all in a day’s walk in the park

“With beauty before me, may I walk
With beauty behind me, may I walk
With beauty above me, may I walk
With beauty below me, may I walk
With beauty all around me, may I walk
Wandering on the trail of beauty, may I walk”

Navajo: Walking Meditation

Did someone say walk???
As in a stroll?
As in an outing?
As in outside?

And so as the notion of a nice leisure stroll was considered…
we decided to venture out for a walk.

We ventured forth…
We ventured out.
We ventured up
And we ventured away…

Away throughout a city that magically transforms itself into something else and
into something so much more…

But it takes a bit of really hard looking…looking in just the right places…
to see what makes a certain ordinary and otherwise crowded, noisy place…
something so much better than what one quickly sees when looking at things with a cursory
first glance.

All strapped in and ready go, after multiple outfit changes, we departed…

We first walked the three-mile loop around Chastain Park.
A 268-acre wedge-shaped park, the largest park in the city of Atlanta that happens
to be in the northeast area of the city and only about 3 miles from where I grew up.

It’s a park where I first learned to swim.
The park where my dad took me when I was a little girl to go sledding in my first
real snow.
The park where I attended the yearly Brownie and Girl Scout jamborees.
The park where my brother played little league baseball.
The park with the swingset where I secretly rendezvoused meeting the boy I had a
crush on in the 8th grade…
And the place where my mom learned to play tennis…a game that actually helped
my mom find her own place in life.

Originally the land belonged to the Creek Indians but in 1840, 1000 was acquired by the
state of Georgia.
There would be built an almshouse and a TB sanatorium as well as a paupers cemetery.
Eventually, in the mid-1940’s, a golf course was designed, a community pool was built,
an amphitheater was created, riding stables and a barn were added as well as
cabins and cookout areas….as the almshouse and sanatorium were eventually transformed
into a private school.
A school that has only grown in size and scope along with the growing park.
Chastain is now the site of the city’s major outdoor concert venue.

But we were ready and even excited to take in what this transforming area had to offer…

Walks and parks are always good for both body and soul.
But they can be exhausting…

Here’s to many more days of walks in the park…

Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you,
so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Deuteronomy 5:55

jockeying for position

Everything is expressed through relationship. Colour can exist only through other colours,
dimension through other dimensions,
position through other positions that oppose them.
That is why I regard relationship as the principal thing.

Piet Mondrian


(uncle Percy hiding in the pack-n-play/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(Uncle Percy and Autumn in Autumn’s pack-n-play / Julie Cook / 2018
don’t worry—Percy was moved right after the picture was taken as he likes to sneak in when no one is occupying the pack-n-play but is always discovered and removed)

I will take my post;
I will position myself on the fortress.
I will keep watch to see what the Lord says to me
and how he will respond to my complaint.

Habakkuk 2:1

taking one last hit for the team in ’17; looking forward to ’18

Keep Calm and Carry On….
words seen on a WWII British motivational poster


(why do I think this sad little persimmon is a reflection of myself? / Julie Cook / 2017)

You didn’t think I could let the year end without having one last ‘hit for the team’
and not share it did you??

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!!!

But first let’s take a wistful look back to last year….
Or more accurately…back to yesterday afternoon.

Remember, I still have a hole in my head, stitches in my mouth and an annoying
space where there once was a tooth…still swollen, still uncomfortable,
still having trouble chewing without dropping things randomly from my mouth.

Kind out like our cat Percy who lost most of his teeth as a kitten….
He drops his food from his mouth all the time, right in mid bite,
but unlike a dog, he just lets it sit and moves on to a new bite.
I just try to be a bit discreet…..

Anywhoo…..

So here it was New Year’s Eve day—we didn’t really have much to do…
my tooth, or lack there of, had put the kibosh on any sort of plans….

It was a day that the coldest temperatures of the year were descending,
yet thankfully the weather folks had backed off of any sort of snow event,
So…. what better way to spend the day than to head out to wander
through the woods?

I was well layered…
turtleneck, sweater, vest, waxed barn coat, jeans, trusty lined LL Bean boots,
gloves, earmuffs and a scarf—I had my trusty camera in tow and was excited
to be out, breathing in fresh air, up off the couch from nursing the hole
in my head and ready to take some lovely pictures in which to share…with you…

The woods are so open this time of year, allowing yearning eyes to take in
a quiet vastness.
And there is such a palpable stillness.
The only sound one hears is the crunch of leaves underneath wandering boots.

I had hoped to find and capture a few little surprises here and there–
for despite most things being long dead, hibernating or in a state of waiting..
the woods still have much to offer.


(drying and dying persimmons linger on the limbs / Julie Cook / 2017)


(lingering ink berries / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a hooked bush…where a buck deer has rubbed its horns / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a large gall on a tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(hidden little deer moss / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was lagging behind my husband, as I kept stopping to take pictures.
We had made our way deep into the woods, finally stopping at the creek.
At this juncture along this meandering creek there happens to be an old fallen
tree bridging both sides of the creek.

I’ve told my husband 100 times, I can’t balance like I use to and I’d rather look for
a different place to cross where I could slide down the edge of the bank,
hop across a more shallow area of the creek, while scooting up the
other bank on the other side….

It made perfect sense.

But he kept insisting that I cross the tree as I’ve done it before…
agitated pondering what in the heck was wrong with me today???

And whereas, yes I have crossed it before, still with trepidation, but that was when
the weather was warmer and I was not layered like a chunky eskimo
with a camera slung over my arm, while being full of codeine.

I had been feeling like a fuzzy slug, so at this particular moment, while staring at a precarious tree spanning a creek in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere,
a little voice said “don’t do it”….

Did I mention it was 36 degrees?

“You’ve done it before, just reach out for that limb…”
my know-it-all husband instructs.
Easy for him to say, that limb is dangling over the water and he is a
bit taller than I am.

Cautiously I step out onto the tree, putting one foot boot in front of another.
Making my way to the middle where the tree narrows.
That dangling branch was no where near my grasp.

Suddenly, and for reasons I know not, I begin to list to the left—
the left is where the tooth is missing, the left is where the camera dangles,
the left is where there is a deep murky water hole.

SPLASH!

Suddenly I am chest deep in a cold creek stuck amongst a maze of gnarly limbs and vines.
Plus my left foot had sunk deep into the muddy bottom all the while as I’m flailing
my arms trying to get to the bank.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, there was a thankfulness that all snakes were
fast asleep.

My husband had obviously raced back across without thought and was desperately
trying to yank me up the bank but my left foot, as it’s always the left,
was mired deep in the muddy bottom.

At this exact moment of panic, an image crosses my mind and no, it was not my
life flashing before my eyes, but it might as well have been.

Have you ever watched that show Life Below Zero on NATGEO?
That show about those hearty, perhaps more like fool hearty, souls who live
alone in the middle of nowhere Alaska, totally off the grid???

One sentiment rings true with each of those survivors…
‘if you get your feet wet out here, you’re as good as dead.’

Well, not only were my feet wet, I was immersed up to my chest in dark brown tannin
stained water, a maze of limbs and vines, with my left leg stuck deep in
the silty mud.

What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 2 minutes at best….
I got to the bank while my poor husband was trying to pull up a wet,
stuck, dead weight, mad as hell wife….
suddenly I realized my camera was now totally underwater.

I hear an out of body voice shouting.
“I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T WANT TO CROSS THE TREE!!!!!!”

Finally with my foot free from the mud, I keep telling my husband to let go and quit pulling and yanking cause he was crushing my head.
“LET GO, I’M OUT! I’M UP!!!”

And there I stood along the bank—
dripping like I had just popped up out of a refreshing summer pool…
a soaking wet dog in need of a good shake.

Water was now sloshing in my boots as I took a step.

My husband, now in a panic, just knew pneumonia was instantly setting in.

“Now he worries…gees” as I’m still muttering words I shan’t share here.

It was almost a mile back to the truck.

As he stands there just staring at me, I hear my own commanding voice
“Just start walking to the truck.”

Did I mention is was 36 degrees?

The only thing dry on me, if I may be candid, was my bra and head.

Once back at the truck, my boy scout of a husband thankfully had a towel
in the truck in case of emergencies.

And here was our emergency.

Right there in the woods, I began peeling off the layers of sopping wet and very
cold clothes as I no longer had feeling in my legs.
Bear Grylls voice was now drifting in my head…and thankfully I wasn’t going to
have to eat grubs or drink urine to survive…
but a nice camp fire would have been welcomed.

Boots
socks
pants
coat
underware
vest….
all shed as I wrapped the towel around me like a moo moo.

Did I tell you it was 36 degrees?

My husband is still just helplessly staring and sputtering…certain
I’m about the die immediately from consumption.

“Just get in the truck and drive” I grouse.

It was an hour or so drive home.

“But wonder if something happens or we get stopped and you’re just, just, just
sitting wrapped in a towel….???”

One look from me was enough to spur him back to reality and action.
Into the truck we got… with the heat now blowing just a fast as it could blow.

Thankfully we were not stopped and I got home in one piece to a hot shower with all the
muddy wet clothes going directly into the washer.
The camera, well, it is mostly like DOA

The moral of this little tale you ask?

Well, if you hear a little voice telling you not to cross a log,
don’t cross the log.

If you have a hole in your head and codeine in your system and see a log,
don’t cross the log.

And maybe, just maybe, a certain husband will one day actually listen when
the wise one speaks….

Oh, and always keep a towel in your vehicle, maybe even a change of clothes..
a bottle of bourbon wouldn’t hurt for those emergency and medicinal purposes…
since there was no St Bernard coming to my rescue…

Have a safe, dry, warm and happy New Year’s Day—-
I think I’ll just sit on the couch and watch a few good bowl game….
GO DAWGS!

the small gift of the holidays— or when a cousin comes to visit

“It’s an universal law–
intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.
An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience,
whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(the cousins on the couch resting after the big meal / Julie Cook / 2017)

With the arrival of this almost two month long “holiday” season–that time
prior to Thanksgiving, of which usually is now ushered in just following Halloween,
with the big lead up to feasting and fellowshipping—
all the way to just after New Years, with its big exhale and let down…
many of us will experience the comings and goings of family and friends
those who come home to roost or those who are simply passing through.

Perhaps it’s us who are the ones doing the visiting…
making those often precarious trips here, there and yon

Either way…all sorts of folks are coming and going.

College students return home.
Schools shut down for the holidays
Work schedules become erratic.
Vacations begin…
Things just become topsy turvy… for what was once just a couple of weeks
to something now which has morphed into almost a 2 month celebration.

As a kid, do you remember having family come visit for the holidays…
or maybe you were the one traveling with family to do the visiting?

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins…. folks you wouldn’t have seen but
maybe once or twice a year,
but folks who your parents would read you the riot act over….
Strongly reminding you as to what it means to being kind, patient, polite
and not to grouse when having to share your toys, your room, your time,
your space–or to, in turn, tolerate having to be the recipient of perhaps
the not so most hospitable relative.

Older great aunts who would pinch your cheeks, kissed your face with bright red lipstick
as their extra strong perfume lingered cloyingly in your nostrils….
Or of that very loud and very obnoxious uncle who just made for awkward conversation…
yet would always slip you a dollar when no one was watching.

You could see your dad biting his tongue, your mom “playing nice” and you’d figure
if they could handle it, you could handle the little cousin who constantly
followed you around the house while your older cousin hid your favorite stuffed animal while having to sit by that aunt who insisted on your trying her best pickled ham casserole.

Family…friends…visiting—it’s what the holidays bring.

And therein lies the hidden gift of the holidays…

I thought about all of this today when I finally sat down,
exhausted from the days of lead up cooking and the few hours of cleaning
for what amounts to about a 20 minute meal…
when looking at our son and daughter-n-law’s dog, Alice the grand-dog, who had jumped
up on one the end of the couch, making herself at home,
home on the end that one of our cats, Peaches, stakes out as her own.

Disgusted, she left the room.

Percy however was not to be displaced.
He loves his mother and doesn’t want to share her with his usurper cousin….
so he jumped up and settled in right by my side—

17 pounds of cat verses 85 pounds of black lab….both wanting, needing, to be
by the one they look to for food, comfort and security.
Yet not particularly caring for one another.

And so they tolerate one another…they share their space, albeit it precariously.
They “play nice” to coexist in close proximity because they are “family”—
like it or not.

Alice is here until Monday.
Percy is here for the duration.
Yet they will make the best of this not so favorable situation of time
because this time of year, these holidays just bring out the better, the kinder,
the more generous in us all.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

the cutest little worrisome concern

“There is a great difference between worry and concern.
A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.”

Harold Stephens

For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day,
so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.

Aristotle

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(a close up of my returning resident…who has got to go / Julie Cook / 2016)

I’ve mentioned before that I was not like most little girls growing up…
Whereas many a little girl donned fancy little party dresses,
complete with lacy little petticoats underneath…
whiling away their hours playing with baby dolls and the like…
I was in a pair of shorts with matching flip flops, wearing a Gilligan’s sailor hat,
while building pine straw forts in the woods….

On reading day, that most exciting day of the week, when we were all marched to the library,
in order to pick out a book for our weekly reading,
with most young girls choosing books about the adventures of Madeleine or
books about fairy princesses–
I was picking out science books about bats…

Oddly I found bats to be the cutest little things.
Brown and furry with tiny beady black eyes—
kind of like a teddy bear…
yet where there were to be arms and paws, the bats had wings and claws.

I don’t know where any of that came from…and bless my mother’s heart for enduring such…
but just remember…I was adopted…

However, fast forward to today…
to this now grown woman who has been around the block a couple of times or more…
This woman who has had much learning and experience now tucked safely up
under her belt.
She knows that things such as bats are good for the environment,
as they are Mother Nature’s natural insect eradicators.
They are our secret weapons against things like malaria and zika….

Yet I also know that bats are susceptible to things such rabies and the like…
And whereas their droppings make for great fertilizer, it is also rife with bacteria….
Several small caveats to having them in close proximity to humans and their pets…

So I was thrown into a bit of a tizzy when I walked out on the back deck this morning
just to find Percy, my dear sweet cat, sitting directly at the door.
His head cocked at an almost 90 degree angle making those
odd little sounds he makes when he spies a bird.

I follow his gaze….

Knowing there was no bird hiding up under the awning of the back deck…
just wanting to hang out with the resident cat…I had a sneaky suspicion what I was seeking…
And sure enough, wedged between the awning and the house was a lumpy dark mass….

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DSCN4028

I snatch up Percy like he’s on fire, whisking him inside before he could utter a sound.
That’s all I need…a bat to bite Percy… sending all that money down the drain on rabies shots—
I don’t know how all that really works—is he, isn’t he now immune from rabid bats???

I grab a broom.
I poke the broom up in the crevice gently attempting to nudge the little bat loose in hopes
that he’ll opt to fly away.
The bat makes a crackling sound at me like a giant bug….
I drop the broom and jump in the house.

You may notice in the picture above what appears to be a dryer sheet stuffed up by the little bat.
You are correct.
It is a dryer sheet.
And I suddenly have a moment of deja vu….
as I think this little fella tried to move in here last summer.

Last summer I panicked, like I’m doing today, wondering if the bat I spied
wedged up between the awning and the house had actually bitten the cats…
Plus I fretted about bat droppings covering my grill…

So I did the only thing any former Girl Scout could think of at that very moment
which might act as a bat deterrent…
I grabbed a box of dryer sheets.

I stuffed dryer sheets in all the cracks and crevices between the awning,
the deck and the house.
However it soon became obvious that bats like a fresh scented crevice—
the now pair of bats paid the dryer sheets no never mind—
Continuing to fly out at night and back during the day only to roost
in a clean scented crevice.
At least they are clean scented loving bats.

As I was now to my last resort, other than taking a flamethrower to the awning which I would imagine would result in a small fire…I grabbed a can of hornet spray, aimed and fired.

Out shot the bat, narrowly missing my head…

So today, with this latest little guy back and obviously up to his same idea of moving in,
I have decided he must have a very short memory and now needs a refresher course in eviction.

So once again, this evening, when the sun goes down and this sleepy
little thing decides to finally get up, and seek the myriad of disease carrying mosquitoes…
I’m going to douse his bedroom with wasp poison—
and pray he decides to move on once the sun comes up….

Otherwise I might just go purchase said flamethrower….

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*****This little brown bat is native to Georgia.
Recently, their declining numbers have alarmed both scientist and
wildlife management specialists alike.

Bats, like frogs, are first responders to changes in the environment.
Their declining numbers indicate that environmental troubles are afoot.
Currently there is an epidemic, in the state of Georgia,
which is adversely affecting the little brown bat population.
It is known as WNS—white nose syndrome.
It is a fungus that is decimating entire colonies…by the millions.

This little bat is most likely a male as they tend to roost alone.
They are marvelous insect gathers.
But in close proximity to humans, they do raise a concern.

This little bat is obviously aggravated that I keep snapping his picture
all the while as he’s trying to get his beauty sleep…

And the broom is a real pain in his behind….

Please visit the following Georgia wildlife link for more information concerning
the plight of the little brown bats….

http://www.georgiawildlife.com/WNSFAQ

in or out… or both

“There are three kinds of men.
The one that learns by reading.
The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Will Rogers

DSCN3673
(my cat Percy who wants the best of both worlds / Julie Cook / 2016)

You and I want it both ways.
The best of both worlds.
You know, the whole having our cake and eating it too scenario.

Sadly, I just think it’s in our nature.

Take my cat for example.

Percy is a rescue.
Percy, short for Perseverance.
Long story…
I’ve written about him and his story on a previous post entitled “my best friend”…

Percy has no bottom teeth…due to a horrific injury he endured at the hands of some bad humans…
Bad humans who had an encounter with him when he was just a few weeks old.

As a tiny kitten he came to us in a near death condition…
And because he has had to have several repairs (aka surgeries to deal with smashed teeth)
he is strictly an indoor cat.
Sometimes much to his chagrin.

We live in a rural part of our county where more things than bad humans prowl about.
Coyotes and fox are keen to set their sights on family pets.
Having no teeth for defense can be problematic—so indoor he is.

Percy has access to our back deck.
A deck that is basically two stories off the ground and would spell the breaking of limbs
should anyone, cat or human, decide to jump.
So everyone seems content just to sit and relax.

The deck is covered and protected from the elements…with the exception being the heat.
The black awning seems to only intensify the summer sun’s heat.
It is therefore for that very dangerous hot reason that I keep Percy inside during the heat of the day.

Percy enjoys his early mornings and late afternoons lounging on “his” deck.
He watches the hummingbirds and will occasionally “hunt” a wandering wasp…
which results in a usually painful hunting experience…

I leave the kitchen door to the deck slightly ajar when he’s out on the deck.
Loud noises, from both passing trucks and motorcycles, terrify him.
Upon hearing any loud vehicle noise, Percy will frantically push the door open, flying into the house.
I think it goes back to his traumatic childhood experience with the cruel humans.

As the morning wears on and the heat sets in, Percy likes to push open the door and lazily lumber into the kitchen where he will immediately plop down on the cool wood floor enjoying cool while keeping “his” door to his kingdom open for easy viewing and easy access.

This is problematic.

It is neither wise nor cost effective in the South, in the dead heat of summer, to leave a door open allowing for the hot heat from the outside to enter into the comfortable AC cooled inside..nor is it wise having the cool AC from the inside…escaping to the hot heat outside…
either way, you get the point.

This is a real sticking point with my husband.
He tends to get very angry whenever he spies the door just sitting wide open while no one is near…
as he sees money exiting the door.
He has that gift…
The gift of seeing invisible money flying out both doors and windows when no one is looking.

So I have two choices…
Stop leaving the door ajar, therefore causing Percy to have apoplexy while being stuck outside near loud noises…
Or,
I don’t let him out, period.

Or…there is a third choice…I could teach Percy to close the door.
Which would be perfect…
yet sadly I don’t think I would live long enough for him to master such a feat.
He’s a slow learner.

So a conundrum has arisen.

Percy wants the best of both worlds.
He wants in and out…both at the same time.
He doesn’t understand why that is not a good idea.

I think we are a lot like Percy…
We, as in me and you, want the best of all our worlds.

We want to have our cake and eat it too.
We don’t want to be told what we can and cannot do.
We don’t want God, the Church, or anyone for that matter, telling us what we can and cannot do.
We like our world, our things, our gizmos and our gadgets…
We like our vices, our often poor choices and the things that we know are actually bad for us.
We like our possessions, our shiny baubles, our stuff…
We don’t want to “sacrifice” or give up our wants…
We have mastered the fine art of convincing and justifying every aspect of our lives.

If we must give up “this,” then we’ll make do with “that.”
We’re ok with trading, just not sacrificing.

We prefer sitting on the fence with the world on one side and God on the other.
Sitting in the middle makes perfect sense….
We think if we can keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, it’s all good.
We think that’s all zen-like as we have the perfect harmony of balance…
hence, the best of both worlds….

But what we don’t get, what we fail to understand and comprehend,
is that we’re balancing between Heaven and Hell…

and that is problematic.

God is not an either or sort of Creator.
He’s never been big on us having our cake and eating it too…as that just doesn’t work.
He never said that we could keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven.
He’s always been an all our nothing sort of Creator…

He did not say that He would share us with Satan.
He said we are His and His alone…

Yet…
and here’s the rub…
He then turned around and gave us the final choice to decide.

We can either be His and His alone….
or…
not…
Our choice.

The only thing is, we can’t be both…
end of sentence…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go close a door…

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

Hallelujah

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
― Pope John Paul II

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(tiny redheaded woodpecker / Julie Cook / 2015)

And on this January day,
as the sun rose high into the crisp blue sky,
all of Nature could be heard rejoicing. . .

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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(female Flicker looking skyward / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(female sparrow nibbling a branch / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(both Peaches and a lizard enjoy a respite from the cold rains / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(closeup of someone who should still be hibernating up on my sleeve / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(small bed of moss / Julie Cook / 2015)

And as the beautiful sun settled downward in the distant western sky,
at the ending of this beautiful January day,
all of Nature could be heard whispering . . .

Amen, Amen, Amen

DSC00054(Day is done as the sun sets in the western sky / Julie Cook / 2015)