altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

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(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

An evening’s wonder

Shut your eyes, wait, think of nothing. Now, open them … one sees nothing but a great coloured undulation. What then? An irradiation and glory of colour. This is what a picture should give us … an abyss in which the eye is lost, a secret germination, a coloured state of grace … loose conciousness. Descend with the painter into the dim tangled roots of things, and rise again from them in colors, be steeped in the light of them.
Paul Cezanne

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Excerpt from “Do not go gentle into the night”
Dylan Thomas

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(western sky at a Winter’s sunset / Julie Cook / 2015)

Dry crisp clean air sweeps downward, deep across the land.
All the while as a myriad of minuscule molecules swirl with palpable excitement.
Invisible dust particles sashay from side to side,
as brilliant rays of light streak across the horizon.
The color catchers of light, that gauzy blanket of clouds, fans ever outward acting as a giant scooping net capturing all of Red.
Gleefully the Master Creator slings a seemingly sopping wet brush full of scarlet pigment outward from the western sky.
Orange and yellow drip and ooze off of a massive palette like melting ice-cream from a cone.

Ominous?
Foreboding?
Harbinger?
Perhaps. . .

Yet it is the sheer magnitude and overwhelming sense of mastery which now shrouds any and all worry or fear. Brilliancy is effortlessly scattered out across the heavens.
Who can doubt such a Master Artist and His existence while standing in awe of such a display?
Can mere meteorology and science neatly put this canvas into a tight fitting box?
They tell of the pieces and the parts, of the hows and whys. . .
They tell of the lengths of rays, curvatures of the planet, the makeup of an atmosphere and of why an eye may see. . .

Yet there is more to this dazzling painting and its perception than what literally meets the eye.
The inspiring observance of this masterful moment affords the viewer insight into the telling strokes, the intimate fingerprints, of the Master Artist. Selfless abandon covers this canvas as the designs of the Divine are poured out to each viewer, freely given. A vast gift of love poured out from one heart to another. . .benevolently offered without expectations, demands or requirements from the Master Creator to the created.

The day is now done and gone is the sun. . .as we sweetly dream as to what new wonders will soon be in sight. . .

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The rise of the perigee-syzygy. . .Behold, “the Supermoon”

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(the super moon hidden behind storm clouds / Julie Cook / 2014)

According to informational sites such as Wikipedia and timeanddate.com, the phenomenon known as “perigee-syzygy” (syzygy is Greek meaning “yolked together,” or in our case this would refer to an alignment of say, our Earth and moon) or that which is commonly referred to as a Supermoon, takes place usually twice a year when a full moon is closest in its elliptical orbit to the Earth. As the moon’s obit brings it closest to the Earth, more so than other full moon phases, the result is the largest appearance in size, as well as light cast from the moon–as much as 14% larger and 30% brighter– as is observed from here on Earth—hence being dubbed a Supermoon.

And according to those in the know, this Supermoon is to be the most “super” as we will not have the moon this close to Earth, along with all the perfect alignments, for a predicted 20 more years or so. There is also the Perseid meter shower which is to be taking place simultaneously with this most super of moons but the light cast from the full moon makes seeing any stars, let alone a passing meteor, nearly impossible.

Grabbing my camera and heading outside around 11 PM, I find a mix of cloud and illuminated sky as the Supermoon does its best to rise. Despite the littering of clouds from fading summer storms, my first view of the moon is of it resting behind the passing storm clouds. The accompanying eerie flashes of color from within the clouds, produced by steaks of lightening, make the observation of such a magical event even more spectacular.

As the storm clouds eventually loose their energy and fade from view, the moon rises to its full splendor against the backdrop of the nighttime sky. . .
Oh to have the type of camera and skills necessary to capture such a brilliant display from our tiny little orbiting neighbor. . .

And what wonders they are, available for all to behold—lovingly displayed from the tip of a masterful Creator’s brush. . .

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

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(the rising of the supermoon from behind the stormy clouds of a summer’s night / Julie Cook /2014)

“Her antiquity in preceding and surviving succeeding tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her potency over effluent and refluent waters: her power to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency: the tranquil inscrutability of her visage: the terribility of her isolated dominant resplendent propinquity: her omens of tempest and of calm: the stimulation of her light, her motion and her presence: the admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence: her splendour, when visible: her attraction, when invisible.”
― James Joyce

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(brilliant supermoon / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Summer’s supermoon / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Summer’s supermoon / Julie Cook / 2014)

Raise the signal flags, the enemy advances

To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
― Sun Tzu

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There I was mindlessly staring out the basement window, sweat rolling down my brow into my eyes, giving new meaning to salt solution, Bono blasting out of my iPhone– “I’m not invisible”– when suddenly at 11:00 (as in off to my left oh so slightly) something of a raw sienna tone is indeed no longer invisible.

The enemy has emerged from the thicket, just over the barbed wire fence.
Oh the stealthy one. . .
Grabbing the music blaring iPhone, I try to get a picture while precariously balancing whilst still working the elliptical.

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“Back on the ol elliptical eh?” You ask in that condescending tone.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am—during the two week wedding hiatus, there were miles and miles of brisk heat consumed walking but not the consistent fat burn of my basement nemesis. You saw me in that dress–You and I both know that there is still much work to be done–and oh, by the way, Publix has brought in a new butter.

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A new butter” you muse.
“How can there be “new” butter?
Prèsident–a french butter made in Normandy—with real flakes of tasty sea salt—ummmm.
Fleur de sel, the caviar of salt, is only found in the salt flats of Normandy—which has been harvested for centuries.
Chefs love to finish a dish with a light sprinkle of the flour de sel.

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“But I thought Normandy was only good for D Day celebrations and that apple brandy of theirs. . .” you ask quizzically.
Ahhh yes. . . Calvados.
Nothing like a sweet potato soufflé spiked with a good dose of Calvados.
But no, they do more than war memorials and apples—they do salt and they do butter.
Does it get any better than that???

Oh dear Lord, the thought of butter has sent me spiraling off track.

So there I was sweating like a pig, watching this 4 legged enemy at the far end of the yard, opposite my garden, aka, the deer salad bowl, advance. I careened my neck out about as far as I could, as my legs in tandem seemed to excelerate, just so I could see a portion of the garden to my extreme right. Was this doe sent in as a distraction while the others made haste to the tender beans?

I continued watching this doe nibbling on the blackberry bush.
And as suddenly as she appeared out of the brush—one blink, or one sweat blob in the ol eye, and she was gone. . .for now. . .

Fast forward to twilight.
We decided to go check the garden after supper.

Just as we stepped out the back door, I heard it.
SHUUU SHUUUU
The unmistakable snorting sound a deer makes as a warning.
As fast as I looked up to scan the area, there they were. . .two white tails hopping and darting
away, back into the dense venation at the edge of the woods.

Oh they are testing me to be sure.
I may need to go cut more Irish Spring.
Maybe another scare crow?
And those deer b gone granules…hummmm
Why do I fret so and work as I do. . .
All for this–the first basket load of goodies.

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Stayed tuned–the battle wages on. . .