berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16

when berries ferment, the squirrels, along with everything else, get brazen…

In this world of ours, every believer must be a spark of light,
a center of love, a vivifying ferment for the mass;
and it will be that all the more as, in the depths of his being,
he lives in communion with God.

Pope John XXIII


(Julie Cook / 2018)

This is what happens when both time and berry picking get out of hand…
One of the two starts to ferment…and everything seems to simply…
well, go to hell in a handbasket from there…

And it’s all because the alcohol starts flowing…

Frist the squirrels become brazen…

They stealthily emerge from the security of the woods and boldly skirt across the
large, very open, expanse of yard.

“Hawks be damned” is their day’s battle cry…as they raise their tiny glasses…
all because the bubbly is starting to flow…

Yet the mockingbird, king bird of the yard, is none too keen to share
his private stash of hooch…

Notice very carefully in the lower left of the bush and you’ll see the hidden usurper.
The culprit in which the mockingbird is loudly raising havoc over.

Too bad I didn’t video this melee allowing you to both hear and see the ruckus and the clamoring
taking place between the squawking bird and the barking squirrel…
one protecting while the other usurping…

Now throw in both cats who are merely, and might I add intensely curious, bystanders…
wondering why they have been excluded from this soiree.

But wait…
Is that a rabbit now making tracks across the wide open and dangerous field??
And is his tiny glass empty as well…

Too much of a good thing is really never a good thing…

biopsies and updates

If I could give you information of my life,
it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God
in strange and unaccustomed paths to do In His service what He has done in her.
And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.

Florence Nightingale

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(berries of the Chinese Mountain Ash along the grounds of Klyemore Abbey / Connemara, County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Update on Aunt “Mothaaa”, aka Martha, and the liver biopsy.

Well, the doctor called her in yesterday afternoon and the news was not encouraging…
but it was what had pretty much been expected.

In her words… “it’s not good”

“Unusual” is what the doctor had to say as he would not have guessed this
to have happened this far out from the original surgery and kidney removal
of three years ago…
but it is what it is.

The next step is a visit, the first of the week, to the oncologist to hear the game plan.

So now it is prayer time for a strategic game plan!

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

Ready and waiting

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”
Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens

“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”
― J.I. Packer

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(our friend the dragonfly bides his time on a bramble twig / Julie Cook / 2015)

The wind whispered to the trees today that change would soon be sweeping in. . .
As the fullness of the woods soon commences to gently shrink. . .
Once lush full thickets, pregnant with vibrant green growth, now forlornly expose their thorny secrets. . .
Where berries plump and lusciously ripe beckoned to be picked, gnarly brown twigs are now seen to crisscross the path along a wooded glen. . .
Those who lay claim to Summer’s realm know that their time soon draws nigh. . .
“Best to be one our way” they lazily call,
for the winds are shifting and the sun is soon to be hanging low. . .
“Let us hurry”. . .
As it is soon time to make way for those who eagerly wait a change . . .

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Colorful returns

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
Nelson Mandela

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(early season wild blackberries / middle of nowhere Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Bejeweled little beauties
Transforming in the May sun’s warmth
Like tiny chameleons. . .
They charm and captivate
First green then red
And later purple, maybe even blue. . .
Before finally reaching the lusciousness of black. . .
Bulging with sweetness
Beguiling and beloved
They bedazzle and bewitch
Tempt and bemuse
Announcing Summer’s triumphant return . . .

Vibrancy

“The more ugly, older, more cantankerous, more ill and poorer I become, the more I try to make amends by making my colors more vibrant, more balanced and beaming.”
Vincent van Gogh

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(American Beauryberry hiding out deep in the woods, Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

As Monday morning has rolled around once again, with many of us heading back to a long grinding week of school, travel and work, I decided we could all do with a little jolt color—just enough as to evoke a smile verses too much which might leave us a bit unsettled.

I could think of no better example than the American Beautyberry bush (callicarpa americana), also known as the French Mulberry–bedecked and bejeweled with its skittle like candy colored berries?

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The Beautyberry is a member of the verbena family and cousin to lantana.
The Beautyberry’s fruit, also known as drupes, those lucious looking clusters of vibrant lavender berries are a favorite food of the Northern Bobwhite, also known as Quail. The American Whitetail deer enjoys foraging on the leaves of the Beautyberry and Native Americans used the roots, leaves and berries to create teas which would treat such ailments as rheumatism, malaria, fever, dysentery as well as colic.

Botanist and scientists continue to study the Beautyberry’s powerful ability of warding of mosquitoes, gnats and ticks with some proclaiming the chemical compounds found in the leaves may equal the chemical Deet when battling such bloodthirsty pests.

I found a lovely site by a Florida forager who makes Beautyberry Jelly and has even concocted his own Beautyberry insect repellant cream that he claims to be “hands down” the best repellant he’s ever used.
Who knew ?!

Beautyberry Jelly
as excepted form the site:
http://www.eattheweeds.com/beautyberry-jelly-on-a-roll/

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boiland boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

Repellant Cream
I pretty much chopped up a plant(leaves and stems) and boiled it in a pot and let it cool and strained the brown liquid into my blender, about 1 1/2 cups. In a separate pot I warmed some organic neem oil (1 cup) with 1 ounce of beeswax until melted. Then you turn the blender on and pour in the oil mixture very slowly and it becomes a cream. I have to say hands down the best insect repellent ever! Because its a creme on july/august days one application is all you need for the entire day even when your sweating.”

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Here’s to a happy and vibrant Monday!!

Beauty in the Brambles

My berries cluster black and thick
For rich and poor alike to pick.
I’ll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,
And scratch your hand and arms and
knees.
I’ll stain your fingers and your face,
And then I’ll laugh at your disgrace.
But when the bramble-jelly’s made,
You’ll find your trouble well repaid.

—THE SONG OF THE BLACKBERRY QUEEN
by Cicely Mary Barker

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Tiny tender forming berries lie hidden among the thorns
Time and sun, mixed with gentle rains, soon will transform these tiny green gems to change from first a crimson red to the deep purple black of ripeness.
Come late June, sweet juice bursting forth will be ready for both jam and pie.
As Summer’s calling card lies hidden in the thorns. . .