm, a train wreck, a disaster, a detour. Our attentions shift, our guard gets up, plan B must be implemented, and we hunker down.
We wait.

And as it so happens with the worst of storms–the rains fall, the clouds lighten, the winds shift, the energies exhaust and the dangers pass.
With or without repercussions.
At which time we emerge bleary eyed, nerves shaken, but resolve in tact.
We’re ready to proceed, to continue, forward.
Maybe we have to pick up a few pieces along the way, maybe our plans are delayed. . .
yet nevertheless our eyes remain fixed. . .fixed on our hopes and dreams which remain down the road where we had yearned to travel in the first place.

So on this new morning to this new week, may you keep your eyes on the prize. . .
whatever that prize may be for you. . .
May you remain prepared for what life may throw in the middle of your travels
And may you remember that we all have stormy weather at some point in our lives
but that the storms will always, eventually, pass. . .

Petitions, Grace and Gratitude (re-mix)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

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(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

***This post was originally published in October of 2013.
Normally I don’t re-publish previous posts.
I had actually shared this particular post yesterday with a friend as I thought the subject was of importance to her and to her current life’s journey. It is a post of literal travels and journeys, as well as journeys which reach much deeper than the mere physical.
Having re-read the post myself, I was moved by my previous words as it is a strong reminder of a faith, my faith, that is so much deeper, so much stronger and so much greater than me or of the current life “journey” I’m finding myself traversing along with my dad as my traveling companion. . .
May you find comfort in the story and the words as well. . .

4/19/15

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel. It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room. The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow. There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside. I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle, my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice. I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances of ancient worship–more than would be expected from my raising. There is a deep mystery which I believe many in our mainstream churches miss. This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy mega church. The ancient components to worship lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest block buster to begin, to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements, each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room, I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present. She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation. She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees. The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s. Dark wood paneling with cream colored walls. Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed, acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room. This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings, statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs heralding glad tidings. This chapel is small, dark, ancient and humble. Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross. I begin my “conversation”—it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense of warmth and contentment engulfs me. I then begin my petitions—not for myself, but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey. After some time, I open my eyes. How long had I been praying? I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim. I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…I want to be a part of each moment in time. I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer, watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure, but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers. I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way. I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life, wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice. I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew. I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive. I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes. I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles. I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful. I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door. I make my way back outside, into the light. It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright. The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets is almost painful to my ears. This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of the Divine. I feel different for the encounter. Changed. Better. Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate to be privy to something so rich and so special. I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special secret that no one else knows….no one other than that older woman back in the chapel and myself.

Beyond

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.
Voltaire

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(the changing glimpse of beyond before the storm / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s all beyond us really. . .
As in elsewhere
As in bigger, greater, grander
As in far away and much more than ourselves.

What of this place, Beyond?
That which is beyond the trees,
The clouds,
The sky. . .

What is this that is Beyond?

Is it what is there and simply not here?
That which is further rather than closer
That which is big not small?

Those whose sights remain small and inward
may never know the vast richness of Beyond.
Those whose heads are fixed ever downward,
Whose worlds are stationary and static,
Will not know Beyond

Beyond is more. . .
There is endlessness in Beyond

Humankind is not endless, we rather, are finite
As in consisting of a beginning and an ending
As in small and limited
For even our time is limited, as well as unknown

What of this Beyond?
Where does it start?
Where does it end?

One must look upward,
Outward,
Forward. . .

For Beyond is certainly in front, not behind
Beyond is not beneath nor under

Beyond is beyond touch,
Reach
Comprehension

Beyond is not of this time,
Your time or mine.
It goes much further than time
Much further than past or present
It is actually closer to future.

Beyond is beyond what is known
Beyond is beyond this place,
this space,
this dimension

Beyond is. . .simply. . .

Beyond

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Within

“What is Above is Within … the Circumference is Winthin, Without is formed the Selfish Center, and the Circumference still expands going forward to Eternity.”
― William Blake

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(opening to a bluebird box / Julie Cook / 2015)

What lies within the heart of a man?

Is it compassion
Benevolence
Kindness
Purity
Generosity

Perhaps it is goodness, maybe virtue?
Empathy or Mercy. . .
Perhaps it is a bit of each. . .

All being the minute fragments endowed to the created by the masterful Creator

No one can see deep into the darkness
The secret places within

Yet, in the endowment of the gifts from the Master Creator,
The gift of freedom was to be paramount.
The ability to choose. . .
Right or Wrong
Truth or Falsehood
Love or Hate

Somewhere in the hidden places within,
A struggle ensues.
Wrestling with choice overshadows all. . .
And yet, there are those defining moments when
There are no battles, no conflict. . .
The decision is without choice. . .
And it is easily made

There is sacrifice
Charity
Selflessness
Giving
Offering
Humility
Grace
Mercy
Tenderness
and most importantly
Love. . .

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(Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tall grass

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil The Great

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson

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(red clover blooms in a field of tall grass / Julie Cook / 2015)

I lose myself in the tall grass
Hidden from preying eyes
Inhibitions that lay chains upon the backs of the innocent
are lost in the tall grass
Running unhindered, unencumbered. . .finally free
The tiny and small feel brave and bold in the tall grass

I am safe in the tall grass
Resting from demanding voices
Fears that lay hold falsely around the necks of the virtuous
are banished in the tall grass
Basking uninhibited, joyously. . .finally at rest
The weak and the weary are at peace in the tall grass

I joyfully sing in the tall grass
Free to be who I wish to be
Songs soar on the wings of the grasshopper reaching happily
above the tall grass
Resting, musing, dreaming. . .finally happy
The innocent and pure feel happiness and joy in the tall grass

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Silence

Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
Matthew 6:34

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

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(new bloom to a new little king hawthorne tree / Julie Cook / 2015)

Praying
Begging
Pleading
Hoping
Bargaining
Promising

Do you hear me?

Crying
Anguishing
Fretting
Worrying
Agonizing
Struggling

Do you see me?

Watching
Waiting
Needing
Wanting
Yearning

Do you know me?

In the darkness of an aching heart
the frustration rises to a deafening level.

Silence answers

Day after day,
month after month,
year after year
a one way conversation plays out

Silence answers

Believing
Trusting
Claiming
Knowing
Proclaiming

Silence answers

On my knees, in the silence, I cry out to You
Through my tears, in the silence, I implore You
In the darkness, through the silence, I need You

A single word is heard to drift along an evening breeze. . .

Beloved. . .”

Falling into you

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
― William Blake

The Infinite Goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it.”
― Dante Alighieri

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(the canopy of a leafing river birch / Julie Cook / 2015)

Inviting arms reach to embrace
as delicious tenderness beckons to all who dare delve inward

The depth of Your fullness draws the wayward ever closer. . .
There is a heady yearning to fall into the open vastness

Rich, luscious and verdant envelop a longing so intense
that it is nearly unquenchable

Barren cold dryness has given way to an insatiable hunger. . .
Warmth seeps into each crevice of my soul

The spirit awakens to the lofty scent of heavenly perfume
As eyes open wide to behold the majesty of Your hand

Soothing whispers swirl underneath my feet
Lifting a longing heart up to the tree tops.

One heart burns for another
An extended hand aches to touch the hand of the other

Longing
Drawing
Pulling
Calling
Wooing

I open my being to Your sweet song
and fall thankfully into You

Your song to me

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
Plato

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Psalm 27:6

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(cardinal singing high in the tree tops / Julie Cook / 2015)

Head down,
busy doing,
lost in thought

When a delightful sound,
A lyrical tittering cadence,
calls for my attention

My head lifts
My eyes search
Seeking the source of the call

I careen my neck
Looking high into the trees
The lush new foliage hiding your presence

Elusive yet persistent
Sweet and inviting
You call out, seeking

Your tenderness I cannot ignore
I listen with intensity,
for your persistence is rhythmically inviting

You call out to me,
wooing me with your song,
pulling me ever closer

Your delight is directed toward me
as it intoxicatingly draws me in. . .
I continue. . .
listening,
watching,
seeking

As you continue. . .
calling,
singing,
loving. . .
me

“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy
Zephaniah 3:17

Make hay while the sun shines

Sweat cleanses from the inside.
It comes from places a shower will never reach.

George Sheehan

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

― Francis of Assisi

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(my grandmother’s old pitchfork / Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe it was the brilliant bright sun.
The endless deep blue sky.
The tender vibrant new green leaves.
The deafening serenade of the cacophony of birds. . .

Outside was calling. . .
And I had no choice but to heed the call. . .
As I just couldn’t drive, one more day, over to Dad’s.

Yet this was not a day for leisure.
No idyllic lounging under a welcoming shade tree
No whiling away the hours. . .
Sitting idly by, just taking in the day. . .
Nope, there’d none of that. . .
As there was work to be done.

Balancing a hectic life,
Taking care of two households in two different cities. . .
Dreading the three letter name that constantly pops up on my phone,
“DAD”
As in Dad = a crisis. . .
Small or large, a crisis will be brewing

Running here, there and yon
Darting in and out
Dashing from here to there and back again,
4 times a week if not more
Rushing to and from frantic traffic. . .
To and from the unhappy confused
The frustrated caregivers. . .
Loons who loom. . .

Which all leads to a weary, frazzled, beaten mind, body and soul

The best curative you ask,
Other than running away, or something illegal or illicit?
Well for me, it’s always been to head outside. . .
To work in the yard.
Even when I was teaching and raising a family. . .
Having a day, maybe even two, to be outside. . .
Working with my hands. . .

As in really work.
Hard work.
Manual labor sort of work.
The blisters on the hands sort of work.
The nitty, gritty, down and dirty, sweaty sort of work..

Cut all the shrubbery
Weed the weeds
Spread out new pine straw
Cut limbs
Rake out beds
Dig up the overgrown
Haul rocks
You name it. . .

From sunup to sundown
As in doing it while there is time in the day
Making the most of the light of day, the time we have. . .
For it is good for the soul
Cleansing of the mind
Stretching muscles and joints to the breaking point
Strenuous work, which in the end, results in a visible difference.
A visible and tangible accomplishment

Toiling
Working
Laboring
On something with a beginning, perhaps a long forgotten beginning. . .
Maybe a monumental beginning which may appear almost impossible. . .
Something that could possibly take a while, as in ongoing. . .
Or maybe its something as simple as rearranging, replanting, repainting, replacing. . .
Something, that at the end, is going to be different, better, organized, improved. . .
All because I, me, we, you put our hands into it, our mind into it,
our backs into it, our hearts and soul into it. . .

Whereas I, we, me, you can’t always “fix” or solve the issues that come into our lives,
or into the lives of those we love, or even into the lives of those we don’t even know. . .
Those issues that challenge us, engage us, enrage us, frustrate us, try us. . .
And whereas we can’t always make things better for others or ourselves. . .
Because the issues are bigger than ourselves, our abilities, our control. . .
Being able to see, to feel, to experience something that we can change, or fix,
or make better, or make a difference with, or something we can finally meet head on, something that has been waiting for us, possibly for years. . .
It is to such laboring tasks that we can find healing and the need of being cleansed. . .
The clearing of a heavy heart, a cluttered mind, a confused world. . .

It is the satisfaction of knowing that [finally] we tackled it, brought a resolution, made a difference, made a change, made some small corner of our world. . .better.
Be it something seemingly insignificant, tiny and small. . .something not necessarily
Noticed by others, no one other than ourselves. . .
Nonetheless the change being there, is for the positive. . .

It is this sort of honest, simple, often repetitive, work. . .
which can make all the difference in the world in ones
perspective, well-being, thoughts, heart. . .
Providing the incentive to, in turn, meet the ever looming challenges or our lives with more focus,
a better determination, and with the hope we may have initially lost. . .
For in such we find ourselves feeling better about ourselves and in our lot in life in general. . .

So may we never shy from any work that calls for our hands, our backs, our minds and our hearts. . .
May we never look down upon those who make their livelihoods doing the sort of work with their hands and backs that many of us so often take for granted- – –
May we come to understand that the working of hands and backs, the manual labor sort of work, is more often than not some of the most honest, refreshing, rejuvenating, perspective changing, cathartic, satisfying and even edifying work that any of us, who may often lose our way in our journeys,
in this ever instant gratification,
touch of a button, sort of world we find ourselves living. . .
Here’s to the work of our hands. . .

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
Proverbs 14:23

Busy growing

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”
― Mother Teresa

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(a bumble bee caught in mid flight at the blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

Places to go
And people to see
I’m just as busy as I can be

Time’s not my own
Is that Dad on the phone?
Closing my eyes I shutter and groan

Life’s always changing
It shifts and it moves
We pray for the best and hope it improves

With our ups and our downs
We all come and go
It’s the struggles we suffer which help us to grow