timing is not mine

Truth has no special time of its own.
Its hour is now – always.

Albert Schweitzer


(a very fearful and shy visitor / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Time has never been my own.

It is not mine, nor is it yours.

Time is truly not any of ours to claim.
Time is beyond control.
It is beyond ‘our’ control.

And guess what…we humans don’t like that.

So what that all means is that “things” happen.
They happen whether we like it or not.

We have two cats.

Both cats were rescue cats.
Cats who found us to rescue them rather
than our finding them to rescue.

Now whereas most folks go to a shelter or have a friend who contacts them regarding
a found stray animal, we had two animals who actually found us.
Each about 7 years apart.

They sought us out.
We did not go looking for them.

Percy, who was in dire straits at just about a month old, was in the most desperate of shape.
Peaches, on the other hand, was about 8 months old, wandering alone in a back field,
and was very very hungry.

They were in need and each one had some innate drive which brought them to where they
each believed help would come.

Help came.
Love came.

Fast forward to present day.

Two days ago, I saw a dark blur dash across our front porch.
Huh?
What the heck??

I told my husband about seeing this odd blur and he told me that he meant to tell me
that he’d also seen a dark blur race across the back patio that he thought was certainly
a cat.

UGH! was my response.

We live on 5 acres in a mostly rural area with a few subdivisions nearby.
Stray animals, obviously, are not strangers to our area.

So I poked around the yard, bent over nearly on my head peeking through the lattice
covering our front porch, when low and behold, up under that front porch, first,
I heard a small mew and then I could make out two small ears.

UGH…agian
Oh, did I mention Percy has blown out his other back knee and really needs another
expensive and ardrous surgery??

This kitten, who appears to be part calico, is not like Peaches or Percy, whereas he, she, it
is not necessarily seeking us out–it has merely taken up residence in the dirt under my front porch.

I sumise that it is about 3 months old.

And yes, as you can see from the pictures, I have obviously offered free food and water.
Call me a softie but St. Francis is constantly whispering in my ear…

A friend of mine told me that her sister would take the kitten.
The problem is that I can’t “get” the kitten.

It is so skittish that I can’t get near it.

I tried yesterday…as it readily ate the food I offered, to pet its head after I coaxed it out
from under the porch…
.
I thought I had a perfect moment and tried to scoop it up, wraping it in a towel
as I hoped to move it to a cage that I’d set up with food, water, a litter box and cushion
until I could transport it to my friend’s sister.

And that’s when it bit me.

It then jumped and ran.

Great.

Rabis or cat scratch fever…maybe worms.
UGH!

So needless to say, the kitten ran and remains under our porch.
I continue to place dry food and water near the front porch in the evening
and by morning, each have disappeared.
Call me a sucker.
But like I say, St. Francis speaks loudly in my heart and soul.

So this story of three different cats, each needing and wanting, got me thinking about us
as humans both wanting and needing.

Sometimes we humans go forth needing…we seek because whe innately know we need.
Yet at other times we are needing but we dare not acknowledge such…I think we call that
hubris and pride.

Yet God, our Father, knows of both our needs and wants.

He is the consumate Gentleman.
He’ll place the food and water out by the porch..knowing we’ll come out
at some point, in the cover of darkness, in order to find our necessary sustenance…
but He will not force us out to take what He offers.

He is patient, dilentgly waiting.

He’s been bitten more times than can be counted…yet He still puts out
the sustenance, that being His own Son, and continues to sit and wait on the steps…
waiting with open arms…
He knows His children and He waits until they can actually figure their needs and wants.

Sometimes they, we, will readily come out from under that porch.
Sometimes they, we, will never come out.
Sometimes they, we, know their needs.
Sometimes they, we, know their wants.
Sometimes they, we, are humble enough to seek out what we know we need.

He will never force us…
He just patiently waits.

I’m thankful He waits.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18

Exalt life

“Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value. To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live”
Albert Schweitzer

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(Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

We live in a world that not only embraces but is equally embraced by violence….
We warp ourselves tightly in the maelstrom of discord and bloodshed
It oozes in and out of our entertainment…
It’s become our way of life
And serves us as a means to an end.

Gangs
Bullying
Abortions
Terrorists
Wars to end wars…

Teetering out of balance…out of control…
the scale is tilting…

Has it tilted too far?

Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.

Psalm 25:1

Wonderment transpires

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
Albert Schweitzer

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(a timely blooming of paperwhites / Julie Cook / 2015)

Within a mere matter of hours buds open and amazingly bloom,
filling this new day to this new chilly month with
the hope of things to come, the anticipation of joy,
and the wonderment of awe. . .

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord

Psalm 102: 18

A season of texture and tones

The true worth of a man is not to be found in man himself, but in the colours and textures that come alive in others.”
Albert Schweitzer

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(Pinecones from Dad’s yard, along with a fungus covered dead branch, Julie Cook 2013)

With the rapidly approaching official arrival of winter we are, no doubt, beginning to feel as if we are spiraling into a type of color withdrawal. Gone are the beautiful scarlets, golds and burnt oranges of Autumn; gone are the golden swaying wheat fields and the intoxicatingly beautiful jasmine and honeysuckle of Summer; gone are the vibrant explosives reds, blues, greens and lavenders, of Spring. For in this deep slumbering shadow of the calendar, we are left with an empty void of nothingness, or for some, a giant blanket of white encasing every living and non-living thing as far as the eye can see.

Yet in this perceived void of lacking and emptiness, there remains a very important component to our field of vision, for suddenly open for the entire world to view, the earth lies naked before both creature and man— exposed, unprotected and vulnerable. Gone are the colorful coverings of flowers and leaves which act as accessorizing baubles and wrappings. Gone are the tall grasses and heavy ladened branches bearing fruit and flower. What remains is an intricately woven skeletal system, the undercarriage of our natural world.

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Cautiously, and a bit weary, we peer out upon this barren landscape, sad and forlorn, fearing that we are doomed to grey gloomy skies, long dark nights and a lack of visual stimulation. But thankfully a slow hesitant joy begins to claim our mood, for upon closer inspection we realize that we are not the helpless victims of Loss and Void, but rather we discover that we have been granted a tiny treasured lagniappe, a treat for all of our senses, for spread out majestically before us is a different type of visual splendor—one which appears more delicate and almost fragile than what had departed–for here, in what we now find at our grasp, is beauty in its most basic simplicity.

Branches, limbs, sticks, stones, straw, bark, cones and moss—these are the bare essentials which Nature generously offers to our visually weary senses. Wonderfully we rejoice for we now know that we have not been flung out helplessly to fester in a world of monotones and dull eyed death. Here in this seemingly cold and barren world– beauty is to be had, to be seen and to be touched. The visual wonders still abound.

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These visual treasures are not the garish over the top harlots of those previous seasons, but rather these beauties remain understated, subtle and quiet. They speak of structure, shape, texture and tone offering us a tactile reminder that our visual needs have not been forgotten. Old man Winter may be hard and harsh, but he is not unkind. As you fight the deep calling to venture outside to a world of cold wind, freezing rain and gloomy grays, do not be discouraged—Nature knows your need and she has provided.

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To Rome and Jackie with Love

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Albert Schweitzer

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(photograph: skyline of Rome looking toward The Vatican,The Janiculum hill/ Julie Cook/ 2007)

Isn’t there something most magical about the Roman skyline?
Particularly the vista that is punctuated by the magnificent dome of Michelangelo’s
engineering genius.
Are you aware that it is Roman law that no building may be built which exceeds the height
of St. Peter’s?
I love Rome, as I’ve written before.
It is a city that is dirty, loud, lurid, raucous, serene, historical, artistic,
trashy, holy and very very real.

I’ve often mused that I could live in Rome…usually, until I step in the mountains of dog poo
which line the sidewalks or when I get a good whiff of the unmistakable stench of human urine
wafting up from the stairways leading down to the Tiber River.

For Rome does have its flaws……

I cannot, however, think about Rome without thinking of a very dear friend.

I lost this dear friend today, Wednesday.
She actually died last night from a lengthy bout with cancer–an ongoing battle that
seems to have plagued her for most of her adult life.

A mutual friend and former colleague called me this morning with the news.
I had been receiving regular texts, as she had been rushed to the hospital
last week and was in ICU.
The texts were from one of her daughters who was updating the progress of her mom…
it seemed she was greatly improving daily…
that is, until yesterday evening.
She was only 78.

She was a colleague, mentor, friend, mother figure and a darn good high school
math teacher.
She was also the mother to two grown girls with families of their own as well as the former
wife of a rather notable Speaker of the House…
a Speaker who shall remain nameless as this is the place today to simply remember my friend.

She had battled colon cancer long before I had ever known her.
Her famous husband, or so the story goes, went to the hospital when she was
in the midst of her struggle with cancer and that of a life-saving surgery,
asking for a divorce.
That was the “hear-say” story, as she was not one to hang out the old dirty laundry—
and we always respected her for such and never asked for any clarification.

She never bashed him, never said a derogatory word, despite having much right to
do so… giving his philandering ways and the years of sacrifice she had made for his
rise in the state then national political picture.
She always respected the fact that he was the father to her children and therefore…
we never talked about him nor of that former life.

It was during those times when this former husband, who would try his hand at national
politics, that her life would be examined as if under a microscope by the press,
again and again.

Despite wearing the title of “ex” wife, she still seemed fair game for political fodder
or so deemed our oh so pious media (please note the sarcasm).
Reporters actually sat outside of school, in the bushes and trees for a shot, even approaching
fellow teachers for a “story”….
As we all did our best to protect her and her privacy.

The news was never flattering of her, describing her as the “ugly” one–
as she was the first of three wives.

How dare they!

She was a real woman, a real lady actually.. not one of those stretched and augmented women
not starched or altered as the many women of Washington are.
She was not a “trophy” to be lead around on a leash as if on show.
She was a beautiful lady.

I often thought of the qualities of Winston Churchill when I thought of my friend.

She was tenacious and fierce if need be—like a mama bear protecting her cubs…always
to the death.
She was like Yoda, a wise sage always full of the wisdom gained by a life lived
long and well.

She had suffered polio as a child, known sorrow and sacrifice as an adult, and
was toughened by the years of hard work… yet in the end, she was never bitter nor sad.
Her body often betrayed her as she battled countless near death illnesses,
yet all the while she managed to have a new trip or adventure in the works while
living life with chemo, radiation, hospital stays, neuropathy and lastly a stroke.

We’d never know when the cancer came back because she never really spoke about it.
She’d just be sick, fight, recover and run to another life adventure.
With skydiving being one of the last big adventures.

It was this friend that taught me to live life like there was no tomorrow—
as she herself never knew if tomorrow was promised to her or not.

It was this dear lady, this dear friend who knew of my love of Italy and
of all things Italian.
It was this friend who knew I had lost my own mom when I was young and who was
now struggling as a young wife, mom, and teacher…

She took it upon herself to befriend me and gently guide me through the often murky
waters of life.
I remember being devastated when she retired.
She was the old guard at school, the wizened sage who kept us younger teachers
in tow.
She made us laugh, think, fight and always do the right thing by our students
and ourselves.

Once she retired, we did not stay in touch as often as I had wished as our paths
simply diverged.
She was now was hanging out with the other retired teachers while traveling profusely—
With Italy being the last big trip…

It was right around the time when Pope John Paul II was quite ill and actually just prior to
his death that she told me she’d bring me a memento back, something about him…for she
knew my deep admiration for the Pope.

All the while she encouraged me to go soon if I could–as she always found
travel to be one of life’s better teachers.
She brought me back a beautiful image of my beloved pope and I did manage to
make that trip a few months following John Paul’s death—
heeding her advice to go—always go…

I’d see her, from time to time, in Target or at the grocery store—
which just so happens to be the last place we actually talked.
Funny how grocery stores are so prominent in our lives.
Those off places where we run into those important folks who seem to pop in and out
of our lives…

She’d often frequented my husband’s business, sending me her “hellos”
via my husband.
Each time she’d come in the store, he’d come home from having seen her
with the latest story of the latest adventure—

After the stroke, I recently sent a card to the rehab center in Atlanta
where she had been moved while working on regaining strength, speech, and mobility.
I told her in my card that here it was, time for me to finally retire,
and off she moves over to Atlanta…
I was all ready to start our travels and would be waiting on her—
for her to get better and for her to be ready to go, once again…

Sadly, it looks as if she went on without me.

Thank you, Jackie, for everything you ever taught me—–
I will miss you.