Walking stick or prop

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.”

Bill Withers

“Conceit may puff a man up, but never prop him up”
John Ruskin quotes

DSC02128
(walking stick made by a craftsman in Townsend,Tenn. / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02129
(my son when he was much much younger with the same walking stick on a hike in Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook)

The above images are photographs featuring a single stick–
yes, you read correctly, a stick—
but this is not just any old stick. . .
This stick is a fine hand carved Tennessee walking stick—
built to aid one when traversing the paths and trails, for this particular stick,
throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And as we see, this particular stick did indeed fulfill its duty for an eager young hiker. . .

Now all this talk of sticks has brought to mind a recent bit of dialog. . .

The other day I received a very kind comment on one of my recent posts from a gentleman in Cameroon.
He noted that in the bio section of my blog it stated that I had opted to retire from teaching as I needed to be free and flexible in order to help take care of my dad who lives in a different city than my own.
I needed to be able to drive over for scheduled appointments to doctors, the bank, etc as well as for those unexpected and unplanned drives when I would, and do, need to drop everything, making the mad 70ish mile dash to Dad’s. . .

This most kind gentleman in his comment equated my being the child who now serves as
a walking stick—being there to offer aid and support to an
aging father along this most latest journey.

His comment or perhaps observation stuck me as deeply profound.

It’s not that I feel as if I am doing anything out of the ordinary–certainly not to receive any sort of recognition–because I’m merely doing what is necessary–
Simply that which needs doing—

It should be noted however that in certain countries and cultures, other than my own, that it is often considered part and post to offer aid, support and comfort to one’s aging parents—even considered a privilege to tend to the elderly as the elderly are revered and seen as viable and important.

Sadly my observation of life here in the US is in stalk contrast to such as is seems our Nation’s opinion of aging is a bit skewed and warped as we tend to view aging as something tragically bad and something we will fight with our last dime and breath.

We Americans are not very good with this concept of aging as we’ve never been lauded as a country which truly honors it’s aging senior citizens.
We are, are we not, the country of youth and vigor—relishing in the freedom and mobility of perpetual agelessness as we continue searching for the elusive fountain of youth.
We work hard not to age— fighting it tooth and nail.
Those worn out, tired, aging and ill bodies are often seen as a hinderance to our
youth-minded and action packed lives.

But my thoughts today are not so much about aging or America’s view of its elderly but rather of the role of a simple stick, a walking stick. . .

A devise used to aid and assist verses a device meant to act as a mere prop. . .

The roles we hold throughout our lives vary as much as the seasons.
We first arrive into this world in a very dependent state, eventually transitioning to that of being independent with a final swinging back to that of being dependent again—all throughout the course of a single lifetime.

Ideally life flows from dependence to independence and briefly back to dependence toward the end of a long and well lived life. Yet sadly,for some of us however, life deals a cruel hand or two as we find ourselves at the height of independence suddenly falling rapidly back into a state of dreaded dependence.
Finding ourselves in desperate need of the aid and assistance offered by those walking sticks within our lives.

There are times that it is to a literal stick we turn, but more often than not, it is to the living walking sticks—those who come to our side offering their support– physically, financially, mentally and emotionally aiding us in moving forward.

A walking stick is active whereas a prop, which can indeed be a stationary walking stick, is more static. Props do serve a purpose but they are usually placed, then quickly forgotten. . .that is until they begin to fail and need replacing.

A walking stick however becomes a constant interaction—sometimes silent sometimes not.
A steady companion of sorts—allowing us to move forward, albeit aided and perhaps a bit slowly, but forward none the less–whereas a prop does not afford motion or progress.

Which begs the question of each of us—
are we a walking stick or merely a static prop?
I think I like the thought of being a walking stick myself. . .


***a thank you offered to Ngobesing Romanus at The World’s Best Success Inspirer blog for his most thoughtful comment

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all things acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your way.
Proverbs 3:5-6

All things new

Cause of who you are and who I am in you
You make all things pure, oh oh
‘Cause of who you are and who I am in you
You make all things true, oh
You make all things new, all things new

Watermark – All Things New Lyrics

DSC02125
(wild butterfly pea / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02120
(silver spotted skipper / Julie Cook / 2-15)

DSC02124
(silver spotted skipper / Julie Cook / 2015)

On this new morning to this new day to this new week,
I beseech you oh Lord,
make all things new–
in me. . .

He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said,
“Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:5

Best intentions

“Hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Samuel Johnson

“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.”
― Thomas A. Edison

DSC02103
(Variegated Fritillary visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02101
(Variegated Fritillary visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

Best intentions are not always best—and sometimes it takes a lifetime to finally, sadly, remorsefully understand such wisdom.
What is it that they, those anonymous and innocuous wise sages, say about that proverbial road to hell?
The one I fear I’ve spent a lifetime paving?

Despite the poor choice of yielding to those intended intentions, time and time again we see that it is actually our hearts which often steer us toward the kinder and gentler offering rather than the more difficult.
Which may just prove that it is indeed better to lead with one’s head, rather than one’s heart.

As a people we tend to lean toward wanting to be kind not tough, soft not hard.
And yet it seems that we as a people learn best by the harder knocks in life.
Those lessons in life that spare neither our feelings nor hearts.

As parents we experience all of this first hand do we not?
Tueri et provide — to protect and provide is the creed and motto of any parent.
We spend most of our time and energies wanting, and / or doing, just that for our children—
Yet it is not always the better decision, stance or choice.
A child’s hard lesson learned is usually a well lesson learned—it may be painful in the beginning, especially for the observing parent, but a great reward of character for the child in the long run.

And with all this talk of good intentions, one should know that inevitably there’s a whole lot of reaping and a whole lot sowing to be had.
And sadly good intentions don’t always seem to reap a like kind.
Instead they often times reap a whole lot of uncomfortableness, misfortune and misery.
Leaving behind those well intended souls, in the wake of the aftermath, like a deer in headlights wondering what just happened.

Thankfully there is another small thought or motto that has become a bit of a life-line
or actually it’s really more of a short sweet prayer which helps me through those moments when my best intentions get the better of me. . .

God, I blew it so please renew it. . .

And so once again, in this thing called life, as I look back on those intentions that may have, at the time seemed best yet rather turned out to be anything but best—even overflowing with negative repercussions, I once again offer up my prayer—
“God, I blew it. . .again. . . and it’s a mess, and only you can “renew” it. . .please help”

Tiny treasures

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.
Golda Meir

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.
Leo Tolstoy

DSC02078
(a tiny Gray Hairstreak tiptoes on the sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

In all truth, it is in the tiny, the small and the demure where we are to find real strength and value.
It is not to be found in the grand, the exquisite, the large or the garish for that is too easily recognized and assumed.

Contrary to popular thought, the tiny and small will never be lacking–for within those often hidden tiny treasures is a wealth of wonder and joy. . .

DSC02079
(a tiny Gray Hairstreak tiptoes on the sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02070
(fiery skipper amongst the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02069
(a thread-waisted wasp visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02074
(fiery skipper amongst the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02073
(a most welcomed visitor to the heather, a honey bee / Julie Cook / 2015)

“But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? “Man does not know its value, Nor is it found in the land of the living. “The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.”Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, Nor can silver be weighed as its price. “It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, In precious onyx, or sapphire. “Gold or glass cannot equal it, Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. “Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls. “The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
Job 28:12-19

You have no idea. . .or maybe, perhaps you do

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton

DSC01763
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02048
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02056
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the backyard rabbit. . .

You have no idea just how much you truly mean to me. . .
Not that you know me or that I know you—
Yet we know of one another’s existence.
You are out there and I’m back here, usually up, looking outward at you, down there.
And I know you know, just as you know I know.

For you see, I need to know that you and your world remains, as always, the same.
I need to know that when I have fought through another day, another journey, another time of attending to duties I would prefer would disappear, I know you are out there, doing what it is that you do day in and day out.

When I turn on the television, only to see a world that I no longer recognize, I know you are the same, as in, you never changed.
When I see a country I no longer understand, I can thankfully understand you.
When I grow weary of the pettiness, the arrogance, the self-centeredness of man, I can look out at you, unencumbered, offering no pretense, no bravado. . . just being yourself. . .
and I can exhale–simply enjoying watching you, simply being you. . .

And as I ramble on about the small joys received in the simple act of sitting back and basking in the solitude of watching a wild rabbit, or two, going about its life–eating, running, jumping. . .appearing simply happy to be alive, I am struck by the very words I have used to offer up to a little rabbit—that in much the same vein, the words may be offered up as a simple prayer to God—

That He knows, before I know, just how much He means to me. . .
despite my inability to grasp or readily recognize that need.
That I can actually rest in the knowledge that He is who He is and has been since the beginning of time–That He is not merely the Creator of all that was, and all that is, and all that will be. . .
but that He is also a Father. . .my Father. . .
who loves,
who comforts,
who sees,
who knows,
who indeed does understand.
That He mourns just as I do when I look out over this world of ours.
As thankfully, He remains steadfast, always the same—
unmoved,
unchanged,
never transformed or moulded by mortals who are constantly changing and transforming our own world to fit our own selfish desires, perverse pleasures, and arrogant agendas.

He offers me the gift of Creation—as I find in that Creation a small creature, that offers me a glimpse of everlasting peace. . .

And whereas the rabbit and I merely recognize one another’s existence, I can rest in the fact that The God of all of Creation, does indeed know, and knows most personally, me. . .and that single thought alone is what allows me the ability to exhale at the end of each long and hard fought day. . .

DSC02050

DSC02054
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02059
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02065
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

Dreamily

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

DSC02031
(foggy effects of a lens transitioning from cool inside to steamy outside / Julie Cook/ 2015)

Lying there idly, somewhere between that place of waking and slumber,
In that misty place of dreams. . .
That place of the miraculous. . .where there is little distinction between
reality and fantasy. . .the actual and the unreal;
It is in that place of Balance that He often, in Spirit yet without form, comes to us.

As a Peace descends the quietude. . .
And a Voice without words begins to break the silence. . .

A Power beyond comprehension fills the void with a massive yet welcoming Presence. . .
Helpless to move, as there is no option given to run nor hide, we are left to wonder
As we wander in the mistiness between Time and Space.

There is Serenity simply in breathing. . .nothing more and nothing less. . .
The rhythmic in and out, up and down of life.
A resting in the Presence of One. . .
Hovering between Heaven and firmament, there are no real thoughts, no worries, no regrets. . .
Just the pleasure of merely Being. . .

The desire to linger, to stay—beckons as Joy mingles with Contentment–
As the Knowledge,
that no harm shall prevail in this surreal Sanctuary grows into a soothing Balm,
A warm touch is sensed where there is no noticeable hand.

Being held firmly and securely washes over all the senses.
There is no desire to let go or break free. . .just the Tranquility of Resting. . .
As both holding and having become the same,
Just as the knowledge of possession tastes of Sweetness.

The dawn’s first light begins to shift the scene
With the lines that were, now blurring and blinded by a rising sun. . .
This as the cognizant perception of what just was
Has now merely become a puzzling ponderance of could It really have been. . .

Small blessings

“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” C.S. Lewis

“Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather.”
Alexandre Dumas

IMG_1499 2
(the tiniest of bees, with swollen pollen pouches on each leg, graces a coneflower / Julie Cook / 2015)

Should any received blessing be perceived as being “less than” based upon its size or stature?

In order to qualify as a blessing,
must something be so large, so grand, so luxurious. . .
that we fall into it as if we were falling onto the softest,
most plush, most decant goose down bedding?

Or

Can something so tiny, so small, so demure,
such that it can be missed by the single blink of an eye,
be considered any less bountiful a blessing because it is just that. . .
small, tiny and perhaps considered minuscule?

Are we conditioned for the great and grand?
Are we perhaps too expectant that our expectations should soar upward to lofty heights,
so much so that we are prone to brush off the small as meaningless and insignificant?
Missing what may be the greatest moment of our day. . .

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Narcissus and the selfie obsession

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.”
John Steinbeck

Narcissus,-c.1597-99-large
(Narcissus by Caravaggio 1597-99 / Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Antica, Rome, Italy)

I just don’t get it.

Were we not taking pictures, those of ourselves, long before the word selfie came into being the most recent phenomenon cultural obsession?
Those good ol days of the Kodak instamatic, with its four part flash cube, clicking away at the important moments of our lives. . .

Excitedly we’d pop out the film role, being careful not to expose it to light, racing it off to the nearest camera shop as we could barely contain our excitement over our soon to be developed pictures.
Only to joyfully retrieve the prints after several days of anxious waiting, marveling at the double exposures, red eyes, and blurry images as being careful not to get sticky fingerprints on the new glossy picture prints.
Were we a bit more cautious as to what we were taking pictures of as we knew that there was a person at the camera shop who would be developing said pictures and we certainly didn’t want him or her to see us in any poor choice of situation—perhaps with the developer acting as both filter and conscience. . .Hummmmmm. . .

But I suppose yes, we have come a long way. . .I just don’t know if its been a very good journey.

And social media, I don’t much get that either. . .

This whole FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram. . .”insta” this and that obsession in this obsessive connect every dot, unabashedly sharing of everything, and sadly I mean everything, with everyone and anyone world of ours. . .
Keeping up with the Joneses has now met the 21st century way.
A virtual brag sheet of trips and activities with the sharing of our intimate and private moments. . .with not only friends and family, but everyone!

Maybe it’s the latest national, no actually global, obsession, of everyone wanting their 15 minutes of fame—with, as we again sadly see, that fame often leading to instant demise. . .

I know what you’re thinking. . .you’re thinking I’m really showing my age, my ignorance, my uber unclooness. . .
Well I prefer hoping that maybe I just might be simply on a quest for wisdom.

I’ve stated before that I’ve never joined in with the whole FaceBook phenomenon.
I don’t tweet, pin, post, chat and whatever it is that most folks are now doing on this communicative world stage of ours.
Oh I understand the whole “it’s how I stay connected with my family who live so far away” mentality. . .I get that.
I get you want to see pictures of the grandkids. . .share what the kids are up to with a traveling spouse. . .share those treasured family moments with literally the world, I get it. . .I’m just wondering if we haven’t also turned into a culture of. . . what’s the word??. . .oh yeah, creepers or maybe just plain ol voyeurists–as we fill our time by pouring over ours and our neighbor’s, those known and unknown, virtual worlds.

Moms following their kids around cyberly making certain all is on the up and up until the kids “unfriend” them (which is good and all, but maybe policing their allowance of usage with technology would be better serving. . .I know, you’ve got an argument for that. . . as I’m obviously far off the grid here)
And what of the old high school and college flames reconnecting, never mind one or the other may still be married. . . or maybe you’re just trying to rekindle that whole “what was” business only to discover “what was” in now 40 years in the future and we and it has all been changed by time. . .

And yes I get the whole raise the awareness of current issues and crises. . .the promoting of businesses, the whole global drawing attention to the growing list of the lost and hopefully soon to be found. . .yet I fear our obsession is going too far—

And what’s up with this whole “sexting” business?
Where folks sashay out into the world of casual sex in a way that oddly is rationalized off as safe, as in no body is touching anybody and therefore there is really no sex, no potential disease, no true infidelity or premarital sex, so it’s all harmless—no biggie that you’re posting pics of your intimate areas as it were, looking for love or affirmation or whatever it is you’re looking for in all those wrong kind of places. . .only to see those private images go suddenly viral. . .now there’s a sticky wicket—and then that leads us to the growing sickness with cyber porn, child predators as we open an entire world of technology darkness. . .lets not even talk about cyber stealing. . .

Maybe you’re just feeling really good about yourself these days and you want the cyber world to know it as you upload selfie, after selfie, after selfie. . . .is there not more to your world than you?
And who exactly is it who is seeing these images. . . and just when you may have second thoughts about having posted those pics, hitting delete later doesn’t delete you from cyber space where you and that image remain until the end of time. . . .looking hot and good for ages to come. . .Hummmmmm

We’ve seen the selfie of the young lady, all grins as she snaps a picture of herself while on that special European trip, standing at the gates of Auschwitz—-a big ol happy smile with that cold dark gate standing behind her as the sign of “welcome” still remains. . .maybe she didn’t get that whole history of where she was standing thing. . .

What of the other young American tourists scratching their names into the side of the Colosseum there in Rome then snapping pictures in order to post to FB of their “kilroy was here moment”. . .never mind defacing a National historic treasure of Italy or the arrest, or of the fine. . .
or of the stupidity. . .

What of the tourists mugging for the camera with the bodies of the calcified remains of the victims of Pompeii—maybe it’s just me but that just seems a bit awkward—everyone pull in tight as we snap the pic of us with our arms around the case containing the remains of a human being who met a tragic end. . .everybody smile. . .

Are we so caught up in the moment of snapping that picture that we forget where we are,
what we’re doing. . .too busy to take it all in because we’d much rather get the perfect picture of us with “it”— and not merely of “it”, wherever and whatever it may be—as in look at me, here I am with “it”, at it, on it, under it, in it. . . but I’M here, ME, WE. . . forget it. . .

Oh sure there are the shots of the adrenaline rush moments with the GoPro taking us places most of us will never be or of things we will never see or of perspectives that are not our own. . . of the parachuters, the whitewater rafters, the free fall divers, the skiers, the surfers, the sharks, the rhinos, the birds, our dogs. . .

Yes there is certainly coolness and there is good. . .yet there is sad and there is dark as well. . .

I fear that our focus has become more about us, as in. . . see us, see we, see me. . .
all of this self obsession as a world continues spiraling out of control, as its troubles keep growing- – -yet we keep on smiling and sharing. . .


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

What’s in a tree

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear,
To lean in joy upon our father’s knee.
And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.

William Blake

Trees that, like the poplar, hit upward all their boughs, give no shade and no shelter, whatever their height. Trees the most lovingly shelter and shade us, when, like the willow, the higher soar their summits, the lowlier droop their boughs.
Edward Lytton

DSCN5253
(the shaded canopied walk toward the fountain at Forsyth Park / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2014)

It beckons in a silent way,
Proudly open and inviting.
No designation for rich nor poor,
For all are welcome here.

Come rain or shine as shelter’s sought
Underneath a canopy still
For creatures both great and small
A respite is now calling

Sweeping wide its open arms
Both young and old accepted
“Come up, come under” it whispers sweet,
Our time is just now started

Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4:5-6

Indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

Psalm 121:4-6

Sunny days

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
C. S. Lewis

IMG_1500
(a fiery zinnia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Festively dazzling
Both fiery and bight
The sun’s brilliant performance
Both awes and delights

Miserably hot
And desperately dry
We look for relief
But no clouds in the sky

Radiantly beaming
She cooks and she bakes
With wicked hot rays
As she gives and she takes

Relentlessly strong
For relief we all prayed
As the sun beat down
We scrambled for shade

Delightfully relieved
As the sun finally rests
Yet the evening now yields
A myriad of tiny bloodsucking pests. . .