it’s time again…to share

“When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief.
Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry;
the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it;
the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes;
the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

Basil the Great


(a freshly watered monarch butterfly caterpillar, who happens to be eating the
new baby parsley / Julie Cook / 2017)

In the waning days of summer, as the humidity races skyward to meet the relentless
midday sun, those once ever hopeful potted plants and herbs…
those once oh so spry, succulent green and promising beauties, are one by one,
beginning to loose the will to survive.

A southern sun will do that to you.

The dill has long gone to seed as have the parsley and the basil.
Drooping, drying out and dying is the current game of the summer garden party.
As it’s really just time to cut things back, pull things up and simply
hang on for a couple of more months until the heat just might slowly begin
to retreat.

This tiny new parsley plant hasn’t got nary a chance now that the monarch caterpillars
have found it.

Despite my watering, they remain unfazed…
eating and constantly devouring around the clock until everything is gone…
as they fatten themselves up, preparing for the time of transformation…

Because who can complain about the birth of a butterfly….


(all images of both the Monarch and or Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16

speaking of fragile….

“Man is harder than iron,
stronger than stone
and more fragile than a rose.”

Turkish Proverb


(an exhausted hummingbird / Julie Cook / 2017)

You may recall that yesterday’s post was born from finding a dead butterfly
in the yard.
Perhaps an odd starting point, but who am I to question inspiration.

It was a post based on the idea of fragility…
and of how our lives are laced with such a delicate underpinning…
despite our living life to the contrary.

This was not to imply that we are to live life by walking around as if we were
inside of some sort of delicate glass bubble…encouraging us to be oh so careful
and walk around as if at any moment the sky would be falling on our heads.

Rather it was a post to remind us all that life on this earth is fleeting.

For some of us this life is longer than it is for others…

Yet no matter the time,
none of us know nor have we been given any sort of guarantee as to how long
or how short or to how fragile our life is to be.

And my concern in yesterday’s post, for all of us, was how exactly were we or
are we planning on living under this said umbrella of fragile’s time.

With our limited time, health and energy….how are we opting to spend such…

And with any quick glance around…not only around our own country but rather by
viewing the world at large…
It just seems as if the choices being made are simply not choices that seem to
appreciate the sheer fleeting fragility….of any of our lives.

And it also seems that this notion, for me at least, was not to easily come and go…

For the subject matter of posts is simply not always a neat, orderly or tidy
sort of affair…not a one and done sort of thing.

And as I’ve said before, I do not believe in randomness–everything under the heavens
is interwoven and interconnected.

For the very words I write today may be intended for someone who stumbles upon them
in 5 years…in some far off land….
or even words I myself might need to reread and reconsider at some unseen time…

So yesterday, late afternoon…our heat index had quickly shot up as
mid July is now in full swing here in west Georgia.

This time of year, without fail, the hummingbirds will zip into our garage and for
reasons beyond my soul, will not be able to zip out…
they just can’t seem to figure out how they got in to turn around to get out.

They will spend hours circling the ceiling of the garage.
Something to do with the white ceiling and a presumption of depth and space.
They will exhaust themselves if I don’t find them first.

All of which then has me scrambling for an expansion pole that is used to clean
ceiling fans…
With the pole extended, walking around the garage in circles, with my neck creened precariously back and upward, all the while as I’m balancing said long pole…
I attempt coaxing a tired and confused hummingbird to light upon the end of the pole…
In turn allowing me to dip the pole low enough to ease the bird outside…
where the tired bird flits back from whence it came—the clear blue yonder.

This ritual happens every summer and often on multiple occasions.

Sometimes the bird will tire and simply land on the windowsill…
allowing me step up on the brick ledge where I can gently put my hand around
the exhuasted bird, carrying it back outside, setting it free.

Yesterday however was different.

For whatever reason, while on the phone with my cousin, I looked out the back door
into the garage.
I had to look twice to make certain I wasn’t seeing what I hoped to be just a leaf
and not what I thought…

A hummingbird was laying on the garage floor, wings spread wide.

I went out to inspect the bird.

It was alive and either hurt or exhausted or both.

Gently and gingerly I picked up the tiny little bird as it was simply listless.

The sun was glaring into the garage and the temperature was in the mid 90’s.
I carried the bird outside where usually they will take off once they figure
they are free to fly….

But not this bird.

I gently placed the bird in the empty robin’s nest I knew was still in the
bush by the garage. I thought it would be safe while it cooled down and
gathered back its strength.

My husband and I left to grab a quick bite to eat while I assumed the bird would be
long gone upon our return.

But again, I was wrong.

The bird was in the nest with wings spread wide as I feared it had died.

Reaching in the nest I gently lifted the bird to see that it was still alive but
still listless and exhausted.

Next I actually carried the bird into the house and then back out to the back deck
where I placed it in a small little woven ‘nest’…
I filled a syringe with hummingbird nectar, placing it
along the edge of the nest…just incase it needed a little sustenance for strength.
I then went inside for the night and hoped for the best.

Getting up early the next morning, as I was headed over to Atlanta to met with Dad’s lawyer, I immediately headed out on to the back deck expecting to find my little
friend having perished during the night.

But that is not what I found.

I found an empty nest.

Ours is a covered deck that sits high off the ground so no animals or birds make
their way to this space.
I checked all around and did not see any signs of my wee friend…
So I’m going with the happy ending here…

As life is just too fleeting and oh so fragile,
is there not then room to find just a little tiny bit of happy!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Seeking shelter

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter
of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal
likewise with their fellow men.

Francis of Assisi


(spicebrush butterfly seeking a safe perch / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was leaning over, pulling up a few weeds out of the freshly strewn pine straw bed,
when I caught a bit of movement on a freshly trimmed bush.

A butterfly sat with fluttering wings wide open…not in the sun, but rather in the shadows.
It’s still a bit chilly in the mornings and early evenings here…however those first
hardy souls of the butterfly world are beginning to make their seasonal appearance.

I know that butterflies must sun themselves, warming up their muscles.
If the temps dip into the 40’s, butterflies can’t even move let alone fly.

I watched this wee one flitter from the shelter and shade of the shrubbery,
heading happily outward into the sun, only to lite upon the bay laurel tree.

The butterfly struggled on the slick laurel leaves to get traction.
Vainly attempting to climb up the leaves, in order to reach a sunnier spot in which to bask
in the beauty of the day, the butterfly kept slipping back down to the underside of the leaf,
while all the little fragile black legs worked furiously…
as my little friend scrambled to gain a foothold upward.

Yesterday we had tornados.
20 touched down throughout the state with one of those touchdowns being in my county.
It was nothing like our neighbors to the west in Louisiana,
but destructive none the less.

Property was damaged, cars crushed, college housing lost windows,
and even one of the local fire stations had it’s roof lifted of and taken away…
while a side wall then gave way….

Thankfully no one was hurt and no lives lost.

Today is a far cry from yesterday…
Today is one of those Chamber of Commerce type of days.
Warm, brilliant blue sky, white puffy clouds—
a true welcome mat coaxing one and all to venture out of doors.
Tomorrow however is to be like yesterday…
storm ridden and supposedly worse then we saw Monday.

Such is life in the Spring in the South…
beautifully inviting one minute, then hell on earth the next…
Sending both man and beast seeking shelter….

So for today as the butterfly and I currently enjoy wandering about a bit outside,
free from the confines of indoors or shelter…
I do so with knowledge that we both will most likely be seeking a safe haven
at some point tomorrow…

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

Just take it all in….

Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds;
they will recognize his works…

Psalm 64:9

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(A gulf fritillary butterfly enjoys the butterfly bush / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(a pipeline swallowtail busy at work on the hollyhocks / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(A silver spotted skipper hanging out on the butterfly bush / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(a meadow fritillary stops in for a visit / Julie Cook / 2016)

Enjoy the long weekend…

When blooms, butterflies, bees and bugs become blueberries…

God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works.
He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.

A. W. Tozer

“God has made all things that are in the world to be our teachers.”
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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Honey bees, wasps, hornets, ladybugs, Georgia Satyr Butterflies, Red spotted purple butterfly, Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Quince, blueberries

All things new

Cause of who you are and who I am in you
You make all things pure, oh oh
‘Cause of who you are and who I am in you
You make all things true, oh
You make all things new, all things new

Watermark – All Things New Lyrics

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(wild butterfly pea / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(silver spotted skipper / Julie Cook / 2-15)

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(silver spotted skipper / Julie Cook / 2015)

On this new morning to this new day to this new week,
I beseech you oh Lord,
make all things new–
in me. . .

He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said,
“Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:5

Best intentions

“Hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Samuel Johnson

“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.”
― Thomas A. Edison

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(Variegated Fritillary visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Variegated Fritillary visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

Best intentions are not always best—and sometimes it takes a lifetime to finally, sadly, remorsefully understand such wisdom.
What is it that they, those anonymous and innocuous wise sages, say about that proverbial road to hell?
The one I fear I’ve spent a lifetime paving?

Despite the poor choice of yielding to those intended intentions, time and time again we see that it is actually our hearts which often steer us toward the kinder and gentler offering rather than the more difficult.
Which may just prove that it is indeed better to lead with one’s head, rather than one’s heart.

As a people we tend to lean toward wanting to be kind not tough, soft not hard.
And yet it seems that we as a people learn best by the harder knocks in life.
Those lessons in life that spare neither our feelings nor hearts.

As parents we experience all of this first hand do we not?
Tueri et provide — to protect and provide is the creed and motto of any parent.
We spend most of our time and energies wanting, and / or doing, just that for our children—
Yet it is not always the better decision, stance or choice.
A child’s hard lesson learned is usually a well lesson learned—it may be painful in the beginning, especially for the observing parent, but a great reward of character for the child in the long run.

And with all this talk of good intentions, one should know that inevitably there’s a whole lot of reaping and a whole lot sowing to be had.
And sadly good intentions don’t always seem to reap a like kind.
Instead they often times reap a whole lot of uncomfortableness, misfortune and misery.
Leaving behind those well intended souls, in the wake of the aftermath, like a deer in headlights wondering what just happened.

Thankfully there is another small thought or motto that has become a bit of a life-line
or actually it’s really more of a short sweet prayer which helps me through those moments when my best intentions get the better of me. . .

God, I blew it so please renew it. . .

And so once again, in this thing called life, as I look back on those intentions that may have, at the time seemed best yet rather turned out to be anything but best—even overflowing with negative repercussions, I once again offer up my prayer—
“God, I blew it. . .again. . . and it’s a mess, and only you can “renew” it. . .please help”

Do my eyes deceive me?

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

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(a tiny little skipper butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

Standing outside under a crisp blue sky,
lost to Winter’s bareness, forlornly, I sigh. . .
Suddenly. . .
something fast and quick
something with color
something out of place
Dashes sporadically past a bewildered face.

Flittering
Herky jerky
Erratically bobbing up and down. . .
In and out of the greys and browns. . .
The tiny intruder darts brazenly past my head. . .
“What in the world” was all I could be heard to have said.

February 6th,
a nippy winter’s day is certainly no place at all
for a butterfly’s early spring call!
Yet suddenly excited,
Ecstatic to say the least. . .
All hope and joy are miraculously increased!

Has Spring just ventured the tiniest bit closer
Or is this merely something out of place. . .
Sending emotions on a seasonal roller coaster?
Will color soon scatter all the grey away
as we all look forward to a much brighter day!

Here’s to our little visitor. . .
that he may bring glad tidings to our Winter weary senses. . .
from some far away place of warmth, bright lights and colorful days!!!

A very small wonder

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

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(A very tiny fiery skipper butterfly perched upon the equally tiny yellow bloom of Mexican Tarragon / Julie Cook / 2014)

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
― Albert Einstein

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, we find ourselves overwhelmed
or rather perhaps it’s that we are actually underwhelmed. . .
Over and under with all of life.
Tears sit perched, just behind the eyes, anxious to spill forth,
Why that is, is anyone’s guess.
Steps are laboriously slowed as shoulders deeply slump,
There is certainly no bounce of step today.

An empty gaze skims the surface, barely taking in the immediate surroundings,
When suddenly, way down there, just by the left foot, the eyes lock in on the slightest, the tiniest, the most demure movement.
What is that sitting just atop that tiny yellow bloom?
Is it some sort of bug?
No. . .
it appears to be the most tiniest of butterflies, no bigger than a fly.
And just when the heart seemed to have taken a sickly chill, dulling itself to an empty beat,
this tiniest of wonders happens to happen by, warming that which had turned sullenly cool.

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Civility

“When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.”
– Samuel Johnson

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(photograph: Callaway Gardens Butterfly House/ Pine Mt., GA/ Julie Cook/ 2013)

As a teacher, as well as a parent…not to mention just being a human being, the idea of civility—that of a civil society, is something that has always been very important to me. I use to stress, to my students, the importance of rules, along with the accompanying of certain positive actions—not a laundry list mind you of endless does and don’ts, but rather a basic list—-a list of simple classroom rules along with the consequences of not following those rules, that would keep our world, in Room 202, afloat.

A list of rules that we could all live by—happily, comfortably, agreeably… with everyone’s safety in clear sight. I would tell them that some rules are most necessary for a “civil” society—otherwise we’d succumb to the pure pandemonium known as anarchy—which I know appeals to that daring sense of the teenage mind of damning the adult’s status quo, but for those of us who have hindsight, such is indeed invaluable to life.

I am becoming ever more wearisome with what I observe being the lack of civility in our modern day society–so much so that I grow gravely distressed. Oh you can call me old fashioned if you wish—at 53 I hate thinking I’m categorized into the group of having one foot in the proverbial “home” or worse, grave, but I suppose some reading this may just check me off as simply being of a different time.

Is it being from a different time that causes me to not appreciate hearing the “F word” at each and every turn when at the mall, crossing a street, in a restaurant, watching a ball game and reading a player’s or coach’s lips or walking down the hall at school…only to have the list go on and on? When did such a word, which is, in its origin, considered vulgar slang, become common place? That we now, as a society, condone vulgar slang as “ok”? That our music, movies—our overall entertainment, is saturated with such—that which was once used for “effect” has become all but common place……is that a good agreeable thing to be accepted?

That our politicians work harder at the practice of digging “dirt”, more so than the practice of governing and managing the Law –is even more than alarming. That we are more concerned with condemnation before we even consider common ground let alone reconciliation. That our news media relishes in the lashing out at any American whom they deem “on the wrong” side.

Having grown up as an American, the only wrong side I ever thought to be at issue was if one was anti-democracy! I grew up thinking it was ok to be an American who disagreed as you were still an American—now, however sadly, if the news media finds you in disagreement with their line of thinking, you are considered an enemy of the State–depending on the news station’s affiliation with two simple words–liberal or conservative….hummmmm, I don’t like where that all seems to be headed.

I liked life when we were kinder to one another, when we were considerate to one another. We held doors open for one another, we said yes mam or yes sir even if we were grown ourselves, we weren’t too busy or too self-consumed that we didn’t notice the young mother trying to get out of the busy grocery store pushing a full cart and keeping two young children from running out ahead of her into a busy parking-lot not hesitating to offer a hand. I liked it when television was not laced with profanity, when people thought about what they wore out in public and left the pajamas at home.

The Italian academic Pier Massimo Forni, a professor at John Hopkins University and the founder of the Civility Initiative has a tremendous insight when discussing the importance of a civil society….
“Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.”

This thought coming after, this past week, the world witnessed a gross lack of civility in the Italian Parliament where Italy’s first black MP took to the floor and fellow MPs greeted her by throwing bananas. It’s one thing to argue in disagreement, it’s another entirely to dehumanize a fellow human being. It is this dehumanizing our of fellow man/ woman that is now becoming the norm…spiraling out of control as the social filter of civility has gone out the window.

Decorum, civility, manners, morality…however you wish to name it, is woefully lacking in our lives—and we as a people, a “civilized” group of people, are the less for it. We become “less than” in a very negative way, we sadly value ourselves less and less. I merely hold firm to these words uttered by the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead….“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Let us hope for a thoughtful group of “citizens” who may be out there somewhere who can remind us all of the importance of our kindness, our thoughtfulness, our playing fair and playing by the rules, by knowing the difference between right and wrong, by demonstrating respect for all, reminding us that it’s ok to disagree, that it’s still important to possess respect for things and people older and wiser than ourselves, to smile more and fuss less…..that we may recall the greatest commandment….to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

Remember you are a civil individual.