humble past

“You may delay, but time will not.”
Benjamin Franklin


(a bible sits open on an old pulpit in the Shoal Primative Baptist Church /
Talladega National Forest / Julie Cook / 2017)

A long time ago, before cotton was ever king…


(a rural cotton field, Rabbit Town, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2017)

Or 13 colonies fought to form a new and perfect union…
the Nation of the Creek Indians called the lands of what is now Georgia and
Alabama home.

It is estimated that these native Americans had lived and thrived in this region
before the year 800 AD, as they were descendants of an even earlier people, from
what is known as of the Mississippian period.

In 1733 Captain James Oglethorpe landed in the what is known today as
Savannah, Georgia.
He claimed the land south of the Carolinas and north of Spanish Florida,
in the name of King George…as the New Georgia.

In 1752 Georgia became officially the 13th colony.
However despite the British crown’s claim to this new land,
the Creek indians continued to be the majority inhabitants and land owners
of this young colony.


(James Ogelthorpe /Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016

However that all began to change in 1760 with the continued exploration
and expansion westward by the British, Spanish and French.
Native Americans were quickly being squeezed from their ancestral lands
by a deluge of European exploration and subsequent settlers.

By 1800 the Creek Nation ceded all of their lands to the state of Georgia
and were forced to move westward…

This time they moved deep into the lands of what is known today as
the state of Alabama.
But in 1819, with Alabama being recognized as the 22nd state
in the Union, once again the Creeks were forced to relocate.

In 1830, following the orders by President Andrew Jackson,
the once proud Nations of the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw
tribes were forced from their traditional lands,
and were relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi,
as Scotch/ Irish settlers made their way
south and west, down from the Carolinas, claiming these once tribal lands as
their new homesteads.

Around 1835 to 1840, deep in the back woods of the Alabama foothills of the
Appalachian Mountains, a small community of European settlers found a home
in a rugged area of Alabama.

These settlers were farmers, hunters, loggers and even moonshiners.

At the heart of their community these hardy settlers erected a log hewn church
to serve as an anchor for their community.
It was a building that would serve their community needs, their spiritual needs
as well as the educational needs of their children.


(Shoal Primitive Baptist Church, originally built in 1845 / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today both time and Mother Nature have each reclaimed this once small community.
Long forgotten are the voices of those first Native American inhabitants…
as well as the voices of those early European settlers.

Yet hidden deep within a mix of virgin forest and replanted pines,
resting at the end of a long forgotten rutted, single dirt lane road,
a lone wooden church remains ever vigilant…
standing the test of time.

She is a far cry from the great Cathedrals and Churches of big cities or
of far away lands.
She possess neither stained glass, gleaming silver or brass nor
ornately carved wooden fixtures.

For hers is a humble yet strong and determined example of faith.

Her small cemetery of unmarked graves whispers tales of those hardy souls
who once called these lands home…those individuals who worked the land
living and dying in the shadow of this church.


(the unmarked graves of Shoal Creek / Julie Cook / 2017)

The Shoal Primitive Baptist Church originally erected in 1845,
with the building we see today being rebuilt in 1895, is listed and recognized
as an important historic building on the National Registry.

It remains a lone sentinel of the early American pioneering spirit in an area
that is now known as the Talladega National Forrest.
This area was bought by the Federal Government and made a national park
by President Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930’s.

The church is one of 6 remaining log hewn churches scattered throughout the state
of Alabama and still hosts special events such as Sacred Harp singings.

Inside this lovely and lonely darkened church, resting atop the single black pulpit,
sits a worn and tattered bible.

It is open to the book of Psalms….

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
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.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

Cades Cove, a whisper from the past

If history were taught in the form of stories,
it would never be forgotten.

Rudyard Kipling

Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm.
Thomas Fuller

“Let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.”
― Thomas Jefferson

DSCN2077 (1)
(A wagon at the old Cable home place, Cades Cove, TN /The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Dusty and dry
Broken and discarded,
Forgotten and abandoned,

Left to rot a long time back

When was the last day?
The day they simply walked away?
The day it was put aside, forever…?

Was it traded in for something newer, more shiney and sleek?
Perhaps a distraction guised in efficiency?
Maybe everyone had simply grown too old to make repairs.

Or maybe,
it was simply left behind when the last person finally walked away…forever.

DSCN2080

DSCN2074

DSCN2078

*The Cable house with its surrounding barns, mill and smokehouses are all that remain of the Cable homesite which was once a vibrant part of the community within what was known as Cades Cove’s.
Cades Cove was once a thriving Tennessee Appalachian mountain cove community with upwards of 800 individuals calling the Cove home. The Cove, a farming community, once boasted a post office, general store, boarding house, school and local doctor. Yet Time and the elements had their way with the Cove, by the first World War the population of the Cove was rapidly declining. The State of Tennessee, along with Federal Government, purchased the Cove and surrounding lands in 1927 with the intent of turning it into a National Park.

Much of the work done on the road leading to the cove from cities of both Townsend and Gatlinburg, as well as the work conducted within the Cove itself on the transition from community to park, was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal relief program during the Depression.

Today’s Cades Cove, a 6800 acre historic preservation and National Park which encompasses pastures, woodlands, trails, mountains, streams and preserved original homesites dating back to 1822 with the arrival of the first white settlers into the cove, boasts to be the busiest and most frequented of all the National Parks in The United States.

There is an 11 mile paved one way loop meandering through the cove which affords the hiker, bicycler or car rider the opportunity of viewing wildlife in their natural habitat–deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, beer, bobcats as well as an opportunity to visit and view the original homesites, churches and cemeteries of the original founding families.

The Cherokee Indians were the first inhabitants of the land surrounding the Cove but lost all rights to land claim in the Smokey mountains in 1819.

Becky Cable, who first moved to the cove in 1868 with her parents and siblings, later bought the Leason Gregg house (pictured above), with the help of her brother, in 1904. Becky who never married, but was affectionately referred to as “Aunt Becky,” remained in the house until her death in 1940 at age 96. Becky was one of the last members of the community to live in the Cove.

Kermit Caughron, a 5th generation descendant of some of the original Cove founding families, was actually the last community member of the cove to call Cades Cove Home. Mr Caughron was affectianely known as the Bee Man by the throng of annual visiting tourists as he owned a myriad of honeybees boxes, harvesting and selling the honey. Mr Caughorn spent his entire life, 87 years, living in the cove until he was “relocated” in 1999. At which time the cove became home to only the local wildlife and a sea or curious tourists

DSCN1986

DSCN2200

Places such as Cades Cove are important pieces to intricate patch work to the fabric which makes this country what it is. These preserved sites are but a few remaining tangible pieces to the foundation which makes us who we are as a country.

Some of our original building blocks.

It is extremely important that we never forget the lives lived, the hardships endured, and the paths paved by these early settlers who were brave enough to forge a way of life in an area that was not always welcoming…yet they remained and persevered.
Despite Indian hostilities, devastating snows, ice storms, heat and drought, failed crops, devastating accidents, illness, isolation and death…these are the people who helped define the American spirit.

It is both humbling and enlightening to be afforded the opportunity of stepping back in time, catching a tiny glimpse at a moment in history that helped to bring us to where we are today. Imaging the lives of people long past, who were just like you and I, but who never had the luxuries, “niceties” or opportunities we enjoy today…they worked hard and toiled most of their lives in order to make their lives a success…which was simply a roof over head, livestock that flourished, crops that grew, children who were educated and food on the table. It is imperative that we, as a civilized society, recognize and remember the importance of maintaining and preserving such remaining treasures of our history, our National Parks as well as our National Heritage…

And He gave their land as a heritage, A heritage to Israel His people.
Psalm 135:12

River dancers

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“The sacred sense of beyond, of timelessness, of a world which had an eternal value and the substance of which was divine had been given back to me today by this friend of mine who taught me dancing.”
― Hermann Hesse

DSCN2139
(section of the Middle Prong, Tremont, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN2155

A collection of water striders are found gliding effortlessly upon the surface of a mountain stream which has quickly lost its summer warmth during the waning light of a random Autumn afternoon…

They mesmerize, even entertain, anyone fortunate enough to find themselves perched on one of the numerous rocks or boulders littering many an Appalachian stream…
those who have come to these mountains for healing, rejuvenation or simply to marvel in the hand of the One True Creator…

This particular group of aquatic bugs makes their home on the Middle Prong stream…a branch of the Little River stream flowing through Tremont, Tennessee.

RSCN2179

RSCN2181

DSCN2164

DSCN2166

DSCN2162

RSCN2180

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

Psalm 145:5

to wander far from home

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

DSC00237
(photograph: Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook/ 2011)

Isn’t this a lovely place? A beautifully inviting home…neat,cheery, pretty, and very welcoming. Just looking at this courtyard home makes me want to call it my own. Never having seen it before nor having ever visited here before, something about this place immediately makes me feel “at home”.

The idea of home means many different things to many different people. It may be a certain place, a particular building or city— it may be the people associated with what forms the idea of home. I think we all have a deep perception of what forms the foundation, the concept, of home–as that is basically formed from childhood. Those early formative days were hopefully, for most, days of feelings of security and belonging. Sadly I do know that not all children experience that sense of security and belonging. However,despite the good or bad initial formative years, we all have some innate desire for, or longing for, regardless of childhood, …. Home.

Have you ever been at home and yet—feel that home is actually somewhere else? It’s as if some other place “out there” is calling out to you but you just don’t know where….have you ever traveled being so excited about the start of a new adventure and yet equally excited about finally returning to “home”?
Happy going and happy coming…and yet there still remains an underlying yearning….

I have always known that yearning. Maybe it goes back to the adoption…maybe not. How can a person have so much fulfillment and still think there is more you ask? When I was in High School I read the book Something More by Catherine Marshall.

I’ve written about Mrs. Marshall before. She became a rather famous Christian author during the 6o’s and 70’s. One of her early books Christy , a story based on her mother’s experience as a teacher in the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains, was the basis for the 1994 television show of the same name, staring Kelly Martin. The story of a young woman who leaves behind her comfortable life with her prestigious family in Asheville, North Carolina, during the early 20th century, in turn venturing into the foreboding Appalachian Mountains, as a young single teacher, wanting to work with some of this country’s most impoverished and superstitious people.

Those families who called the remote mountains home were predominantly settlers from Scotland having arrived in this country at varying times–some coming early during the times of the Revolutionary war in the late 18th century as others were products of the mass emigration days of the turn of the 20th century. The Appalachian Mountains were reminiscent to their ancestral homes in Scotland from whence these families originally hailed—allowing them to keep to the very private and traditional ways of life of extreme territorial family clans. The story of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s is but a small example of this bitter family clan history in this mountain region albeit, for them , based in Kentucky

Mrs. Marshall had been married to Peter Marshall, a well known and widely popular young charismatic Presbyterian minister who had served as Chaplin to the US Senate. Sadly Peter Marshall died from a heart attack at a very early age—leaving Mrs. Marshall, a young widow, to care for the couple’s young son. It was during this time when she wrote her first book, A Man Called Peter, a story based on her husband’s life and rising career through the ministry.

She eventually remarried, continued raising a growing family and continued writing. The first book I read of Mrs. Marshall’s, back in 1977, was her book Something More. Her books had a profound effect on me as a high school kid who was truly on a quest for that very thing…something more. It was however one of her later books, The Helper, that opened a new look into an area of Christianity, which even Christians find mysterious and are not fully confident to discuss —that being the role of The Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

To many Christians the Holy Spirit is an enigma. A member of the Trinity given to us, after the Resurrection, to remain as a sort of guide post, marking the way on a spiritual journey. A concept difficult to sometimes wrap our thoughts around. It is said that we are only able to pray because of the deep seeded piece of the Spirit that resides deep within our souls urging us, calling to us, willing us to communicate with our Father……..

So it has been during this life of mine that I have learned truly one thing…that being when the Holy Spirit touches your heart, you are never the same. You will always be restless. There will always be yearnings because a hole has been seared into the core of the heart. Life becomes a quest to quench that yearning. Sometimes the quest is intentional, sometimes it’s that emptiness that just seems to be driving us deeper into what appears to be the unknown–not understanding why we are feeling “empty” or lost, but just knowing something just isn’t quite right.

It is apparent to me that I need to delve further into the role the Spirit is playing in my life. But I am comforted by this particular verse…..

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15 NIV)

Here is to seeking and soothing the unknown yearnings of our deepest interior. Here is to finding our true “home”….

the mountains are calling………….

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
John Muir

DSCN0747

I need more time than what I am currently afforded to express to you my life long love of “the mountains”…this love may have been innate–something that was instilled in me at birth. The culmination coming during college when I spent my summers in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Be it the Swiss Alps, the Pacific Cascade Mountain Range, the Appalachian Mountains, the Pyrenees, The Rocky Mountains, The Apennines in Italy….my heart and soul are at peace in “the mountains”–I always feel closer to God when I’m in the mountains (that whole getting higher and closer to Heaven…remember from yesterday)…so it is no wonder that mountain laurel, that kin to the Rhododendron family, is the primary calling card to spring/summer time in the mountains. Joyful, vibrant and screaming….”the snow has melted, the weather has warmed, come, I’ve been expecting you….”

This particular mountain laurel bloom is from Oregon’s Cascade Mountain range, near Mt Hood—it’s a beautiful calling card beckoning all of us to come visit, all of these mountains have been expecting us…….