the mayor is in…

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only
solution is love and that love comes with community.”

Dorothy Day

The above image is a photo of Woobooville.

Woobooville is a relatively small community.
A new gated community to be more exact.
It currently houses four constituents…Bobo Buzzard, Polly Possum, Lambie Pie Lamb
and Jeffery Girrafe.

There are 3 different Rec centers, with one being mobile when so desired.
The Rec centers are open whenever needed.

The road was paved (quilted) by Natalie and hasn’t a single pothole.
There is 24 hr security yet there is no crime to ever speak of.
There is even a single storage unit, open free of charge.

Plus the community actually has its own mayor…
and the mayor just happens to be in her office this weekend.

Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

lest we never forget….

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Edmund Burke (or George Santayana depending on what sources you read)


(image courtesory the Buffalo News)

I’m pretty much a creature of habit—and I suppose I’ve turned my husband into one as well…
That being for either good or bad…well…the jury is still out on that.

Yet for the majority of our marriage,
we have been pretty much ritualistic in our daily routines.

When I was teaching, I almost always beat my husband home from work.
That was if I wasn’t having to taxi our son someplace following school or stay at meetings
longer than expected.

Once home, hot tea steeping, I’d usually start supper shortly upon arrival home
and we’d eat not long after my husband got home around 7PM or so…

And this was always just in time for the national news.

We’d flip on the news in the den as we’d be having supper in the kitchen—
If something big had happened in the world, we’d then usually balance plates on our laps
as we’d eat while watching the latest world crisis unfold.

I’m not a huge ‘television in every room’ sort of person but growing up,
my dad, on the other hand, was an all-out electronic junkie…
something about being an engineer I suppose.
So growing up, when smaller televisions hit the market, my dad bought one for our kitchen…
along with one in the den and one for everyone’s bedroom…he was overzealous.

So every night while I was growing up, Huntley and Brinkley joined our evening supper table.

This was during the time of the war in Vietnam, so there was always news of the war and the
ensuing protests here at home…and of course,
there were those other stories of life in Washington and news on the president…

News was always current, crucial and informative…delivered by near emotionless professional
individuals who would occasionally smoke on air, as in everyone smoked back then…
including my mom…but that’s another tale for another day.

This was how we learned all about what was going on in the world,
all from the nightly news—as there were no other news outlets other than the newspapers…
None of this current day 24/7 madness.
No breaking alerts emanating from cell phones or computers because there
weren’t any cell phones or home computers…thank the Lord.

And so I offer this little walk down memory lane because my husband and I have happily
given up watching any sort of network national news.
Something about falsehoods and bias….but I digress.

And so the other evening when my husband got in from work,
while I was still putting the finishing touches to supper,
he flipped on the television and there was some sort of war documentary currently airing…
of which was dealing with the war in the Pacific and how we obviously eventually won that fight.
I suppose this was the last channel that the television had been on the night prior.

We opted to keep it on this channel—that being AHC—American Hero Channel—which I
had assumed was just some sort of history type of channel…
that was until I looked up the full name.
Following the show about the War in the Pacific, there was a series of hour-long segments
regarding the war in Europe–with a focus on Stalin and the relationship he had with Churchill,
FDR and later Truman.

The show featured declassified information that wasn’t known, let alone made public,
until after the fall of Communism.
And might I just say, as I’ve said it before, it’s a wonder any of us are even here…
let alone speaking either German or even Russian.

I spent three hours after having finished the dishes watching 3 back to back segments.
Because I was hooked as it was an excellent and thorough history lesson.

I learned more than what I had already known…and I do consider myself well read
when it comes to World War II.

I say all of this because I am once again keenly reminded of the history of what once
was in this fractious world of ours, and where we, as a global community, were back then
once upon a time, and as to where we currently are now and just how hard it was for us
to actually get from there to here…
and I just don’t think this current world of ours, this postmodern, post-Christian
world…gets it.

History, especially that of our Western Civilization history,
is a subject most students will roll their eyes over.
It is also a history that is frighteningly being altered and neutered due to
the current society’s obsession with triggers, homosexual and transgender frenzies,
a fanatically growing feminism, and its distaste for a Nation’s past growing pains
along with the struggles the Nation faces while attempting to find pride in the knowledge
of who that Nation once was.

I worry that our youth will soon forget or cease caring about what was, concentrating instead
on what is or what will be as they have deemed what was as  simply being bad…

And so in reading the story of Edith Fox, I am reminded that I am not alone in wanting
the story of what was, to never be forgotten.

Yet Edith’s story is a horrific story…a story one might imagine anyone who experienced it
would want to forget…
Yet Edith knows that as horrible as her story was, remaining silent and forgetting it would be
even worse…

Edith’s tattooed number on her now 90-year-old arm has long faded, but the memory of her life
spent in Auschwitz is still as startlingly clear as it was when she was taken prisoner
as a young teen.

Please click on the link for her story, as she does not want either you or me to ever forget.

http://buffalonews.com/2018/01/27/holocaust-survivor-breaks-decades-long-silence-to-share-her-horrific-story/

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,
that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

humble past

“You may delay, but time will not.”
Benjamin Franklin


(a bible sits open on an old pulpit in the Shoal Primative Baptist Church /
Talladega National Forest / Julie Cook / 2017)

A long time ago, before cotton was ever king…


(a rural cotton field, Rabbit Town, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2017)

Or 13 colonies fought to form a new and perfect union…
the Nation of the Creek Indians called the lands of what is now Georgia and
Alabama home.

It is estimated that these native Americans had lived and thrived in this region
before the year 800 AD, as they were descendants of an even earlier people, from
what is known as of the Mississippian period.

In 1733 Captain James Oglethorpe landed in the what is known today as
Savannah, Georgia.
He claimed the land south of the Carolinas and north of Spanish Florida,
in the name of King George…as the New Georgia.

In 1752 Georgia became officially the 13th colony.
However despite the British crown’s claim to this new land,
the Creek indians continued to be the majority inhabitants and land owners
of this young colony.


(James Ogelthorpe /Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016

However that all began to change in 1760 with the continued exploration
and expansion westward by the British, Spanish and French.
Native Americans were quickly being squeezed from their ancestral lands
by a deluge of European exploration and subsequent settlers.

By 1800 the Creek Nation ceded all of their lands to the state of Georgia
and were forced to move westward…

This time they moved deep into the lands of what is known today as
the state of Alabama.
But in 1819, with Alabama being recognized as the 22nd state
in the Union, once again the Creeks were forced to relocate.

In 1830, following the orders by President Andrew Jackson,
the once proud Nations of the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw
tribes were forced from their traditional lands,
and were relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi,
as Scotch/ Irish settlers made their way
south and west, down from the Carolinas, claiming these once tribal lands as
their new homesteads.

Around 1835 to 1840, deep in the back woods of the Alabama foothills of the
Appalachian Mountains, a small community of European settlers found a home
in a rugged area of Alabama.

These settlers were farmers, hunters, loggers and even moonshiners.

At the heart of their community these hardy settlers erected a log hewn church
to serve as an anchor for their community.
It was a building that would serve their community needs, their spiritual needs
as well as the educational needs of their children.


(Shoal Primitive Baptist Church, originally built in 1845 / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today both time and Mother Nature have each reclaimed this once small community.
Long forgotten are the voices of those first Native American inhabitants…
as well as the voices of those early European settlers.

Yet hidden deep within a mix of virgin forest and replanted pines,
resting at the end of a long forgotten rutted, single dirt lane road,
a lone wooden church remains ever vigilant…
standing the test of time.

She is a far cry from the great Cathedrals and Churches of big cities or
of far away lands.
She possess neither stained glass, gleaming silver or brass nor
ornately carved wooden fixtures.

For hers is a humble yet strong and determined example of faith.

Her small cemetery of unmarked graves whispers tales of those hardy souls
who once called these lands home…those individuals who worked the land
living and dying in the shadow of this church.


(the unmarked graves of Shoal Creek / Julie Cook / 2017)

The Shoal Primitive Baptist Church originally erected in 1845,
with the building we see today being rebuilt in 1895, is listed and recognized
as an important historic building on the National Registry.

It remains a lone sentinel of the early American pioneering spirit in an area
that is now known as the Talladega National Forrest.
This area was bought by the Federal Government and made a national park
by President Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930’s.

The church is one of 6 remaining log hewn churches scattered throughout the state
of Alabama and still hosts special events such as Sacred Harp singings.

Inside this lovely and lonely darkened church, resting atop the single black pulpit,
sits a worn and tattered bible.

It is open to the book of Psalms….

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

the characters

“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances.
There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly,
and even appreciate more clearly,
if we simply thought of them as people in a story.”

― G.K. Chesterton

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(a deceased crab on the beach / Santa Rosa, Fl / Julie Cook / 2015)

We all know who they are, right?
As every community has them…

You know….
It’s the guy who rides all over town on the bike that’s decked out as if it should be in a Mardi Gras parade…
Or the elderly lady who pushes the grocery cart into the hospital lobby, awkwardly chatting with everyone waiting.

There always seems to be those loner individuals within each of our towns and or communities.
Those quirky individuals who we consider simply as bizarre characters…
Those odd souls who we more or less claim as community mascots.
With each and every town and community seeming to have their own lot of unique and peculiar characters.

I know our small town certainly does…

There’s the Vietnam vet who runs all over town holding an American flag.
He runs rain or shine, hot or cold….
And he runs precariously close to the road, even out on the busy by-pass.
I use to think he was just some sort of patriotic marathon runner who was always in training.
I was informed otherwise.
He has been hit and run over on more than one occasion and left for dead.
He always seems to rebound, always coming back to pound the pavement with flag in hand.

There’s the young man who looks like an old man.
I know this because I taught him.
He dons a three piece suit, even in the sweltering summer heat, as he proceeds to walk all over town— talking out loud to himself in a high pitched falsetto voice. He is known to preach out loud to no one in particular or curse the cars that he feels infringe upon his walking space.

There is the man who started out as a young man, who has now progressed into being a middle aged man (I know this as well as I also taught him), who walks all over town carrying a tennis racket. He likes to engage in conversation with anyone who stops long enough to listen…he chatters on about this or that non relevant,random mumbo jumbo, asking all the girls if they’d please be his girlfriend.

There was (I’ve not seen him in quite sometime) the middle aged fellow with the mustache wearing a tank top and shorts who was alway carrying a throwback walkman, complete with head phones stuck on his head. He’d be singing at the top of his lungs, with fingers snapping to the beat, as he walked up and down the busy thoroughfares.

There was the young man with the long hair and his mother…or so we thought them to be mother and son.
Always together and having been know to hold hands…they had a tendency to worry and creep out those who saw them wandering all over town. I think the truancy folks once tracked them down because they enrolled the boy into the high school where I taught. That didn’t last long because the woman, his mother, waited at the front door of the school all day, very nervous and agitated.
He quit as quickly as he enrolled and they were seen walking again, carrying bags of this and that….

In addition to the regular characters, there are those individuals who seem to be merely passing through—drifting specters riding along the quiet breeze— those odder individuals who thankfully drift away as quickly as they came…as there’s just something unsettling about them.

So today, as I was driving to the post office, I saw her again.
A middle aged woman walking slowly up the sidewalk, on a less traveled road, carrying, or actually cradling, a white stuffed animal.

The first time I saw her, I thought she was holding a small dog.
I assumed she was walking to the discount grocery, perhaps to purchase some food for the animal…
but on closer inspection, when I was heading back in the direction I had come, I saw that the pet in question was actually stuffed.

I found myself wondering.

What in this woman’s life would prompt her to walk, very slowly yet very determined, up the sidewalk clutching a stuffed animal to her chest.
What has happened in this woman’s life that now finds her alone on a back sidewalk, walking towards a busy main arty leading to town, seemingly in a daze while holding something obviously very important to her.

All of which has me now wondering about all the characters who walk or ride or sit along each of our life’s journey.

So often we see them from afar… safely from a window of a car or business.
We either ignore what we see because something about them makes us feel uncomfortable,
or we smugly stare thinking how much better off we are than them.

As much as we try or would like, we cannot “unimagine” them into nothingness.
They are real, living, breathing individuals with a story…just like you and me.
Their lot in life may have once been what we’d consider normal…yet something tragically or simply oddly happened.

Or perhaps they have simply been less fortunate than you and me—having never had the support that we’ve received along the way.

We can often hear a voice within our heads repeating the mantra…
“there but for the grace of God go I…”
As we are thankful that we are not on the sidewalk talking to no one in particular,
or pushing a shopping cart full of plastics, or singing to everyone and yet to no one.
We are thankful we don’t have to clutch a stuffed animal as we walk alone up a lonely sidewalk.

Seeing these people does one of two things.

It either makes us feel uncomfortable as we try to ignore both them and how they make us feel…
Or, on the other hand, we allow their perceived misfortunes to oddly make us feel better about ourselves.

We allow the encounter to convince our inner selves that we’re not as crazy as we thought.
We’re not as bad off as we thought.
We aren’t as lonely as we thought.
As we now happily consider ourselves to be of the normal lot.
The good lot
The preferred lot.
The lucky lot…

We safely assume that we are better than.
Smarter than.
Happier than.
Safer than.

But the question should be… are we?
Are we better, safer, happier…or perhaps are they?

Have we as human beings not been charged with the care and concern of our fellow man…
even those who are the quirky characters walking through our lives….

Rather than allowing their quirkiness and oddity to make us feel uncomfortable…
or arrogantly even better about ourselves…
what have we ever done once to help them….?

And then suddenly, out of the blue and on any given day, we actually take notice that “they” haven’t been around in awhile, haven’t been seen or heard…
we find ourselves oddly missing them.
We find ourselves wondering what could have happened to them…
And we wonder…
what could we have done…
for them…

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5

Cades Cove, a whisper from the past

If history were taught in the form of stories,
it would never be forgotten.

Rudyard Kipling

Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm.
Thomas Fuller

“Let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.”
― Thomas Jefferson

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(A wagon at the old Cable home place, Cades Cove, TN /The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Dusty and dry
Broken and discarded,
Forgotten and abandoned,

Left to rot a long time back

When was the last day?
The day they simply walked away?
The day it was put aside, forever…?

Was it traded in for something newer, more shiney and sleek?
Perhaps a distraction guised in efficiency?
Maybe everyone had simply grown too old to make repairs.

Or maybe,
it was simply left behind when the last person finally walked away…forever.

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*The Cable house with its surrounding barns, mill and smokehouses are all that remain of the Cable homesite which was once a vibrant part of the community within what was known as Cades Cove’s.
Cades Cove was once a thriving Tennessee Appalachian mountain cove community with upwards of 800 individuals calling the Cove home. The Cove, a farming community, once boasted a post office, general store, boarding house, school and local doctor. Yet Time and the elements had their way with the Cove, by the first World War the population of the Cove was rapidly declining. The State of Tennessee, along with Federal Government, purchased the Cove and surrounding lands in 1927 with the intent of turning it into a National Park.

Much of the work done on the road leading to the cove from cities of both Townsend and Gatlinburg, as well as the work conducted within the Cove itself on the transition from community to park, was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal relief program during the Depression.

Today’s Cades Cove, a 6800 acre historic preservation and National Park which encompasses pastures, woodlands, trails, mountains, streams and preserved original homesites dating back to 1822 with the arrival of the first white settlers into the cove, boasts to be the busiest and most frequented of all the National Parks in The United States.

There is an 11 mile paved one way loop meandering through the cove which affords the hiker, bicycler or car rider the opportunity of viewing wildlife in their natural habitat–deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, beer, bobcats as well as an opportunity to visit and view the original homesites, churches and cemeteries of the original founding families.

The Cherokee Indians were the first inhabitants of the land surrounding the Cove but lost all rights to land claim in the Smokey mountains in 1819.

Becky Cable, who first moved to the cove in 1868 with her parents and siblings, later bought the Leason Gregg house (pictured above), with the help of her brother, in 1904. Becky who never married, but was affectionately referred to as “Aunt Becky,” remained in the house until her death in 1940 at age 96. Becky was one of the last members of the community to live in the Cove.

Kermit Caughron, a 5th generation descendant of some of the original Cove founding families, was actually the last community member of the cove to call Cades Cove Home. Mr Caughron was affectianely known as the Bee Man by the throng of annual visiting tourists as he owned a myriad of honeybees boxes, harvesting and selling the honey. Mr Caughorn spent his entire life, 87 years, living in the cove until he was “relocated” in 1999. At which time the cove became home to only the local wildlife and a sea or curious tourists

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Places such as Cades Cove are important pieces to intricate patch work to the fabric which makes this country what it is. These preserved sites are but a few remaining tangible pieces to the foundation which makes us who we are as a country.

Some of our original building blocks.

It is extremely important that we never forget the lives lived, the hardships endured, and the paths paved by these early settlers who were brave enough to forge a way of life in an area that was not always welcoming…yet they remained and persevered.
Despite Indian hostilities, devastating snows, ice storms, heat and drought, failed crops, devastating accidents, illness, isolation and death…these are the people who helped define the American spirit.

It is both humbling and enlightening to be afforded the opportunity of stepping back in time, catching a tiny glimpse at a moment in history that helped to bring us to where we are today. Imaging the lives of people long past, who were just like you and I, but who never had the luxuries, “niceties” or opportunities we enjoy today…they worked hard and toiled most of their lives in order to make their lives a success…which was simply a roof over head, livestock that flourished, crops that grew, children who were educated and food on the table. It is imperative that we, as a civilized society, recognize and remember the importance of maintaining and preserving such remaining treasures of our history, our National Parks as well as our National Heritage…

And He gave their land as a heritage, A heritage to Israel His people.
Psalm 135:12

A life is suddenly taken– will there be redemption?

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“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”
Dante Alighieri

I think many times in life, even when it seems we have a plan, we have a direction, we have a “life”, we can still find ourselves feeling, well, a bit “lost” as it were. Spinning our wheels somewhat aimlessly, spiraling as if out of control, going nowhere and going there fast.

Oddly enough when I think of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the body of work which gives us today’s quote, I think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Two very different stories written during two very different time periods, written in two very different countries, in two very different languages and yet they are two stories intertwined, unbeknownst to each author, about the adventure of life which desperately needs a reality check—a reminder of what life has been and if things don’t change, what life could be, unless there is a drastic about face, a turing around with a change of heart.

Dickens’ focus is more on a life lived simply for self and for greed with little to no regard for those less fortunate— or in Scrooge’s case, a regard for no one, not even particularly himself, other than the dispassionate making of money at all costs.

Dante’s tale is also a story about life—or rather lives lived wantonly with little to no regard to the fate of living such morally devoid lives—complete with a vivid and sober reminder of the results of living with such “sinfulness” and of how that leads to the spiraling, and apparently hopeless, journey into the results of that “sinfulness”……..

Each story has a guide leading our characters on their journey of discovery. Each guide eventually leaves our characters on their own. The hope is that each character, having seen the ugly reality of such lost living, has time to bring about change, positive change.

In Dante’s case the change is actually left up to the viewer—live a life like these folks and you’re stuck in a ring of hell–it’s all just a matter of which ring. In Scrooge’s case it’s a matter of change so you don’t wind up like Jacob Marley with the weight of your sins hung on your neck for all of eternity.

And I suppose it helps if you believe in an afterlife– otherwise I suppose the consequences of your life’s action would be simply nil. And yet— believing in an afterlife or not, believing in a heaven or hell or not, there is always the effect your actions have with those of which you share this planet.

This past week a tragedy happened in our county. It actually took place in a neighboring city of ours.

My husband is in a business where he has several competitors in our town, as well as in the neighboring towns. These businesses, whereas they do compete against one another, there remains a mutual respect and cohesiveness amongst all the businesses. This week, on Wednesday, during the middle of the day, 4 men entered a competing business, in a neighboring community, with hammers in order to “smash and grab”—a brazen type of robbery during the midst of a busy work day.

But rather than just smashing and grabbing—stealing and leaving—something went even more terribly wrong. The store owner was shot and killed.

He leaves behind a wife and two sons. He went to work that morning and in a terrible span of 15 seconds, that’s how long these men were in his business, his life was cut short and he wasn’t going home to his family that evening.

This sort of crime, even though our county is but an hour away from a major metropolitan city, is unheard of here. Our communities are such where people grow up together, go to school together, raise families together, go to friday night high school football games together in order to compete against one another, attend church together, shop together, simply live together — but violent crimes such as this….no, certainly not here. Not when you can drive 3 minutes out of our communities and find cows grazing in their fields, children riding their bikes, fruit markets set up selling the latest harvest…………

As word spread of this heinous act Wednesday afternoon, my husband’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Customers streamed into his store wanting to just “hug his neck”—-people were suddenly and sadly struck by the fragility of life.

The police apprehend one of the “men” who was left behind by his fleeing accomplices—he was the 16 year old gunman. Yesterday another man was apprehended many many miles from our community. These men were not from here but from the major metropolitan city. Last night, on the nightly news, one of the apprehended men was being lead into a courtroom for a bond hearing where he proceeded to repeatedly shoot the news cameras “a bird”——a life is taken for nothing and he shoots a bird to the news crew……I just don’t understand.

Fear has now gripped our county, our neighbors, our business owners. I now look at my husband each morning and I wonder if he will come back home in the evening—or not.

My faith is such that I do believe in prayer, I do believe in hope and I must believe in forgiveness.

Did these men think about taking a life and of the ramifications of such? I doubt it. Do they now think of the consequences of their actions? I don’t think their thoughts are as mine would be—-I don’t even know if they care—maybe the remaining two “on the run” only care about not getting caught, maybe they all just care about being stuck in a jail–going through a trail, maybe facing the death penalty—do they think about that? Do they think about God and what may happen if there is no redemption on their part????? Do they think of this man whose life they stole?
Of his now bereft family? I doubt it.

These sorts of actions by a few make life forever different for many others.

I do believe in God and I do believe in Hope—-the flip side to not believing is pretty grim.

May we all stop and ponder the course our actions and of the effect they have on those in which we share this planet and may our thoughts now also be with one very sad family and community—as this is not an isolated event—this sort of thing is playing out all over this country of ours—violence serves no purpose, I wonder when we will ever figure that out……..will there ever be redemption in the hearts of these men???????…………