loneliness or alone…a matter of perspective

Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses
the glory of being alone.

Paul Tillich


(somebody’s watching you, or acutaly they were watching me / Julie Cook / 2018)

You may remember about a week or so ago I posted a curious image of a pile of bluebird
feathers beneath one of my bluebird boxes.

I surmised from the mass of scattered feathers that something bad and somewhat
tragic had taken place during the veil of darkness.

I also knew we had marauding raccoons who often came to visit the yard at night,
scavenging the stale bread I often throw out back for the birds.

And I knew that raccoons were notorious for stealing bird eggs.

A quick internet search also revealed that they are not choosy when it comes to their
need for a meal.
They are equally notorious for snatching whole birds.

I was rather crestfallen when I thought that the poor bluebird family this year was not
to be thanks to my four-legged black masked visitors…

That was until I walked past the same box where previously a pile of feather lay…
and I suddenly felt that odd feeling when you realize you’re not exactly alone.

I turned toward the bird box and saw what I thought to be an eyeball staring at me.

Watching me ever so closely.

Over the course of a few minutes, the eyeball became two eyeballs…

And then an entire head…

And so it appears that Mrs. Bluebird is alive and well, yet I fear she just might
be a widow.

And as I stood staring at this lone little head peeking out of a birdbox, the notion of this
lone bird now having to sit on a nest of eggs, hatch said eggs and in turn work
like mad to feed the now filled nest of hungry mouths…filled me with a bit of melancholy.

And so I found myself overcome by the odd thought of loneliness and of being alone.

And whereas I know that birds don’t necessarily look at the circumstance of life as I do…
it’s just the fact that I have the knowledge of knowing how hard things will be for
her raising a brood without the help of a mate sharing in the endless search for food
for wanting little mouths.

It reminded me of my own bit of emptiness when it’s time for my little
granddaughter to go home.
Such as she did Sunday.
I find myself with such a lonely ache in my soul.
Not that bird’s heart’s ache or that they have a soul for that matter…

Yet despite these thoughts of a bird’s loneliness and of my own feelings and sense
of a lonely ache, I recalled reading recently an interesting article about
the skyrocketing epidemic in this country centering around loneliness.

The title of the article was
“God may have put you in a lonely place for an incredible reason”
by Pastor Rick McDaniel

Now I know that lots of folks will scoff at the linked thoughts of loneliness
to what we believe
to be a loving, all knowing, all powerful God…
I also know that there will those who will scoff at any sort idea of a God…
Plus that there will be those who will scoff at the notion of our being alone
as an impetus for our, in turn, reaching up and outward from ourselves…
oblivious and unaware of what gifts may actually await us just beyond our
aching empty hearts…

I know how hard it can be when one is in the midst of feeling so utterly
void and alone to imagine that God’s hand could or would be ever so close…

However, I have always been comforted by the words of Padre Pio, that mysterious Capuchin monk
who taught that it is in the depths of our greatest suffering in which God is actually the
closest to us.

There are many who will question such a statement…
but in the hindsight of my own life, I have seen the truth behind his words.

Yet for many, it is the depths of loneliness when there is a real feeling of anger and
resentment toward the unseen God who in our suffering, believe is choosing not to
“rescue” us from our plight of loneliness thus our belief that that is cause for
our feelings of anger.

Yet as Pastor McDaniel points out,
“Sometimes God causes us to seek him by driving us to him through the loneliness we experience.
We can get angry, depressed or we can see it as a gift.
Loneliness is a great benefit if we have drawn closer to Christ.”

While at the same time, I find this whole notion of skyrocketing loneliness an odd result
from the advent of social media where anyone can be connected to everyone with just
the click of a button…

And while our obsession with technological engagement has created a generation of
folks who more often than not feel utterly isolated,
albeit for the screen of an electronic device,
it is that very sense of isolation that can either lead us up and out of ourselves
to something much greater and so much more…or cause us to sink into despair…

I think it’s a matter of perspective…

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/05/26/god-may-have-put-in-lonely-place-for-incredible-reason.html

something sinister

People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
Hermann Hesse


(birdhouse / Julie Cook / 2018)

So do you remember the other day when I posted a few pictures of one of my bluebird houses
with a wad of straw appearing to be pushed out of the hole?
I made mention of how I clean out all the boxes in February as birds like to basically start fresh
each season.
Much like we do—when buying a house and moving, we usually like to buy a cleaned up house in
which to move in to.

The image got me thinking about spring cleaning…
of how we not only literally seem to find renewing projects each new spring season that
we must be about—such as the cleaning out of the old while making way for the new…
but that Springtime is also a good reminder for the need to be about our spiritual cleaning
and renewal needs as well.

So imagine my dismay when I walked past the birdhouse yesterday and noticed, oddly, that
the straw was no longer poking out of the hole but was now rather pushed back inside.

Yet upon further inspection, I noted a single blue feather stuck to the box.
Hmmmmmmm…

It began to dawn on me that I’d really not seen the bluebirds as of late scooting in an out of the
box like I normally do.
They are typically really quite busy this time of year as I often hear the chattering chirps of
a young brood emanating from deep within the box.

I’ve not heard that.

Upon further inspection, I spotted something most alarming…

I also notice that one of the bird feeders is hanging precariously on two of the three chains as if something had unchained the feeder—the feeder which is oddly completely empty…

My suspect…

So yes, I have raccoons that frequent our yard.
I’ve caught them many a time at night rummaging around the feeders as well as grabbing up the
stale bread that I’d tossed out earlier for the birds.

I knew raccoons would steal eggs from the nest of birds, but would they actually take a bird?
And a quick little search revealed that yes, raccoons will take a bird from a nest…

Whereas it does sound cruel and even sinister, I suppose I have to view this nature
doing what nature does.
Yet it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Unsuspecting, living life, taking care of a brood, then disaster and devastation strikes
in the dark of night…

This sad reminder of wildlife doing what wildlife does brings to mind another who
prefers to come in the dark shadows of night..taking that which is truly not his…

his is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of
light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

Spring cleaning

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once,
“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very
splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.”

Robert Frost


(blue bird box obviously under some sort of construction / Julie Cook / 2018)

Pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car, I hear the familiar chatter of the
resident birds that grace our yard. Glancing over at the birdhouses dotting the trees,
I think I see a bluebird poking its head out of one of the boxes.

Instinctively I race for my camera as I’ve not had much opportunity this spring to
take many pictures of life in the yard.

Focusing in with the camera, I quickly realize that I’m not seeing a bluebird poking her
head out of the box but rather a wad of straw…
as if it’s being pushed up and out of the box.

Each year, usually late February, I always open up all of the boxes in order to clean out
the old nests and straw….because who wants to move into to someone else’s leftover mess?

However, it appears as if someone, bird or not, is busy with a bit of spring cleaning…
As I am reminded of my own bit of Spring cleaning waiting for me…

However my cleaning, where much of it is to be of the literal…
that of scrubbing, washing, and sorting…
my cleaning also needs to be taking place from within.

Each of us must be mindful in our remembrance that Springtime is not merely the time
in which all of Creation sheds the old while producing the new, the fresh, the radiant
and the young…
Spring is also the time for us, mankind, to shed our old while taking on a newness
of fresh beginnings as well.

Shedding the dust and weight of the heaviness of our old sinful selves—
Ridding ourselves of that ever-present sinful nature of man, as we step outward and forward
with the Resurrected Christ into the light of a new dawn…

There is certainly no rest for the weary!

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this
day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates,
or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15

when is a bird not a bird?

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
Arthur Conan Doyle


(a flying squirrel taking up residence in the old bluebird box / Julie Cook / 2017)

When it’s a flying squirrel!

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Proverbs 10:9

fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

holding on to Hope

Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
George S. Patton


(the blue birds are getting busy / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22

A bad day for the birds

Do you ne’er think what wondrous beings these?
Do you ne’er think who made them, and who taught
The dialect they speak, where melodies
Alone are the interpreters of thought?
Whose household words are songs in many keys,
Sweeter than instrument of man e’er caught!

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

DSC01719 2
(5 tiny bluebird eggs / Julie Cook / 2015)

If you’ve followed much of cookiecrumbs for any length of time, then you know I love my birds.
Not the Atlanta Falcons or Hawks mind you nor some sort of pet parakeet but rather those beautifully wild birds which frequent my yard.
I just love all the various wild birds that either call my yard their permanent home or those more transient species who just happen by on a short lay over as they travel onward to wherever it is they go. . .

I enjoy the commotion on the feeders, especially after a recent replenishing.
I relish those fleeting occasional sightings of some rare bird making an impromptu pitstop.

From hummingbird to hawk, I love my birds.

Yet sadly there have been three incidents as of late which have left me rather troubled and to be honest, quite sad.

I realize that Nature is Nature–wild and free so to speak.
There’s that whole food chain thing going on. . .
The survival of the fittest. . .
That whole eat or be eaten mentality. . .
All out taking place in that yard of mine.
Be it raccoon, copperhead, rat snake, possum, mole, armadillo, coyote, bobwhite, bobcat, buzzard, cardinal, robin, turtle, lizard, chipmunk. . .living harmoniously is certainly a very fine line.

First my bluebirds.
We’ve had a family of bluebirds here in our yard for as long as we’ve lived in this house–a good 16 years. Offsprings return each year and continue raising generation after generation.
I have several boxes up for their choice of nesting.
Last year, on Mother’s day of all days, you may remember the whole bird box incident with my husband and how Mrs Bluebird did not have a happy mother’s day. I was shocked they decided to actually come back, giving us a second chance, but we won’t relive that little trauma drama right now. . .

I had watched with keen interest this Spring as mom and dad bluebird were first busy building a nest in the box of choice and then secondly how they worked in tandem to feed the hatchlings.

Yet oddly one strange day, all was silent. There was no activity of the usual flying back and forth. No little rising crescendo chorus greeting the latest tasty morsel of worm or bug delivered for meal time—a never ending mealtime.

I watched the box for a couple of days before taking my chance. . .I eased up to the box, twisting the latch to check inside.
I found nothing.
It was still too soon for the babies to have “flown” the proverbial coop—I fretted that a raccoon or snake or feral cat had had it’s way one dark and sinister night with my wee blue family. . .

Fast forward a couple of weeks when, once again, I notice a bevy of activity. Mom sitting with her tiny head poking out of the hole as if she was on patrol as Dad made the deliveries of tasty takeout.
This went on for about two weeks, when once again, out of the blue, nothing.
No noise,
No commotion,
No movement,
No mom.
No dad.

So once again after watching the box intently for several days, I slowly inched my way to the tree, lifting the latch. . .this time, resting gently in place were 5 beautifully blue eggs. Alone.
Mom and Dad had left the box. . .
But way?

The other seemingly tragic event came around the same time as the first bluebird batch disappearance.
There was a mockingbird who had built a nest in close proximity to the bluebirds box, with its nest perched up in a Tea Olive tree.
Mother and dad mockingbird were fiercely protective and equally as busy as Mr and Mrs Bluebird.
Mom had laid several beautiful eggs that hatched into several tiny little balls of fluffy down.

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(mockingbird eggs / Julie Cook /2015)

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(the tiny mockingbird fledglings / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yet oddly, their nest grew quiet at the same time as the bluebirds. . .which certainly raised my suspicions as to what was taking place in the cloak of darkness.

Lastly the final insult to injury for my beloved birds. . .

A couple of weeks ago I had shared a post featuring our new redheaded woodpecker family.
The first couple of these gorgeous birds to call our yard home. They were truly magnificent birds to watch purely because of their striking colors. A brilliant red head offset by the white and black body feathers.
I was so proud that this pair of beautiful birds had opted to call my yard home.

DSC01243

Their range was rather wide as I would often see them flying off to the woods across the street at the back of the neighbor’s pasture. They began to enjoy sitting on our black fence with runs the length of our property along the road. I imagined the pickings for bugs must have been ideal along the fence.

Last week, at the end of one long hot day finally returning home from Dad’s, I turned to pull into the driveway when I noticed what appeared to be a dead bird lying on its back in the middle of the driveway. Immediately I could hear my own voice echoing in the car “NO, NO, NO. . .”
Stopping the car to investigate further, my initial assumption was sadly was confirmed—-it was one of the woodpeckers.

DSC01702
(my beautiful redheaded woodpecker is no more / Julie Cook / 2015)

From my observation I noted some blood around the beak and sadly surmised that the bird perhaps had flown out and up at the same time a car had came barreling down the road.

I brought the bird down to the house and took it out in the back to bury it.

I always feel privileged when I am afforded a glimpse into the lives of the animals, birds, reptiles, fish that I share my little piece of the planet with. . .I’ve always felt as if God has given me a tiny precious gift each encounter, each observation. . .be it here in my own backyard or along the shores of the ocean or in the wilds of Alaska. . .Those created creatures both majestic and beautiful, wild and free. . .creatures I am tasked with, as a steward of the planet and created creature myself who God entrusted with responsibility, to care for, honor and respect. . .

I am thankful for their presence in my world as they remind me of God’s grace as well as joy—as He must have taken great pleasure in their creation. . .

Here’s to my birds—may better days grace your horizons. . .