astrological phenomenon?

The artist, like the God of the creation,
remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork,
invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent,
paring his fingernails.

James Joyce


(shadows of the river birch trees, dappling onto the driveway, during the eclipse /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Did you get to “see” yesterday’s eclipse?
If so, did you simply dismiss the eclipse as just an astrological phenomenon?
Something kind of cool but just one of those moon, sun, star, planet
kind of events?

It was definitely more than….
indeed much more than.

It was not my intention to write a post about the eclipse as I had other
things to “discuss”….but the experience of the moment was something
I felt called to share….

First, there was truly an odd look to the whole of outside when all of this began…
It was a subtle but noticeable softening of intenstiy.
It was as if the glaring August sun was calming herself down…
for just a moment’s reprieve…and I liked it.

The day began like any other August dog day in the deep South….
The sky was a brilliant blue, speckled with only an occasional puff ball of a cloud.
The neighbor’s bulls across the street were in the midst of a rather loud and
raucous serenade of who could bellow the loudest…
And it was hot.
Near 90 degrees while an overhead sun was blazing down in all her glory.
No rain and only sun and heat.
The type of day one prefers to stay indoors verses out,
especially during the heat of the day.

Shortly after 1 PM the yard…the trees, grass, plants…all began to take on
an odd coloring or better yet, tone.
Almost as if twilight was approaching, yet the sun was still
fully overhead, as there were no clouds crossing her path.
Surreal and dreamlike all rolled into one, it was as if you were standing somewhere familiar yet foreign at the same exact moment.

The sky was still brilliantly blue with a sun still glaring above…
and had I not had the pair of solar glasses that my cousin had overnighted to me
when she discovered the ones I originally had were in fact imposters, I would have
found the strange tint to the whole outdoors disconcertingly odd.
Knowing something was happening but wouldn’t have been able to understand what–
or realizing that something was now terribly wrong with my vision or presence of mind.

By looking through the glasses I could see the moon’s shadow making it’s unyielding
journey across the path of an undaunted sun.

By 2:30, just shy of the 94% fullness that we were going to be privy to, the shadows
cast on the driveway were greatly softened and arced, creating what appeared to
be not the shadow of leaves cast upon the cement, but rather that of a gauzy sheer oriental pastel painting spread out ever so lovingly at my feet.
Plus I noticed I was no longer sweating profusely…
As there was a soothing stillness in the air while even the bulls became silent.

Had I not had the glasses I still would have marveled over the welcomed
embrace of stillness,
the temporary dip in temperature and the oddly shaped shadows cast filtering through
the leaves.

Being awake in the midst of a dream is the best description I can think of–
Strange and odd while being peculiarly soothing.
I’m sure that part of my experience is because I happened to be home alone
during this event and not standing in the midst of a crowd…so I can’t
write about what it was like with the masses but rather just me by myself.

There was, for the briefest of moments, a marvelous emptiness,
as well as an all encompassing fullness…
taking place at exactly the very same moment…
no planes were flying over head, no cars whizzing up or down the road,
the bulls were quiet and all bees and buzzing critters had momentarily disappeared.
It was the silence within what seemed to be a different dimension.

Allowing me to marvel in the mastery of our Awesome Creator…

Astrological phenomenon?
Nahhhhhh…….


(images taken with my camera as I put a pair of the solar glasses over the lens)

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Psalm 19:1

Sailors delight eh….

“He replied,
“When evening comes, you say,
‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning,
‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:2-3

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(a view from the driveway on a sultry August Georgia evening / Julie Cook / 2016)

Red sky at night,
sailors delight….

Getting out of the car, at sunset, after a very, very long day
ferrying dad between this doctor and that doctor,
this lab facility and that medical center….
then spending almost 3 hours in traffic fighting to get home….
I look back, over my shoulder, toward the western sky.

The air is thick and heavy with the humidity of August.
Exactly how I’m feeling…weighted down and heavy ladened.

I sigh…

The evening is quiet.
A far cry from where I had just come.

Our son and daughter-n-law will be moving soon..
moving to the city I never seem to miss when I leave it.
But I can’t think about helping with packing and moving…
not yet…

I often think it not wise to write when life is so heavy
or…maybe that’s exactly when one should…write…
pouring out thoughts and feelings…
searching to match the right words with the right feelings…
sorting and making sense of the senseless…

A body that is tired and hurting
joining thoughts with feelings that now are swirling…
I look toward the red western sky…
as if seeking some sort of reassurance…

Surgery on Friday for dad…
the tumor too large to remove…
but trying to shore things up while buying some time…
Time…
another heavy thought…open-ended
full of uncertainty…

A red sky.

Signals a sailor’s delight…

In other words,
smooth sailing…

Hummm….

Again, a sigh…before heading inside…

Signs of the time…

As I am reminded, while looking at the sky…
in the midst of all the madness and heaviness,
That the Master of the sky…
and of the clouds,
and of the stars,
and of the land
and of the sea…
remains….

forever…

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For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise can mean that a high pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.

(courtesy the Library of Congress, Fun Science Facts)

I am soooo over it. . .I am done!!!!

There is only one day left, always starting over:
it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

Jean-Paul Sartre

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(a southern dogface butterfly visits a freshly planted petunia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Don’t panic. . .
It’s Summer, I’m talking about Summer. . .
As in I’m done with it. . .
I’m over it. . .
As in kaput, fini, over and out!!

Actually. . .I’m talking about heat, hot, drying and dying—the tiresome end of all that was once lush, plump and thriving.

In late August, here in this deep South of mine, there is no thriving and there is barely any surviving.
Everything is leggy, yellow and very near death.
And mind you, there is many a day, during this particular time of year, that I feel very much the same.

The little flower bed, just out from our front door, had been full of snapdragons and petunias that were planted back in early Spring when the yard was overhauled.
Had any one asked me, I would not have chosen petunias—I’m just not a fan, but nobody asked me and my husband thought they looked nice. I had to go back in later, as the late frosts of Spring did a number on the petunias, so I threw in some snapdragons in order to fill the gaps. I wasn’t keen on the snapdragons either but I knew they were pretty darn hardy—

Pink snapdragons and crimson petunias.
Not my idea of color choices but again, nobody asked me.

The tiny plants did begin to thrive. . .
Filling out and covering nicely the little flower bed the landscape guys had decided to create for me.
Had I had my druthers, I would have moved the bed, enlarged it and done it a bit differently—
but again, nobody asked me.
The landscape guys had put out some very pretty pine straw all over the yard in the newly formed beds and then for some reason they added bark to the little flower bed.

We had bark once.

It washed like nobody’s business whenever it rained.
I would have a river of bark racing down the front walk requiring scooping and sweeping up after every down pour.
I was done with bark.
However the landscapers were into contrast when they were laying out the yard and again, nobody asked me.

So bark it was and bark it is.

As the Summer has worn on, like a tired old moth-eaten wool overcoat, the petunias and snapdragons have been rapidly approaching their limit. Long, tall, leggy, yellowing, more vine than leaf, shriveled and grossly unsightly. . .I could no longer stand to look at the flower bed without feeling a great sense of anxiety. . .with a touch of disgust added in.

For weeks I’ve been telling myself “not much longer. . .September is almost here. . .then you’ll be able to pull up all that crap and replant it all with some fresh wonderful crisp fall magic.”
Yes, I’ve told myself that for many weeks now.

A tiny cold front passed through the state last night–and please note I use the words cold and front with much rolling of the eyes. . .
I will admit that it did actually drop our temps to the mid 60’s this morning.
Never mind that the high was still 90ish–I’m taking that smidge of crisp and I’m running with it. . .all the way to the local the garden center.

This entire week will see me at dads, doctors, dentists so if I was going to act, it had to be today.
The only problem was that the garden center really doesn’t have in crisp fall magic yet.
They still have in hot summer same ol same ol. . .
No matter–I would make do.

I got home with my assortment of trays.
When I thought I was grabbing some pansies, I was actually grabbing trays of petunias as well as a couple of trays of snapdragons—as in been there done that, it’s too early for violas and pansies so AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh well, no matter, they’re purple and white and they’ll do until the garden center gets in its fall crisp magic.

I chose white because I like white.
I wear a lot of black, as I like to say it hides a wealth of woe, so I suppose I like it’s opposite as in I think white looks elegant. Never mind when the white elegant blooms die, turning a sickly shade of brown and falling off–I’m sticking with elegant—
And purple because the butterflies like the purple butterfly bushes I recently put out.
I had told the landscapers I wanted some butterfly bushes—
Surprise, I didn’t get any.
Lest we remember that no one was asking and obviously no one was listening. . .

So I spent the remainder of my day cutting all the leggy spent petunias and snapdragons–leaving 3 clumps that still seemed to be “ok”
I then raked off the tired dry grey bark from the bed.
Next I spread a big ol heavy sack of soil—all over the red Georgia clay that makes up the bed.
I had wanted the landscapers to add topsoil to all the excavated ground but remember, no one was listening.
I put in two dwarf fountain grass—
why you ask—
because they caught my eye on the way to the checkout register–
I think we call that an impulse buy. . .however not to fear, I liked them.
I added my trays of the new petunias and snapdragons—experiencing a bit of deja vu as I did so.
I watered, re-spread the tired grey bark- – – but no matter as it now matches the once pretty red supple pine straw the landscapers had put out, which is now dull, crunchy and grey.

One good last watering and I was happy—well, happier than I was.
I’ll really be happy when it’s finally fall crisp and magical. . .

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(work)

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(more work)

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(leggy and spent)

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(better)

Patience, it’s almost time. . .

That is the real spiritual awakening, when something emerges from within you that is deeper than who you thought you were. So, the person is still there, but one could almost say that something more powerful shines through the person.
Eckhart Tolle

One must learn a different…
sense of time, one that depends more on small amounts than big ones.

Sister Mary Paul

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(a ripening persimmon / Troupe Co, GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

There seems to be little taking place in the wilds of the woods this time of year.
Fading greens are slowly drying, eventually dying. . .
Life wearily powers its way through August,
As Summer’s heat holds mean and fast, is there no end in sight?
Trudging and nudging ever onward. . .
Subtle changes are brewing, hidden from prying eyes.
A tinge of this here and a splash of that there. . .
Slight and sparse to the untrained eye,
Mysteries hidden underneath a waning summer’s day
And all that remains is time to wait. . .

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“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”

― Fulton J. Sheen

August = Heat. . .add butterflies

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.
Yogi Berra

“Walking the streets of Charleston anywhere in the south in the late afternoons of August was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.”
― Pat Conroy (amended by lil ol me)

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(buckeye butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(silvery checkerspot butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yesterday the calendar turned from July to August—I don’t think anyone or anything paid much attention to the changing of the months as the surrounding world remained mostly consistent. . .
as in the temperature was in the mid 90’s yesterday and remains mid 90’s today.
Nothing like consistency. . .

Did I mention it’s hot and it’s humid?
I know I can hear you now. . . it is August you know. . .and you do live in the South, sooooo, isn’t it suppose to be hot and humid?
Well I suppose that’s true, but nothing says I have to like it.

Did I mention it’s dry. . .as in no rain plus no rain in sight. . .
not even a passing thunderstorm!
It’s the kind of hot that makes breathing a chore.
Moving is a chore.
Wearing clothes is a chore because it takes effort peeling them off sticky bodies. . .
Sweat is the new look.
It’s always been said that woman in the South don’t sweat. . .we glisten.
Well I’m here to tell you that we certainly do sweat—
we sweat like pigs and certainly by the bucket load. . .a most genteel imagery I know.

Everything in the yard is swiveling up, drying up and dying off.
I noticed some of the stores this week were actually getting Christmas items in. . .
Are you freaking kidding me???
School is just about to start. . .never mind it’s nowhere near Fall, Labor day or September—you know, when school is actually suppose to start. . . but I digress. . . and Hobby Lobby is thinking Christmas.
Maybe it’s psychological—if I see Christmas decorations perhaps my core body temperature is suppose to drop. . .hummmmm. . . .

The only living things that were out and about today, besides me working in the yard like an idiot, with any sort of enthusiasm or vigor, were the butterflies.
They may look fragile, airy and light, but anything that can zip about in this heat and actually seem to be enjoying themselves is certainly made of tougher stuff than I am. . .

Now I hope you will enjoy these couple of shots of those who relish the heat. . .
please disregard any sort of sweat drops as I go find a nice frozen popsicle to put on my head. . .

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(silvery checkerspot butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(silvery checkerspot butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(pearl crescent butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(pearl crescent butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(A male and female Spicebrush swallowtail play tag (let’s not go into details) / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Spicebrush swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2015)

Waning and Waxing

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the Creator.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(the waxing crescent moon of the end of August / Julie Cook / 2014)

A waning summer is soon to be written down in the annuals of time as just another volume known simply as the memories of a summer come and gone. . .

First it was June who offered her sheer joy of freedom and the simple recklessness of abandon which was to be found lurking in the heart of both young and old. Freedom whispered as Summer offered her enticing and welcoming warmth, coaxing all winter weary souls back into the light of day. The Days grew long and luscious as bare feet relished the cool tall grass. Soft laughter was heard across the evening skies as we gave ourselves permission to sit out just a little bit longer and a little bit later while savoring the perfume of gardenia and jasmine on a summer’s night breeze as we watched the fireflies dance with the stars.

Next came July, marching forth wearing her Red, White and Blue. Her night skies lit bright with the colorful displays of triumph and freedom. Reminding us of who we are and why we are and why any of that really matters. Children squealed with delight as the juice of watermelons and ice cold popsicles trickled down cheeks and chins. We packed our baskets full of fried chicken and potato salad. We gathered by lakes and ponds, casting our lines and pulling our skis–donning lotions and potions keeping sun and insect both at bay. Happiness and joy mingled sweetly together with the myriad of pitchers of lemonade, the bottomless bowls of homemade ice-cream while the smoke of a thousand grills and cookouts wafted heavenward.

Finally August arrived on a long hot summer wind. The sun bore down as a brilliant flame ready to bake a silent earth. The grass withered, the creeks dried as air quality alerts were sounding the alarm. Triple digits danced across the meters as we darted and dashed from house to car, from car to work in the maddening avoidance of the furnace blast of an unforgiving month. Our clothes clung to sweat soaked bodies as each breath labored under the thick stagnant humid air. Energies were drained as the heat of the day took its toll. Joy and pleasure took a nap along with the brilliant colors of flowers and blooms which gave way to dried crunchy browns. The cicadas sang their endless song under the blanket of a hazy heavy night.

And here we are again, preparing one last time, ready to offer up one more final “Hooray”–one last chance to capture the elusive siren known as Summer. One more opportunity to grab with gusto a little summertime enjoyment before the page turns, waxing toward a hopeful new season and time. A refreshing Fall is waiting in the wings, ready to offer her brilliance of color, intoxicating warm woody scents, and rich full heady flavors—but until that time comes, we must give Summer her due and pay her homage one last hot and humid time. . .

knowing when is when and when enough is enough

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
Lao Tzu

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
William Blake

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(the image of a dying tomato bush with a leafleg bug ready to take the remains / Julie Cook / 2014)

The air is sticky thick with humidity, it is as if the waning weeks of Summer are doing their best to suffocate the life out of every living creature before she is vanquished from the calendar.
Can we hold on until Autumn?
Until the air changes with a lightness, with coolness, with crispness?
Can we muster the strength to head out into the relentless heat of the final blasts of August’s furnace one more time to water a parched lawn, to walk an exhausted dog, to practice the quintessential game of Fall? Are we ready yet to throw in Summer’s beach towel in exchange for Autumn’s brilliant blanket of color?

As we are now left with the same nagging question. . .when is enough yet enough–when is when when?

Back when I was preparing to throw in the towel to my career in education, deciding it was time to walk away from the classroom I had called home for 31 years, there were those who clamored for me to stay. I dare say there were also those who clamored more quietly for me to “go, please go. . .” but the question more often than not asked was “how did / do you know it’s time?”
How does one know when when is when and enough is enough?

I’m not sure if my answer would be the right answer for someone else wrestling with a decision of knowing when is when but it was one that worked for me. My decision was certainly expedited by my Dad’s failing memory, but it was also hurried along by my oh so very stress ridden and tired body. I had spent a lifetime shoring up my physical self, patching here and there, swallowing this and that just so I could keep going. You know the old saying, a sick teacher is better than a substitute any day.

It helped to some degree that I had also witnessed first hand other individuals who had stayed longer than they should— those who had long lost their charisma, their passion, their vitality, their stamina, their enthusiasm, their enjoyment, their patience, their “love”. I did not want to be that person.
I needed, wanted, to go out on top—not just for my own sake, but for the sake of the program I had spent a lifetime forging.
So, after 31 years, the time had come, when enough was truly enough.

I say all of this as I find myself sitting on the cusp of one season slowly waning, soon to give way, thankfully, to another season. I forged a valiant fight in the garden this year. I documented the journey starting back just shortly after Easter, when the soil was still cold from a lingering winter.

We journeyed, you and I, throughout the early harrowing attacks of wandering and maundering deer, armadillos and raccoons. You read of my battles to stave off a keen and cunning enemy armed with nothing more than Irish Spring soap. You read of my frustrations and wonderment as you shared the images of the emerging fruits of my labors, as well as the later heavy laden baskets of the plethora of the harvest, along with a recipe or two.

Yet I must say, that the time draws nigh as it is soon time to cut and till under the dregs of this season’s work. It is soon time to put away the trappings of this year’s garden, as we will merely wait until the time arrives for next year’s garden—the very garden my husband says, once again, will not be happening.

I know it’s time when the weeds outnumber the plants. When the ants threaten to make off with me as their mounds could possibly swallow me whole, when the maypops sprout, when the tomatoes “fire up” as a slow drying and dying begins to take place. . . and when, most surely, the leaf legged bugs arrive.
And yes that is their common name. . .

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They are the Coreidae–members of the hemipteran, suborder Heteroptera—kin to the stinkbugs but thankfully, do not seem to emit an odor or perhaps it is overcome by the decaying stench of rotting tomatoes wafting heavenward.

Each year, late August, these alien looking insects descend upon my remaining tomatoes with a vengeance—with this, more or less, being a direct result of my having allowed them to move in. Days may pass before I venture out to what is now an overgrown and overrun patch of land that once held great promise. The heavy heat and humidity, and the endless battle against weed and insect, all by late Summer, has witnessed my having thrown in the towel, allowing Mother Nature to take back what is rightfully hers.

As I pick through the dried and dying vines, seeking the dregs of remaining ripening tomatoes—those spared black rot or still intact and not bursting on the vine from the ill effects of late rains, I am nearly knocked over by the ariel assault of leaflegs fleeing my encroaching presence.

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The official end of Summer is upon us next weekend with the annual return of the long Labor Day weekend’s last hooray. This is our signal, our beacon, our cue that change is forthcoming.
I for one do not need a calendar to be reminded. I have the leaflegs. These alien like insects who act as either harbinger or hearalder of the change of things to come.

The time for when is now as it is more than time that I’ve had enough—

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“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.”
― John Adams