‘sour wood’ does bear goodness

“I knew I should be grateful to Mrs Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing.
If Mrs Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise,
it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me,
because wherever I sat –
on the deck of a ship or a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok –
I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar,
stewing in my own sour air.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped.
But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself.
If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


(a sourwood tree in my wooded home/ Julie Cook / 2022)

Sourwood…
any southerner worth their salts knows sourwood…

However you might be asking yourself, what is it about this sourwood
that southerners seem to know….

Well, the simple answer is that sourwood is synonymous with honey.

A seemingly oxymoron of sorts—
that being…how can something known as “sour”wood produce
something as delectably sweet as honey??

Well maybe the real question might need to start with…
where exactly does this said sourwood honey actually come from?

The source would be the sourwood tree.

The sourwood tree, Oxydendrum arboreum, is also known as
The Lilly of the Valley Tree or the Sorrel tree and according
to NC State’s extension gardener website:
the Sourwood tree is a deciduous small tree that may grow 20 to 30 feet
tall and a trunk 8 to 12 inches in diameter.
It is native to North Carolina and can be found throughout the state,
although more rarely in the low, alluvial plain.
The tree has laurel-like alternate leaves that are finely toothed
and sour to the taste.
The bark is red-brown with deep vertical furrows that separate flat,
pointed ridges.
In mid-summer, small, white, urn-shaped flowers mature on panicles.
The tree produces 5-valved capsules borne on panicles that mature
in the fall and release the very tiny, 2-winged seeds.
Fall foliage is red to reddish-purple.
Terminal inflorescences resemble the elongated, bony fingers of a witch.
This plant blooms in early summer, and blooms up the axis.
Blooms are effective for 3 to 4 weeks. Flowers are fragrant and bloom poorly in the shade.


(sourwood tree blooms in a clear blue sky/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(sourwood tree blooms in a clear blue sky/ Julie Cook / 2022)

So we have a tree known for being sour, adorned with frilly whispy flowers,
that produces a very unique tasting honey…

Enter the humble honey bee.

According to The Asheville Beecharmer Company:
Sourwood honey is consistently one of the most sought after honeys around the world,
and for good reason. Sourwood honey has a beautiful amber color and bold,
yet balanced, flavor: buttery sweet with rounded caramel notes on the back end.

Sourwood honey is specific to the United States since sourwood trees
only grow within our eastern mountain corridors.
The top sourwood honey producers, however, come from the southern Appalachian
mountain regions of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and northern Georgia.

Sourwood honey is created when honey bees collect pollen and nectar
from sourwood tree flowers.
Due to the density of sourwood trees in the southern mountains,
honey bees can feed almost exclusively from their flowers during peak season,
which results in pure monofloral honey

(https://ashevillebeecharmer.com)

So ‘sour’wood seems to magically transform into a sweet dark smokey honey—
an amazing mix that only a honey bee seems to innately understand….
And that of the one Great Creator.

Sounds a lot like my life as of late.
Lots of sour, laced with a little sweet and yet specific to a particular place.

Sometimes life is simply too sour isn’t it?
Often bitter…leaving a near caustic taste upon one’s tongue.

And yet magically, or perhaps more miraculously, there comes along a small
something that takes that sour, turning it into something new,
something different and yes, even something even sweet.

Ode to the lessons from a sour tree and a humble bee.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14

Busy as a….

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love,
for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Jesus

We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly
to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make
them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.

Father Jaques Philippe


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before, I am certain that it would have discouraged me..
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything, not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

still out here…wandering… but blessedly not lost

“What is a vocation?
It is a gift from God, so it comes from God.
If it is a gift from God, our concern must be to know God’s will.
We must enter that path: if God wants, when God wants, how God wants.
Never force the door.”

St. Gianna Molla


(a little pearl crescent visits the black eyed susans/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

St. John of the Cross

Life has been busy…which is a good thing…
And yes, I’m still out and about wandering.
But what we do know is that all who wander, are not lost…
or so says Gandolf in his letter to Frodo from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit…

Blessedly, I’m slowly finding my way and feel lost no more.

So while I was out happily wandering… I wanted to share a few shots from around my new area.

I’ll be back here in Blogland on a more regular basis shortly,
but until then…here are a few images of God’s goodness—
please enjoy…

“Let us beware of complaints, resentments,
and evil-speaking against those who are ill-disposed to us,
discontented with us, or hostile to our plans and arrangements,
or who even persecute us with injuries, insults, and calumnies.
Rather let us go on treating them as cordially as at first,
or more so, as far as possible showing them esteem,
always speaking well of them, doing them good, serving them on occasion,
even to the point of taking shame and disgrace upon ourselves,
if necessary to save their honor.
All this ought to be done, first, to overcome evil with good,
according to the teaching of the Apostles; and secondly,
because they are our allies rather than our adversaries,
as they aid us to destroy self-love, which is our greatest foe;
and since it is they who give us an opportunity to gain merit,
they ought to be considered our dearest friends.”

St. Vincent de Paul, p.413


(a hungry bumble bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)

“these three Persons determine my life…”

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great


(wild crabapples blossoms / Julie Cook / 2013)

“Now surely I do see what an immense effect such a doctrine
[of the Holy Trinity] must have upon life.
It is no mere question for theologians, but one that concerns every living soul.
Whatever is allowed by God’s power must be guided by His wisdom and
urged on by His love.
All that happens to me in life, the little worries and the great anxieties,
the crises and the daily annoyances, the sorrows and the joys,
the harms that reach me through the sins of others,
the great crimes of history, the huge and devastating wars,
the partings and loves and the whole cycle of human experience
are permitted by Power, which is itself wise and loving.
These three Persons determine my life, and, since I walk by faith,
I must surely grow very patient in my attitude toward life.
For how can I complain or criticize God’s Providence,
since it all comes under that triple influence of Power, Wisdom, and Love?
Under the guidance, then, of this mystery,
I can walk through the valley of death or the more perilous borders
of sin without loss of courage or hopefulness.
Nothing can make me afraid. How these are separate, yet one,
I do not know, nor can I reconcile in my concrete experience
the claims of each.
It is always a mystery, but a mystery in which I believe.
Whatever Power allows on earth is designed in Wisdom
and attuned by Love.”

Fr. Bede Jarrett, p. 10
An Excerpt From
Classic Catholic Meditations, p 10

what lessons…sure intentions

What lessons God gives us in nature if we take the time to reflect on them…
If we take the time to reflect on the meaning and
purpose revealed to us in the ordinary experiences of our lives,
the world lights up, even in the darkness.

Fr. Joseph Kelly
from On Second Thoughts: A Book of Stories


(flowers in the snow / Julie Cook/ 2017)

“It is necessary to have an absolutely sure intention in all our actions,
so that the generous fulfillment of our daily duties may be
directed toward the highest supernatural ideal.
Thus, our life, apart from moments of prayer, will be a prayerful life.
It is clear that the habit of giving an upward glance to God
at the moment of action is a great assistance in aiding us to behave
always with a pure intention and in freeing us from our
natural impulses and fancies, so, that, retaining our self-mastery,
or rather, God becoming the sole Master,
all our movements become dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
We see in the Gospel that whenever our Lord was about to
undertake some important step,
He always paused for a moment to raise His eyes to Heaven,
and only after this moment of recollection did He take up the work
He had to do.
‘He lifted up His eyes to Heaven’ is a phrase that
recurs with significant frequency.
And doubtless, when there was no outward sign of this prayer,
there was the inward offering.
The ideal is the same for us.
The constant subjection of self to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
is made easier from the fact of His presence in the soul,
where He is asked explicitly to preside over all our doings…
We shall not submit wholeheartedly to the
invisible Guest unless He is kept in close proximity to us.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 37-8

the journey, the uncomfortable of the unfamiliar

My entire conversion was less of a journey to a foreign place,
and more of a discovery of my long-lost home.

Jennifer Fulwiler
from her book Something other than God

Change is uncomfortable.
Kirby Smart


(unseasonably warm weather has the gardenias in bloom / Julie Cook / 2022)

Perhaps it’s because it’s the start of another new year.

Perhaps it’s because so much of this said new year remains unknown.

Perhaps it’s because we long to forget the year that was..along
with the year before that…

Perhaps it’s because we are actually standing on the periphery of that
which is simply spilling out before us…

Spilling and spreading outward both far and wide…
much like a randomly tossed gallon of paint working
itself outward…spreading and covering everything in its path.

And yet frustratingly, we cannot see what that spilling and
spreading-out entails.

Nothing seems to be in focus…
All we can clearly see is that we are standing at the edge something
that reaches outward from where we currently stand…
beckoning us to follow suit.

It’s similar to standing on the edge of the sea.
We stand at the surf’s edge peering outward to a distant horizon line…
a horizon that seems to be endlessly far away yet calls us to come.

And thus we are reminded that have we have a choice.

We can either remain standing at the edge of all that is…
or…
we can set out on a journey that is calling us, nay beckoning
that we come.

Merriam Webster tells us that a journey is:
something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

Meaning…that if we choose to move, hopefully forward
versus God forbid backward or irritatingly merely remaining in place—
we are obviously to be moving from one place to another.
As in…forward motion…with blessed great momentum.

The notion of such is not always comforting to we the creatures of habit.

We don’t like the unknown.

We don’t like the uncomfortable.

We don’t trust the unfamiliar.

Yet if there is to be growth, there must come the uncomfortable
of the unfamiliar.

And so the journey begins.

For better or worse.
For either good or bad.
The journey beckons.

The question we must ask ourselves, on the forefront of this new year..
are we ready to trust?

Are we ready to put one foot in front of the other?

The year is calling…

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the
calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

bloom more beautifully

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in
this world by God for the salvation of the soul.
So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Julie Cook / 2019)

“Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity.
Individuals who have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say,
‘I am too great a sinner to change,’or
‘God would not want me.’ God will take anyone who is willing to love,
not with an occasional gesture, but with a ‘passionless passion,
‘a ‘wild tranquility’.
A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God,
any more than someone on dry land can swim;
but as soon as a person takes his errant energies to God and asks
for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before.
It is not the wrong things one has already done that keep one from God;
it is present persistence in that wrong.
Someone who turns back to God, as the Magdalene and Paul,
welcomes the discipline that will enable him to change his former tendencies.
Mortification is good, but only when it is done out of love of God….
Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature;
the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush,
not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen, p. 185

awareness

“Essentially a soldier, the Christian is always on the lookout.
He has sharper ears and hears an undertone that others miss;
his eyes see things in a particularly candid light,
and he senses something to which others are insensible,
the streaming of a vital current through all things.
He is never submerged in life, but keeps his head and shoulders clear of it
and his eyes free to look upward.
Consequently he has a deeper sense of responsibility than others.
When this awareness and watchfulness disappear,
Christian life loses its edge; it becomes dull and ponderous.”

Fr. Romano Guardini, p. 177


(late season coneflowers / Julie Cook / 2021)

Awareness.

Merriam Webster tells us that the meaning of the word awareness is:
knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.

And so as we now find ourselves watching the shadows lengthen while pulling
our jackets ever tighter in order to fend off the oncoming cold…
in reality, we are doing more than merely watching shadows and
warding off an ensuing chill..
we are actually entering into a season of both gratitude and of
great anticipation.

And thus I cannot help but to be reminded of this notion of awareness.

It is that almost innate ability to know and to understand something that
does indeed exist yet which is without a visual, tangible or physical
existence.

Not seen, nor touched…and yet…it is.

It is a visceral awareness of something other then…
or is that something more than?

It is something that reaches beyond the realm of here and now.
It is something that resides deep within rather than blatantly
outward.

And despite it not being something that is physically touched or held,
nonetheless, it is.

It exists because we are indeed aware.

We have a deep knowledge that it is indeed happening and active.
We yearn to see it, touch it, feel it, hold it…and yet despite
it being simply beyond our reach…we still know that it is indeed real.

It is something that lingers in both our capacity for thought
as well as within our basic sense of understanding.

And it is in that sense of awareness and understanding and knowing that our
brain actually acknowledges its existence.

We simply don’t imagine it into reality.
We don’t dream it into reality.
We don’t wish it into reality.
Because that which is, is indeed of reality.

We are aware and acknowledge the existence of this entity because we
cognizantly know that it is.

And whereas our emotions reassure us of its reality, it is our brain’s
ability to make us first aware and then secondly to assist us to acknowledge
that which is…as we may then fully proclaim the reality.

Our brain tells us what our heart already knows…
that being the simple awareness of Love…

And thus we find the transcendence of Love in both time and space.
As we become both aware of as well as  full of the knowledge of it very existence.

We become fully conscious that this entity, this awareness,
this thing known as Love…exists in all that was,
all that is and all that will be.

And thus the emotion becomes the acknowledgment and awareness of
Truth.
Our Truth.
Our Hope.
Our Home.
Our saving Grace…

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness,
and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee;
I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’
Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty
lowland where I have wandered so long.”

A.W.Tozer

goodness and guides

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God
for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

St. Gianna Molla


(yellow roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross

discipline and a holy will

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect
through trial and suffering. Only by carrying the Cross can one reach
the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(a rose still covered by the morning dew / Julie Cook / 2021)

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without
expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola