arrow of beauty, the tiny spark of Love

“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you,
do not expose it to the wind,
for it may get blown out…
Stay quiet with God.
Do not spend your time in useless chatter…
Do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself.”

St. Charles Borromeo


(a gull in unfazed by the crashing surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of beauty that wounds man: being touched by reality,
‘by the personal presence of Christ himself’, as [Nicholas Cabasilas] puts it.
Being overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction.
Of course we must not underestimate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and careful theological thought;
it is still absolutely necessary.
But to despise, on that account, the impact produced by the heart’s encounter with beauty,
or to reject it as a true form of knowledge would impoverish and dry up both faith and theology.
We must rediscover this form of knowledge—it is an urgent demand of the present hour.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
from On the Way to Jesus Christ

erring and snow

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness
in the proportion.”

Edgar Allan Poe


(a foot of snow blankets the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas this unexpected early December Southern Snow has blanketed us with a
deep white blanket of mystical silence and stillness…it has not come without
a wealth of woe….

The school systems in and around the Atlanta metro area…north and westward…
school systems who usually err on the side of caution actually decided to listen
to our meteorologists who glibly reported that,
whereas it looked as if there would be some snow….,
we’d been so warm up to now that any snow would be fleeting.
A lite dusting that wouldn’t stick to roadways or driveways as it had just been
simply too warm for any real need for worry.

In other words, a short lived event.

This was to be taking place on Friday.

So on Friday, everyone opted to go about life as normal…
This is the deep South you know….we don’t really worry about winter weather
this time of year.

And so right on que the rains came, turning eventually over to snow.

And then it snowed and it snowed, and it kept on snowing…..

The schools scrambled and quickly decided that perhaps they should release the hounds students…
And so we had everyone in a myriad of counties all starting to unleash madness
upon the roadways all at the same staggering times.
Staggered releases seemed to be the best option…yet it was still snowing…hard.
Snow and ice were beating the release times.

Buses found it impossible to deliver their tender cargo as the snow and ice
were blanketing roadways…making traveling up and down hills impossible.

Our very pregnant daughter-n-law, who teaches here in our county but lives in Atlanta,
opted to come to our house verses trying to navigate the snowy icy interstates back
home to Atlanta as the News was painting a terrible traffic picture.

A typical 15 minute drive to our house from her school actually took her 2 hours…
as cars were now slip sliding away.
In fact my husband had to go meet her a mile from our house as cars had simply stopped
in their tracks on the roads as others had landed in the ditches and she was stuck in
the middle. It took him 30 minutes to get to her…a drive that should have taken two minutes.

Meanwhile, limbs were falling left and right in Atlanta.
It is a city known for her plethora of beautiful trees…yet snow and ice are not
kind to trees.

A snow laden limb fell on our son and daughter-n-laws house,
literally ripping out the power lines from the house….lines now laying dangerously
across the lawn.

GA Power has come to access the issue and now needs one of their certified
electricians to come out and reconnect the lines into the house before
they can re-run the lines from the pole to the house…
lest all things blow up.

Our son, dad’s cat and the grand dog are hunkering down in the dark, without heat
as the temperatures plunge down into the teens….
waiting for word of this elections.

This as I watched today those who really suffer through these sorts
of weather events…the animals…
as well as those who have no shelter to call their own…

As God watches over both animal and man who remain without….


(notice to the left of the two bulls, the wee head peering out from the crack
in the dilapidated barn)


(the poor cold bulls / Julie Cook / 2017)

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11

traipsing in the woods amongst the fungi

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Traipse:
intransitive verb
transitive verb
traipsed, traips′ing
to walk, wander, tramp, or gad

When out in the woods my husband, more often then not, walks with a sense
of focused purpose and direction..

Me on the other hand, well I tend to lag behind…
traipsing about, camera in tow….

(all pics taken in the mid west Georgia woods last Sunday–Julie Cook / 2017)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

what was

“I have always believed, and I still believe,
that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it
meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse


(a once prized and regal chair now sits abandoned and discarded / Julie Cook / 2017)

this is a tale of that which once was….

Have you ever wandered through an antique store, thrift shop, rummage sale or a rarely
visited basement or attic….
finding things that harken to a different space in time?

Have you ever sought a treasure where others only saw trash?
Finding something of beauty hiding underneath the layers of grime, damage, neglect
and even abuse?

Have you ever wondered how something that was once so special and treasured
now sits shredded and torn, broken and sad, ignored and now forgotten?

I think we are very much like this chair.

Once upon a time we were energetic, full of beauty and grace…
Some of us were even stately and certainly noteworthy.
We were taken care of, kept clean, neat and ever so tidy..
Often we were paraded about by those who loved us
during those special moments of life.

We were treasured, cherished and the pride of others…

Then time and life took their toll.
And like this forgotten beauty, now broken, worn, tired and dirty…
we were passed over for things newer and shinier…
we had lost our luster and therefore were simply discarded, making way for the new…
as society deems us now less than….

But that is never how we are seen through the loving eyes of our Omnipotent Father.
Despite what the years of decay and dirt have done to us,
despite the brokenness, the raggedness, the age and wear…
He sees what was…
What was special, what was lovely and that which He had always intended…
that which was, and still is, beautiful….

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9

Beauty in difficulty

Out of difficulties grow miracles.
Jean de la Bruyere

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(thistle / Julie Cook / 2016)

Throughout our lives we will each encounter thorns…
Moments and experiences that are laced with those more troubling struggles which are simply unavoidable.

These encounters will obviously be uncomfortable, earth shattering and more often than not,
unbearably painful…

Such encounters will range from mildly irritating and bothersome,
to excruciatingly sharp, piercing and even most torturous.

Yet within each of these uncomfortable and painful encounters…
resides a mystery…

A mystery of rare, unexplainable and even unimaginable beauty…
Moments of pain and sorrow,
suffering and agony…
which are actually honed by the miraculous…

For from these enigmatic encounters…
those irritatingly painful experiences caused by the thorns scattered within our lives,
emerges a hidden majesty and beauty.

It is the blacksmith who must anneal his metals…
making them stronger by the raging fires of the furnace…
following each pass into the furnace, the metal’s trial by fire, comes the process of tempering the steel..
The hammering and beating of the heated and softened metal into a strong composition ready to withstand the rigors of use….

Within these difficult encounters of suffering, heartache and frustration, resides the mystery of our beauty and of our strength…

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

There are plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

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(A lone sentinel sits watch along the outer wall along the Rock Of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I lose sight you know…

Losing that certain knowledge…

Lost in the day to day…

It’s truly…simply lost…

In fact, I think I, as in myself, my life, my very being, has gotten lost.

I didn’t quite realize it until just recently.

The din of madness from this chattering world of ours, with its dark vacuum and slick diversions, has sucked it all slowly away.

I am like those crumbling ruins of ages past…
Once great and grand, sure and solid…
Impressing both self as well as others…
Made to last forever. . .or so it seemed…
Yet over time and little by little, the beauty and loftiness has faded…
The glory is now forgotten…
I sit alone and abandoned left feeling more numb than sad.

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(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Then one day, when it is least expected, a single ray of light shines into the blurry, chilly grey abyss…there is a word, a touch, a feeling, a reminder…

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” says our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”
A.W. Tozer

The notion that I, as in me…who out of the billions of human beings on this planet, has been considered worthy enough for the most high Omnipotent God to have long ago, well before I came into being, placed a piece of His own Divinity within my very being…only to call out to that very tiny particle years later, is a thought that is more than difficult to wrap words, let alone thoughts, around.

It is as if two missing pieces, separated forever ago, now palpably yearn, nay ache, to be joined and bound together—at last…in order to finally become one, to be made whole.

Those who are adopted often come prewired with a sense of unwantedness.

It is a psychological hiccup in the cornerstone of formation sadly instilled in utero.
It is a hindrance that is carried beneath the conscious mind throughout life, only to rear its ugly head in the myriad of relationships held throughout the course of a lifetime.

It is that hidden sense of unwantedness that acts to repel the notion that one is deeply and passionately loved, wanted, savored…particularly so by the very Creator of all of Life Himself as it is He who instilled His loving “want” at the time the unwantedness was issued.

A contradiction in utero–the sacred and the carnal colliding in the creation of life.
Want and rejection become a stalemate of one.
Brokeness is pushed forever deeper as all manner of satiation is sought throughout the journey known as life–anything to fill the unrecognizable carnality subconscious ache.

Yet the Divine Want far surpasses any secular carnal unwantedness.
Grace, Redemption, Desire, Love, Acceptance each flows freely, coursing through veins which had narrowed in their ill perceived lack of want and years of temporal satiation.

It is as if someone has taken hold of both shoulders and shaken so hard that a revelation has actually, thankfully, finally been jared loose, knocking all falsehoods off balance. The ah ha moment of the very reality of Creation crushes down on the hardened ego of self and on the sheer act of survival– as joyfully selfless Love indeed trumps all…

…and so it is, the tiny wee particle, buried deep within, hears its long awaited missing half…a Voice speaking through the mist —
“You are indeed worthy…for you have always been mine…
There are plans…”

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Chapel window from Kylemore Abbey / County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook/ 2015)

STOP!!!! There’s another sheep. . .

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:21-23

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(a sheep farm on the road to Killarney / Julie Cook / 2015)

STOP THE VAN!!!!
“I can’t get a good shot while we’re moving. . .the sheep isn’t budging, you’re going to hit it!!!!!. ..”

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(a sheep sits contently on the road somewhere in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And so was the almost daily drill of the journey.
Stoping and going— for here was a sheep, there was a sheep and everywhere was a sheep sheep. . .

It is the poignant reminder that throughout each of our lives we will, inevitably, find ourselves on our very own and personal road to Damascus.
Wether we are believers or not.

And depending on our own perspective, it is either joyfully or frustratingly that most of us will end up on that same road over and over again, throughout our lives, as it often seems to take more than one chance encounter for things to truly sink in.

It is a road that we ourselves have each personally carved. A road that initially appears to be leading us in the direction of our thoughts, dreams and sights. . .a course that we perhaps set long ago, affording the opportunity of venturing forth, moving forward, as we seek our supposed heart’s desire…

Yet, if the truth be told, it is a road of destiny complete with the blinding encounter so often necessary to realign a misguided path. It’s just that for some of us, we need a constant stream of “encounters” before we finally “get it” and allow things to finally sink in…

Be it mere happenstance or Divine Intervention, we are struck, knocked upside the head and thrown to the ground, blinded and overwhelmed by whatever it is that is necessary in order to get our attention, change our course, wake us up, turn us around while eventually leading us to our true and proper path.

And so this journey was not really different from any other…

Setting off I had hoped, anticipated and even expected… something—but as to what that something was, it was not clear. . .

There were the sheep…

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Those symbolic, innocent yet oddly mentally challenged creatures that have always spoken to my heart.
Gazing out the window, with my head resting on the glass, I stare mindlessly at the myriad sea of gently grazing animals as familiar words whispered through my thoughts…

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Luke 15: 1-7

Yet this idyllic gentle image, laced with with its warm sense of safety, peace and security, was suddenly jarred apart by the blinding image of sacrifice and suffering that punctuated the seemingly pastoral image of serenity with the mysterious utterance of a long ago vision which poured itself out upon my thoughts like the deeply crimson colored blood oozing from a fresh cut. . .

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Isaish 53: 7-9

At some point there was a wistful private reflection spoken aloud by simple habit as we all gazed upon a mysterious landscape… “how could any of this be seen as the mere happenstance of the collision of random particles…”

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(Lady’s View over the Ring of Kerry, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Somewhere along the Dingle peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(somewhere along the road in County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I came seeking the wisdom buried deep in the past of what was as I strained to hear the ancient voices that lay hidden below my feet. . .

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(an unknown grave marker / Julie Cook / 2015)

Delightful to me to be on an island hill, on the crest of a rock,
that I might often watch the quiet sea;

That I might watch the heavy waves above the bright water,
as they chant music to their Father everlastingly.

That I might watch its smooth, bright-bordered shore, no
gloomy pastime, that I might hear the cry of the strange birds,
a pleasing sound;

That I might hear the murmur of the long waves against the
rocks, that I might hear the sound of the sea, like mourning
beside a grave;

That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds over the well-
watered sea, that I might see its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.

That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course,
that my name should be–it is a secret that I tell–“he
who turned his back upon Ireland;”

That I might have a contrite heart as I watch,
that I might repent my many sins, hard to tell;

That I might bless the Lord who rules all things,
heaven with its splendid host, earth, ebb, and flood…

Poem attributed to St Columcille (521-597 AD)

Yet it was late, when it was all almost over, with so much having been said and done, seen and savored…
Three spoken words resonated more deeply than any other morsel offered previously to my weary and worn five senses. . .

Be at Peace. . .”

And so, having fallen from my horse, stuck blind and confused—the clarity of something and someone so much more than myself has come clearly into focus—the scales having been removed from my eyes– and for the first time in what has been a lifetime, I can see…

And so it is…

“Be At Peace”

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(a sheep gazes out over the Atlantic among the cliffs of County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)