This year, give something… no matter how small…

Give something, however small, to the one in need.
For it is not small to one who has nothing.
Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.

St. Gregory Nazianzen


(winter blooms in the deep South / New Orleans, LA /Julie Cook/2022)

“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.”

St. Basil the Great

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas (a re-boot)

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would
if it could walk up and down in the garden,
swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

St. Nicholas of Myra


(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied
for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

(a little timely history lesson for this season of giving/ originally posted
in 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”
Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .

‘sour wood’ does bear goodness

“I knew I should be grateful to Mrs Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing.
If Mrs Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise,
it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me,
because wherever I sat –
on the deck of a ship or a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok –
I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar,
stewing in my own sour air.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped.
But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself.
If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


(a sourwood tree in my wooded home/ Julie Cook / 2022)

Sourwood…
any southerner worth their salts knows sourwood…

However you might be asking yourself, what is it about this sourwood
that southerners seem to know….

Well, the simple answer is that sourwood is synonymous with honey.

A seemingly oxymoron of sorts—
that being…how can something known as “sour”wood produce
something as delectably sweet as honey??

Well maybe the real question might need to start with…
where exactly does this said sourwood honey actually come from?

The source would be the sourwood tree.

The sourwood tree, Oxydendrum arboreum, is also known as
The Lilly of the Valley Tree or the Sorrel tree and according
to NC State’s extension gardener website:
the Sourwood tree is a deciduous small tree that may grow 20 to 30 feet
tall and a trunk 8 to 12 inches in diameter.
It is native to North Carolina and can be found throughout the state,
although more rarely in the low, alluvial plain.
The tree has laurel-like alternate leaves that are finely toothed
and sour to the taste.
The bark is red-brown with deep vertical furrows that separate flat,
pointed ridges.
In mid-summer, small, white, urn-shaped flowers mature on panicles.
The tree produces 5-valved capsules borne on panicles that mature
in the fall and release the very tiny, 2-winged seeds.
Fall foliage is red to reddish-purple.
Terminal inflorescences resemble the elongated, bony fingers of a witch.
This plant blooms in early summer, and blooms up the axis.
Blooms are effective for 3 to 4 weeks. Flowers are fragrant and bloom poorly in the shade.


(sourwood tree blooms in a clear blue sky/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(sourwood tree blooms in a clear blue sky/ Julie Cook / 2022)

So we have a tree known for being sour, adorned with frilly whispy flowers,
that produces a very unique tasting honey…

Enter the humble honey bee.

According to The Asheville Beecharmer Company:
Sourwood honey is consistently one of the most sought after honeys around the world,
and for good reason. Sourwood honey has a beautiful amber color and bold,
yet balanced, flavor: buttery sweet with rounded caramel notes on the back end.

Sourwood honey is specific to the United States since sourwood trees
only grow within our eastern mountain corridors.
The top sourwood honey producers, however, come from the southern Appalachian
mountain regions of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and northern Georgia.

Sourwood honey is created when honey bees collect pollen and nectar
from sourwood tree flowers.
Due to the density of sourwood trees in the southern mountains,
honey bees can feed almost exclusively from their flowers during peak season,
which results in pure monofloral honey

(https://ashevillebeecharmer.com)

So ‘sour’wood seems to magically transform into a sweet dark smokey honey—
an amazing mix that only a honey bee seems to innately understand….
And that of the one Great Creator.

Sounds a lot like my life as of late.
Lots of sour, laced with a little sweet and yet specific to a particular place.

Sometimes life is simply too sour isn’t it?
Often bitter…leaving a near caustic taste upon one’s tongue.

And yet magically, or perhaps more miraculously, there comes along a small
something that takes that sour, turning it into something new,
something different and yes, even something even sweet.

Ode to the lessons from a sour tree and a humble bee.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14

Busy as a….

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love,
for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Jesus

We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly
to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make
them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.

Father Jaques Philippe


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before, I am certain that it would have discouraged me..
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything, not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

still out here…wandering… but blessedly not lost

“What is a vocation?
It is a gift from God, so it comes from God.
If it is a gift from God, our concern must be to know God’s will.
We must enter that path: if God wants, when God wants, how God wants.
Never force the door.”

St. Gianna Molla


(a little pearl crescent visits the black eyed susans/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

St. John of the Cross

Life has been busy…which is a good thing…
And yes, I’m still out and about wandering.
But what we do know is that all who wander, are not lost…
or so says Gandolf in his letter to Frodo from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit…

Blessedly, I’m slowly finding my way and feel lost no more.

So while I was out happily wandering… I wanted to share a few shots from around my new area.

I’ll be back here in Blogland on a more regular basis shortly,
but until then…here are a few images of God’s goodness—
please enjoy…

“Let us beware of complaints, resentments,
and evil-speaking against those who are ill-disposed to us,
discontented with us, or hostile to our plans and arrangements,
or who even persecute us with injuries, insults, and calumnies.
Rather let us go on treating them as cordially as at first,
or more so, as far as possible showing them esteem,
always speaking well of them, doing them good, serving them on occasion,
even to the point of taking shame and disgrace upon ourselves,
if necessary to save their honor.
All this ought to be done, first, to overcome evil with good,
according to the teaching of the Apostles; and secondly,
because they are our allies rather than our adversaries,
as they aid us to destroy self-love, which is our greatest foe;
and since it is they who give us an opportunity to gain merit,
they ought to be considered our dearest friends.”

St. Vincent de Paul, p.413


(a hungry bumble bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)

neither abstract nor random

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much
at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty,
but at the love with which we do them.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a rogue dahlia / Julie Cook / 2022)

Reading the following quote by Cardinal, now saint, Newman I must admit that I
was pieced by his words.
My heart was pricked as my thoughts now raced.

The quote took on more than just mere words once uttered by a now deceased man.
These words were suddenly very pointed and direct—not abstract nor random.

I found myself overwhelmed…
however, I must admit, I find myself rather overwhelmed as of late most days…
both in positive and negative ways…
yet this time the sense of being overwhelmed was different.

For these particular words, on this particular day, left me overwhelmed in a
most welcomed way.

I found myself amazed, awed and greatly humbled by the fact that everything
within my life—
every big and every minute thing…
those intentional and unintentional movements of all my comings and goings…
that of the time being ticked off of my day’s ins and outs,
those of all my years in and years out…
That of my birth, my in between and that of my death…
all seen and long known by One and only One…

Yet “sin excepted”

The sin is mine, not His.

And yet His is still the knowledge…knowledge of even the sin…
Those known and unknown sins, those seen and those unseen sins…
those past, those present and those sins yet to be.

Even our very sins are known.

The actions and reactions…all known.
All seen by the one Omnipotent Creator.

Yet whereas everything is precisely ordained…the sin is not.

However He knows even of our poorer choices…the good and yes, even the bad
long before we choose. Long before we even have the choice.
He knows of those reactions…be they good or be they bad…long before
we even think to act or react.

And even in that most difficult notion of our fallen nature, I find peace.

Peace that He sees what was and that which is just as He knows what will be…
even when we ourselves have neither knowledge nor clue of what we will do
in the next 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 years…

We think we know.
We think we have an inkling of our own comings and goings..
and yet truly, we do not.

But what I do know, and I know with all certainty, is that God will continue
to bring good from bad….inspite of me and that of which I know and do not know.
And it is in that one fact that I find much rest and assurance.

“O my God, you and you alone are all wise and all knowing!
You know, you have determined everything that will happen to us from first to last.
You have ordered things in the wisest way,
and you know what will be my lot year by year until I die.
You know how long I have to live.
You know how I shall die.
You have precisely ordained everything, sin excepted.
Every event of my life is the best for me that it could be,
for it comes from you.
You bring me on year by year, by your wonderful Providence,
from youth to age, with the most perfect wisdom,
and with the most perfect love.”

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 103

the journey, the uncomfortable of the unfamiliar

My entire conversion was less of a journey to a foreign place,
and more of a discovery of my long-lost home.

Jennifer Fulwiler
from her book Something other than God

Change is uncomfortable.
Kirby Smart


(unseasonably warm weather has the gardenias in bloom / Julie Cook / 2022)

Perhaps it’s because it’s the start of another new year.

Perhaps it’s because so much of this said new year remains unknown.

Perhaps it’s because we long to forget the year that was..along
with the year before that…

Perhaps it’s because we are actually standing on the periphery of that
which is simply spilling out before us…

Spilling and spreading outward both far and wide…
much like a randomly tossed gallon of paint working
itself outward…spreading and covering everything in its path.

And yet frustratingly, we cannot see what that spilling and
spreading-out entails.

Nothing seems to be in focus…
All we can clearly see is that we are standing at the edge something
that reaches outward from where we currently stand…
beckoning us to follow suit.

It’s similar to standing on the edge of the sea.
We stand at the surf’s edge peering outward to a distant horizon line…
a horizon that seems to be endlessly far away yet calls us to come.

And thus we are reminded that have we have a choice.

We can either remain standing at the edge of all that is…
or…
we can set out on a journey that is calling us, nay beckoning
that we come.

Merriam Webster tells us that a journey is:
something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

Meaning…that if we choose to move, hopefully forward
versus God forbid backward or irritatingly merely remaining in place—
we are obviously to be moving from one place to another.
As in…forward motion…with blessed great momentum.

The notion of such is not always comforting to we the creatures of habit.

We don’t like the unknown.

We don’t like the uncomfortable.

We don’t trust the unfamiliar.

Yet if there is to be growth, there must come the uncomfortable
of the unfamiliar.

And so the journey begins.

For better or worse.
For either good or bad.
The journey beckons.

The question we must ask ourselves, on the forefront of this new year..
are we ready to trust?

Are we ready to put one foot in front of the other?

The year is calling…

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the
calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

bloom more beautifully

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in
this world by God for the salvation of the soul.
So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Julie Cook / 2019)

“Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity.
Individuals who have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say,
‘I am too great a sinner to change,’or
‘God would not want me.’ God will take anyone who is willing to love,
not with an occasional gesture, but with a ‘passionless passion,
‘a ‘wild tranquility’.
A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God,
any more than someone on dry land can swim;
but as soon as a person takes his errant energies to God and asks
for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before.
It is not the wrong things one has already done that keep one from God;
it is present persistence in that wrong.
Someone who turns back to God, as the Magdalene and Paul,
welcomes the discipline that will enable him to change his former tendencies.
Mortification is good, but only when it is done out of love of God….
Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature;
the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush,
not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen, p. 185

goodness and guides

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God
for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

St. Gianna Molla


(yellow roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross

discipline and a holy will

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect
through trial and suffering. Only by carrying the Cross can one reach
the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(a rose still covered by the morning dew / Julie Cook / 2021)

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without
expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola