in pursuit

“Among the strange things of this world,
nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right
and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.”

John Jay


(some of norht Georgia’s finest…Arkansas Blacks and Winesaps / Julie Cook / 2019)

The rains had departed, the clouds were racing off, chasing the latest weather front,
and now the air was actually, delightfully, a bit chilled.

This was to be a short-lived moment as the weather folks were telling us that the
temperatures would be rising this week while the rains would be returning by Tuesday with a vengeance.
Bad weather in the South, no matter what the time of year, is something to be wary of…

So if we wanted to seek out a single colored leaf, now was our moment.

And thus we got into our vehicle Sunday morning and decided to point the truck following
the compass arrow pointing north…or so said the dashboard readings…north.

It’s just about a 2-hour drive from the house to reach North Georgia’s apple capital–
Elijay and her fellow communities of Blue Ridge, Cherry Log, etc…

We almost thought we’d move up this way about a year ago…
but that’s another story for another day.

As the truck’s compass continued pointing north, north-east, we drove on, passing
various polestars pointing towards various destinations…

I must confess, I’ve never been to, let alone seen, Rock City.
Have you?

It was always my understanding, since I was a little girl back in the day,
that farmers were paid to paint the famous “See Rock City” on the sides or roofs
of their barns but I can’t say for certain…
However I always did want a Rock City birdhouse…but I digress

Finally, just before noon, we found the ‘apple barns’ selling the fruits of their labors and harvest.

There were fried apple pies, preserves of every shape and description along with pumpkins for sale.
However, we had come for apples and apples it would be.

There were Grannysmiths, Jonagolds, Pink ladies, Honey crips, Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Ozark Gold, Romes,
Fujis…any variety you’d like to purchase is most likely found by the bag or bushel.

I opted for the tried and true Winesaps and a bag of Arkansas Blacks—
an apple variety that I’m told does best if it is stored chilled in a root cellar for a few months—
Since I don’t have a root cellar, I’ll opt for the fridge in the basement.

After gathering our apples, we continued northward toward a stop in the quaint mountain
town of Blue Ridge…the home of the North Georgia Railway offering train rides up through
the north Georgia mountains.

Blue Ridge is such a dog-friendly little town.
Some of the public parking lot’s proceeds go toward the local animal shelters.
We saw every kind of dog on holiday with “their people.”

We stopped for lunch at a lovely spot on the crowded downtown strip, Harvest on Main,
a place we’ve enjoyed on previous visits.
I had the tastiest drink sporting some local bee pollen…go figure!


(The Harvest / Julie Cook / 2019)

As the afternoon was beginning to wane, we opted to head back toward the more flatlands of home
rather than continuing eastward over the northern part of the state towards Blairsville, Helen
and Georgia’s gold capital of Dalonagha…

Sadly, however, we were more than aware that we had yet to really see any colorful foliage,
as our Fall is struggling from our having had one more extreme record hot and dry Summer.

We retraced our steps back towards Elijay, opting to take Hwy 52 / 2, a road that would carry us over
Fort Mountain back towards Chatsworth, Ga. and Hwy 411 South.

I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life, less than two hours away from Fort Mountian,
and yet I had never heard of this “mountain” nor of the state park of the same name.

“Mystery shrouds the ancient stone wall of Fort Mountain State Park,
located near the Cohutta Wilderness, offering you a look back in time to the previous inhabitants,
as you discover 60 miles of recreational trails and majestic overlooks.”
A scenic drive on Highway 52 near the Cohutta Wilderness leads visitors
to this mountain getaway.
Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will find some of the most beautiful trails in Georgia,
winding through hardwood forest and blueberry thickets,
crossing streams and circling a pretty lake.
Hikers can also explore a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
and an ancient rock wall that stands on the highest point of the mountain.
The mysterious 855-foot-long wall is thought to have been built by early Indians
as fortification against more hostile Indians or for ancient ceremonies.

During summer, visitors can cool off on a lakeside beach.
Park guests may stay overnight in fully equipped cottages, a campground or backpacking campsites.

Fort Mountain State Park History

Fort Mountain State Park sits at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains
near the Cohutta Wilderness. Sitting at 2,850 ft above sea level, Fort Mountain
is a great destination for hiking and history lessons alike.
The area in and around the park was home to the Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years,
and their legacy is still felt throughout North Georgia today.

We stopped at an overlook, just before reaching the state park, that was actually the pinnacle of this
“mountain”— hoping to catch a touch of color.
The vistas pointed toward both Tennessee and North Carolina.

There was a couple with their dog who had also climbed up to the outlook.
They asked where we were from… we told them and they told us that they were from
Jacksonville, Fl. They had driven up last year and had opted to come back this year.
They were just so impressed to know that Georgia had such splendor.
I inwardly smiled with a touch of pride as we all like hearing folks from other states
saying nice things about your own state.

But as you can see, there was little if any color for viewing.
A few yellows, a few reds but green is still reigning supreme.

Maybe in a few more weeks things will be turning more colorful…

Despite the lack of fall color—the deviation of a pursuit that was other than
the typical was most welcomed and most refreshing…plus I learned a thing or two
about my state that I didn’t know before…

How’s that little verse, or is it a poem, go??
‘The world is wide and wonderful, wherever we may roam…
but our thoughts return to precious things such as friends and love and home…

It’s not always the pursuit now, is it???…
It is, more or less, the journey itself that is what matters most…

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
(as seen on a small country chruch’s sign during our drive northward)

veeeeeeery interesting

“Veeeeeery interesting”
Arte Johnson
Rowan and Martin Laugh-In

I couldn’t remember…was it Hogan’s Heroes or Laugh-In?

Maybe you’re old enough to remember both mid to late 1960’s TV shows?

A quick little search answered my query…it was Laugh-In.

Laugh-In was a US television show running from 1968-1973.
It was a comedy show hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and featured a host of rather
silly and somewhat irreverent characters. Many of whom went on to their own
independent careers in comedy, television as well as the movies.

Arte Johnson was one such cast member who appeared as a variety of different characters
throughout the show’s 6 year run.
One such character was a recurring WWII German soldier who would pop up randomly and
apparently out of nowhere, usually emerging from behind some sort of fake plant,
after some silly sketch had taken place, with his running tagline always spoken in a very
heavy German accent…. “veeeeeeery interesting“…

There was no hidden meaning…just plain old silliness as Laugh-in’s humor was rooted in
the days of the early vaudeville and burlesque comedies.

After looking out the kitchen window yesterday afternoon and spying a rather odd shape
rummaging around behind a tree and the deer through my husband is currently
experimenting with…out back by the fence…
I quickly opted to grab my camera because somebody in this house has misplaced the
binoculars that I keep in the kitchen for just such an occasion when I need a quick look-see
at the visiting wildlife—and that somebody was not me.

There are four of us here.

One me, one husband and two cats.

I’ve ruled out the cats.

Zooming in the camera, I heard myself uttering that same long-forgotten tagline…
“veeeeery interesting”…
as in I now think I’ve discovered the culprit who yanked open the bird boxes,
pulled out the bluebird nests, grabbed all but one little blue egg and then devoured
nearly all of the apples from my once loaded apple trees.


(who’s little fury body is that down by the fence? / Julie Cook / 2018)


(my thief / Julie Cook / 2018)

I can’t say for certain that this is my theif…but the mask he’s wearing leaves little
room for any false accusations on my part…

The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,

Isaiah 43:20

there be varmints

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap,
baits it, then steps in it.”

John Steinbeck

“Say your prayers varmint…dead rabbits tell no tales”
Yosemite Sam


(this is all that remians/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Remember this image from early Spring?


(my spring crop looking ever so hopeful / Julie Cook / 2018)

This was just one of the four apple trees burgeoning with the hoped-for abundance
of a season that was not quite yet to be.

There was excitement, as well as anticipation, both abounding as thoughts of pies, stews
and all sorts of baked treats swirled around our thoughts.

The air just seemed heavy with sweetness and cinnamon…

That is until this week…

Out of all of those hoped for beautiful apples from those four fully ladened trees,
only 7 measly apples have been salvageable.

There is a culprit…or perhaps even multiple culprits.

But the question remains…Whom?

Deer?
Raccoons?
Birds?

I suspect all three…but the teeth marks are telling.

This tale is to be continued as I go about my stealthy sleuth work…

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today,
the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Deuteronomy 28:1

good fruit, bad fruit

“Beautiful, enticing, forbidden fruit will be offered to you when your “hunger” is greatest.
If you are foolish enough to reach for it,
your fingers will sink into the rotten mush on the back side.
That’s the way sin operates in our lives. It promises everything.
It delivers nothing but disgust and heartache.”

James C. Dobson

It never seems to fail that at this time, each year, I offer up some thoughts
on the gathering of the harvest.

The notion of fruit and or vegetables–be they good or be they bad…

This as I muse over the idea of the labor of one’s hands as well as the required patience
and persistence of both watching and waiting for that labor to come to fruition.

And that’s because I am usually in the beginning stages of harvesting something
this same time of each and every year…

A few years back I posted a great deal about our vegetable garden.

From the tiling of the soil, to the planting of the seeds, to the nurturing of those
tiny first shoots, to the building of a scarecrow in order to keep pesky critters
from eating me out of house and home.


(our scarecrow 2014/ Julie Cook)

We had actually named the scarecrow Tom… after one of my husband’s lifelong friends.
They did favor just a tad.

There was even the tale of the cutting off of slivers of Irish Spring soap and scattering
said slivers around the outer edges, along the periphery of the garden,
as an “old timer” had told us it was an excellent critter deterrent.

Of which seemed to work…for a while.


(the soap and deterents from 2014 / Julie Cook)

But then my dad got sick and needed me.

And I couldn’t tend to Dad and a garden at the same time.
The garden was big and demanded a great deal of attention and time…two things
I had suddenly found myself without as the time and attention needed for Dad far
outweighed the time and attention needed by the corn and squash.

So the garden was abandoned.
Filled in and covered up about 4 years ago.

Yet happily, I still manage to find a few things in the yard of which I must
gather and harvest.

Be it those first deep purple blueberries fresh off the 4 ever growing blueberry bushes…
or those first blushing shades of color coming from the tomatoes I’ve managed to plant
in a few containers perched in the flower beds,
Or simply the monitoring of the growing apples…
I still find a deep sense of satisfaction when gathering and harvesting.

Those of you who have been with me for a while most likely recall that every year,
around this same time, we have trouble with our apple trees and the peach trees.

You may recall the tales of when the sun goes down in our neck of the woods
and we go off to bed, that there’s a magic signal which goes out to all the deer in the area…
a dinner bell so to speak, clanging in the night, for one and all to come and get it…
come on over to Julie’s house and nibble on her fruit trees.

And let’s not bring up my husband’s pecan orchard that he planted about 3 years back…
those 50 “trees” I lovingly refer to as our green Q-tips planted in long rows out in the yard…

Their plight has been equally perilous.

With our resident deer, it’s more of a mindset of eat, kill and destroy any
and all of Julie’s trees.

Their idea is not to merely eat the fruit but rather to eat all the leaves as well as
the entire tree, limbs and all.

And so it’s a bit of a chess match…
waiting ever so patiently to see who makes the first move—
me or the deer.

So as it was today, with the sun was shining and it being most pleasant out,
I went to inspect the remaining 3 out of the 4 apple trees.
Sadly the deer simply ate up the 4th tree.

That victimized apple tree, plus the nearby equally destroyed peach tree,
are what I refer to as the sacrificial trees…as in the hope is that by eating up two of
my trees…that will be enough—
leaving me with 6 out of the original 8.

And whereas I see plenty of signs of snapped limbs and a few unripened fruit spent
on the ground…blessedly, I also see trees full of goodness.


(a fallen apple without the opportunity to rippen is now food for the ants / Julie Cook / 2018)

And so as I go about my yearly task of surveying, harvesting,
and finally gathering what there is to gather,
I am reminded, once again, about the importance of being known by our fruits.

Good healthy fruit or bad, diseased, soured, unripened and spent fruit?

What do I have to offer to those who come with a need or to those who are in search of
something thoughtful, fulfilling and full of ripened Grace?

Well if the deer don’t get involved, then may it be an offering which is good, plentiful,
abundant and more than filling.

By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:16-20

It takes two baby

“It takes two, baby
It takes two, baby
Me and you
It just takes two
It takes two, baby
It takes two, baby,
To make a dream come true
It just take two”

Lyrics Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston


(our lone apple / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thirty four years ago two rather young naive people said “I do.”
Over the years there would be many a time when both thought that
having said “I don’t” might have been the better option.

And so it is with anything that we do in this life that is done for any real
length of time….
There are the days you’re glad you’re in it and there are days
you wish you’d never seen it!

Marriage is just such an endeavor.

Eventually add to the mix a family…and it can suddenly become hard even
on the best of days.

One thing I know as a Christian.
Marriage is a thing that Satan abhors.

For marriage is a worldly example of God’s love and desire of and for us.
A union and a joining…that mirrors His gift to us in the form of His son.
As Christ is considered the bridegroom and the Church, His spouse…
so we come together as man and woman, bridegroom and spouse.

A union that is a rhythmic tandem of two becoming one.

And just like a tandem bike—you’ve got two very different individuals working
together to make a single bike work…making it move and steer in the direction
that both folks want to go…
because a tandem bike can only go in one direction despite two very distinct
and very different people peddling. Both folks need to be on the same page,
or nobody is going anywhere.

For there has to be just one person who steers and directs while both work to keep it going…
Balancing and moving together as one in order to keep everything level and
flowing.

Which brings me to the picture of the split apple.

Out of the 4 apple trees that my husband and I planted a couple of years ago..
Little trees that we’ve babied, watered, fertilized,
trimmed and fretted over…
we have just harvested our crop…
a lone single apple for the year.

We watched a little flower bloom then form into a tiny green orb.
The tree actually had another little apple that was growing alongside the first…
we concluded there’d be at least one for me and one for my husband.

But one night one of the two apples disappeared…
disappeared to our ravenous deer population.

However, for whatever reason, the higher apple remained….
growing into a full fledged apple.

We’ve been watching it.
Waiting to see if it would survive our midnight thieves.

So triumphantly the other evening, my husband picked the apple and ceremoniously
carried it into the house where I proceeded to wash and cut it in half…

One half for me, one half for him….
Cause it takes two halves to make a whole….

Happy Anniversary to us!!!

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself
up for her, that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
that he might present the church to himself in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and
without blemish.
Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5:25-28

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Making

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable,
but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

DSCN1325
(Bunratty Folk Museum, demo of making an apple pie / Bunratty Castle, Co Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“What are we going to make of Christ?
There is not question of what we can make of him,
it is entirely a question of what he intends to make of us.”

C.S. Lewis except The Strangest Story of All

Too much energy and time is often spent in the lofty theological defense and discussions of the conundrum of Christ and His place within the sphere of humankind.
Did He?
Didn’t He?
He said…
No, rather He meant….
He is…
He is not…

He desires not our time spent in the endless arguing, fussing and cussing…
with both believers and non believers over those issues He finds both tiny and small…
But rather and more importantly…
He desires much much more…
He desires, longs for and most certainly prefers…
our becoming,
our doing,
our living…
our allowing…
Allowing Him to work through our hands, our heads and our heart…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters…

Colossians 3:23